Today In Theatre History: OCTOBER 16
By David Gewirtzman
1854 Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde, born today in Dublin. He will go on to write The Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest and other glittering comedies, before being laid low in a slander suite by the father of his male lover, who labels him a "somdomite" [sic]. Wilde claims that his greatest artwork was his own life.
1888 Another major playwright born today: Eugene O'Neill, multiple Pulitzer winner and Nobel Prize winner, whose roster of majestically-titled dramas includes Long Day's Journey Into Night, Mourning Becomes Electra, The Iceman Cometh, A Moon for the Misbegotten and Beyond the Horizon.
1903 Birthday of Ford Lee "Buck" Washington, half of the dancing team of Buck and Bubbles that hit stardom in vaudeville, then graduated to Broadway. Stage appearances include Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 and the original cast of Porgy and Bess, in which he created the role of Mingo (under the name Ford L. Buck).
1925 Angela Lansbury, star of Mame, Dear World, Anyone Can Whistle and Sweeney Todd is born today.
1939 Acid-tongued New York Times theatre critic Alexander Woolcott is parodied in the Broadway comedy The Man Who Came To Dinner, which stars Monty Woolley and runs for 739 performances.
1945 A revival of Victor Herbert's The Red Mill starts a 531-performance run, making it one of the longest-running operettas ever.
1951 Judy Garland opens her legendary concert stand at the Palace Theatre, Judy Garland: Palace Two-A-Day.
1966 Alan Arkin directs Dustin Hoffman in Henry Living's comedy Eh?, which opens tonight at the Circle in the Square (downtown). A chaotic office staff is the subject of this show, which will run 232 performances.
1967 Today marks the first time a postage stamp honoring an American playwright is issued, as Eugene O'Neill's face adorns stamps all over the country.
1990 An Australian father is coming to terms with his gay son in the Cherry Lane Theatre production of The Sum of Us, which opens tonight. The father and son are played by Richard Venture and Tony Goldwyn, respectively. During the run of this show, 355 performances, the movie "Ghost," starring Goldwyn, played in theatres across the country.
1992 Actress Shirley Booth dies today. When she was 18, she made her debut on Broadway as the Ingenue in Hell's Bells. Her leading man? A young guy named Humphrey Bogart. She went on to star in shows such as Come Back, Little Sheba and Hay Fever (with Roberta Maxwell and Sam Waterston), winning three Tonys and an Academy Award.
1997 Side Show, a musical about the real-life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who became vaudeville and Follies stars, opens on Broadway today. Though it will run only 91 performances, it attracts a small but dedicated cult of fans, many of whom see it again and again during its short run. The twins are played by Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, who go on to appear in many Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals.
2001 Neil Simon's comedy 45 Seconds From Broadway opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, just a block from it's real-life setting, the Cafe Edison in Times Square. Despite the presence of stage veterans Marian Seldes, Joan Copeland, Alix Korey, Lewis J. Stadlen and Judy Blazer, the show manages a run of just 73 performances.
2002 First preview today for the gothic horror musical Dance of the Vampires, which goes on to suffer critical stakes in the heart before closing Jan. 25, 2003 at an estimated loss of $12 million, one of the costliest Broadway flops ever.
2003 Hugh Jackman takes the hearts of the audience to Rio with The Boy From Oz, a musical biography of singer/songwriter Peter Allen, using Allen's own music to tell his life story. Jackman will host the 2004 Tony Awards ceremony at which he will win the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for this role.
2005 Broadway's Virginia Theatre is renamed the August Wilson Theatre for the playwright who died two weeks earlier. It opened in 1925 as the Guild Theatre, home of the American Theatre Guild, and was also known as the ANTA Theatre for many years.
2008 A revival of Arthur Miller’s 1947 drama All My Sons, the story of an aircraft parts manufacturer who carries a terrible wartime secret, opens at the Schoenfeld Theatre. John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and Katie Holmes star in the production, directed by Simon McBurney.
2009 Michael Buckley, a lifelong arts journalist and the author of Playbill.com's monthly "Stage to Screens" column, dies at age 66. For 20 years, Mr. Buckley contributed to the pages of TV Guide. He was a feature writer for the theatre magazine "TheatreWeek," which published from the late 1980s until 1995, and also wrote for Show Business and Theatermania.
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