PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: DECEMBER 12

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Christopher Reichheld, Sam Maher and Anne Bradley
December 12, 2013

1902 There will be two debuts in Everyman. Edith Wynne Matthison makes her American debut, and Charles Rann Kennedy makes his stage debut.



1904 Leah Kleschna got a new ending a happy one penned especially for Minnie Maddern Fiske, the star and one of the producers. Also in the cast of this tale of a thief who happily reforms are John Mason, George Arliss, and Mary Maddern. The play will run for 131 performances at the Manhattan Theatre.

1921 Actor Sidney Blackmer is The Mountain Man at the Maxine Elliot Theatre. Blackmer heads off to France to shoot the lover of his girl, played by Catherine Dale Owen. This Clare Kummer play will run for 163 performances.

1932 Eva Le Gallienne stages a landmark adaptation of Alice in Wonderland at the Civic Repertory Theatre with Burgess Meredith, Joseph Schildkraut, and Le Gallienne herself as the White Queen. Lavishly designed by Irene Sharaff based on Tenniel's illustrations, the production runs 127 performances.

1932 Also today, a loving (that's very loving) artist has her life story recorded in S. N. Behrman's Biography, starring Ina Claire. Laurence Olivier is also in the cast. This Theatre Guild production will run for 267 performances.

1972 Julie Harris plays the emotionally fragile First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln in James Prideaux's The Last of Mrs. Lincoln. It will run 63 performances at the ANTA Theatre, and earn Harris the fourth of her five Tony Awards as Best Actress in a Play.

1985 The long-running off-Broadway hit, Nunsense, opens tonight at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Nuns and priests comprise a large part of the audience tonight as this Dan Goggin-directed (and composed) musical makes its debut. Sister Mary Amnesia is played by Semina De Laurentis. This production will run a whopping 3,672 performances.

1994 Slavs! opens at New York Theatre Workshop tonight. This Tony Kushner play is the self-proclaimed "coda" to his Broadway successes, Angels in America I & II. This production starred Marisa Tomei and Joseph Wiseman and ran 64 performances.

1997 Livent producer Garth Drabinsky invites a host of performers, designers, and writers to the official christening of the new Ford Center for the Performing Arts tonight. Ragtime begins previews at the theatre on Dec. 26.

2001 Manhattan Theatre Club "breaks ground" inside the dilapidated Biltmore Theatre for a refurbishment of the venerable playhouse as its new Broadway headquarters. Once host to Hair and Barefoot in the Park, the Biltmore has been dark since 1987, landmarked, but mildewed and crumbling, unable to reopen without expensive repairs. The theatre will reopen in 2003 with Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour.

2002 Nora Ephron's playwriting debut, Imaginary Friends, opens on Broadway Dec. 12 at the Barrymore Theatre. The production began previews Nov. 25 following its world premiere engagement at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in September. The play with music — by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia — stars Cherry Jones and Swoosie Kurtz, respectively, as personal and literary rivals Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman.

2008 Van Johnson, the handsome and affable screen star who reached such heights of popularity during the 1940s that he was called "The Voiceless Sinatra," dies at age 92.

Today's Birthdays: Rachel Crothers 1878. Edward G. Robinson 1893. Alan Schneider 1917. John Osborne 1929. Cathy Rigby 1952. Anne Marie Bobby 1967.