1923 Actress Sarah Bernhardt, 79, dies today in Paris. She began her stage training at the age of 13 and had her first stage success at the age of 28. It was a double triumph as she played the roles of Cordelia in King Lear and the queen in Ruy Blas at the Comedie-Francaise. She also acted the lead in Hamlet. She toured Europe and America with her own companies.
1970 Martin McDonagh is born in Camberwell, London, and after a childhood spent in Ireland, would go on to write a series of lauded plays set mostly in County Galway. His first trilogy of plays consisted of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West. McDonagh would go on to write The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Pillowman and A Behanding in Spokane, most of which would be produced on Broadway.
1973 Playwright, composer and actor Noël Coward died today in Jamaica. He made his Broadway debut in The Vortex, which he also wrote and directed. A prolific writer and composer, his style set and captured the wit and elegance of the time. He was 74 years old.
1987 August Wilson comes out swinging with his new play, Fences, which opens at the 46th Street Theatre. This drama about a family in the 1950s will win the Tony, the Drama Desk, the New York Drama Critics Circle and the Outer Critics Circle Awards, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Stars James Earl Jones and Mary Alice also go home with Tonys.
1997 The sun finally comes out for another tomorrow when the 20th anniversary revival of Annie, starring Nell Carter, opens at the Martin Beck Theatre. In the weeks prior to the opening, the show was making headlines after replacing star Joanna Pacitti, the young actress chosen via a nation-wide contest, with Brittny Kissinger.
2001 The meaning of the phrase "Nuremberg Defense" is explored for a new generation in a stage adaptation of Abby Mann's Judgment at Nuremberg, about postwar Nazi trials. It opens on Broadway with Maximilian Schell, George Grizzard and Michael Hayden.
2009 Geoffrey Rush holds court in a starry Broadway revival of Eugene Ionesco's absurdist comedy Exit the King at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Neil Armfield directs a cast that also includes Susan Sarandon, Lauren Ambrose and Andrea Martin.