1895 Birthday of Charles MacArthur, newsman-turned-playwright, whose wisecracking oeuvre includes The Front Page, Twentieth Century (the play on which the musical On the Twentieth Century is based), Johnny on a Spot, Lulu Belle, Ladies and Gentlemen, and the libretto to the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Jumbo. He was also married to Helen Hayes.
1941 Summoned by a medium, the spirit of a wife returns in ghost form to flirt with her still-living husband, and bedevil his new wife in Noël Coward's sparkling comedy, Blithe Spirit, which opens at the Morosco Theatre, and brightens wartime Broadway for 650 performances.
1943 Birthday of playwright Sam Shepard, one of the cornerstones of the Off-Off-Broadway movement in the 1960s, with plays like The Unseen Hand and The Tooth of Crime, who goes slightly more mainstream with works including True West, All for Love, and Pulitzer-winner Buried Child. He also contributes a sketch to the long-running revue Oh! Calcutta!
1973 Peter Hall succeeds Laurence Olivier as director of the English National Theatre, leading the company through many successful years and a Queen-appointed change of name to the Royal National Theatre.
1980 Christopher Reeve, Swoosie Kurtz, and Amy Wright are the stars in Fifth of July by Lanford Wilson, which opens at the New Apollo Theatre. The show was a success Off-Broadway as a Circle Rep production in 1978, and repeats its success on Broadway, running for 511 performances and winning Kurtz a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award.
1987 Stephen Sondheim's elaborate interweaving of many fairy tales, Into the Woods, opens on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre. The famous score includes the hits "No One Is Alone" and "Children Will Listen," along with the title song. James Lapine, who also wrote the book, directs a cast that includes Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, and Bernadette Peters. It runs 765 performances.
1995 Master Class, Terrence McNally's play about opera diva Maria Callas, opens on Broadway at the Golden Theatre. Zoe Caldwell stars as Callas, with Audra McDonald playing one of her students. It goes on to win Tony Awards for Caldwell, McDonald, and Best Play. Dixie Carter and Patti LuPone take on the role of Callas later in the 598 performance run.
2012 The New York City premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale, a harrowing character study of the roots of dysfunction in the life of a morbidly-obese 600-pound man, opens Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Shuler Hensley stars as Charlie, the mentally vibrant but emotionally (and mostly couch-bound) lost soul.
2015 On Your Feet!, the musical based on the lives of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, opens on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre, where it runs for 746 performances. Ana Villafañe and Josh Segarra star as Gloria and Emilio.
2018 Christopher Demos-Brown's American Son opens at Broadway's Booth Theatre. Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan, and Eugene Lee star in the drama, about a separated, interracial couple reuniting in a police station and grappling with the disappearance of their teenage son. Director Kenny Leon later helms a filmed version for Netflix as well, with the four reprising their performances.
More of Today's Birthdays: Natalie Schafer (1900–1991). Vivien Leigh (1913–1967). Donald Madden (1928–1983). Harris Yulin (b. 1937). Howard McGillin (b. 1953). Sam Rockwell (b. 1968). Keala Settle (b. 1975). Sebastian Arcelus (b. 1976).