13 May 2015
1931 Playwright, producer David Belasco dies today in New York City. He began his theatrical life as a child actor in California and started writing plays in his twenties. He adapted the John Luther Long story into the play Madame Butterfly in 1900. In 1905 he wrote, directed, and produced The Girl of the Golden West. In 1906 he built the Stuyvesant Theatre which is now Broadway's Belasco Theater. Belasco liked to shave six years off his age, but it's generally assumed he was 78 at the time of his death. According to Broadway legend, his ghost haunts the apartment where he lived above the theatre that bears his name.
1965 The East-West Players, formed to "truthfully express Asian Pacific American thought and depict on stage Asian Pacific American life...", open in Los Angeles. The first performance is Rashomon.
1970 Actress Billie Burke dies today in Los Angeles. She made her stage debut in London in The School Girl in 1903. Her Broadway debut occurred in 1907 in My Wife; producer Florenz Ziegfeld called her that in 1914. Burke was immortalized on screen as the good witch in the film "The Wizard of Oz." She was 84 years old.
1999Stephen Sondheim's long-unproduced 1954 musical, Saturday Night, sees the stage as it starts previews in Chicago, sporting two new songs and an edited script. The musical, about pals in 1929 Brooklyn, was to have been Sondheim's professional debut in the mid-1950s, but a production was thwarted by the death of the producer. The musical will make its New York premiere Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre on Feb. 14 the following year.