1896 Birthday of Ruth Gordon, later to star on Broadway in dozens of plays, including Ethan Frome, The Country Wife, and her own Years Ago; also in Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker (source of Hello, Dolly!), and in many films including Rosemary's Baby (earning an Academy Award) and Where's Poppa?. She marries playwright Garson Kanin.
1922 Broadway premiere of Luigi Pirandello's influential surrealist drama Six Characters in Search of an Author, with Florence Eldridge.
1934 Henry Fonda earns stardom in The Farmer Takes a Wife by Frank B. Elser and Marc Connelly, which opens at the 46th Street Theatre for 104 performances.
1940 Ethel Merman knocks 'em dead in Cole Porter's Panama Hattie, which opens at the 46th Street Theatre for a 501-performance run that introduces the standard "Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please."
1949 A new musical based on Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country opens at the Music Box Theatre. Kurt Weill provides the music for Lost in the Stars, with book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. The story follows black suffering in South Africa and stars Todd Duncan, Leslie Banks, Warren Coleman, and Inez Matthews. Though the musical deals with racism, the theatre actually has a "no coloreds downstairs" policy, meaning blacks aren't even allowed to sit in the orchestra section. Receiving a wide variety of reviews—with some critics loving it, and others called it "artful artlessness"—the show runs 281 performances.
1956 A revival of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara opens at the Martin Beck Theatre. Charles Laughton directs the star-studded cast, which includes Glynis Johns, Eli Wallach, Cornelia Otis Skinner, and Burgess Meredith. The revival runs 29 weeks, racking up 232 performances.
1963 The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Edward Albee opens at the Martin Beck Theatre. John Chapman, critic for the Daily News, calls the show "magnificent theatre." Colleen Dewhurst, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Michael Dunn co-star in the production, directed by Alan Schneider. Albee's inspiration is the Carson McCullers' story of the same name. The show runs for 123 performances.
1975 Tom Stoppard's Travesties opens at the Barrymore Theatre. Running 156 performances, it stars John Wood and Tim Curry. It focuses on notables like James Joyce and Lenin passing through Zurich in 1917.
2001 Off-Broadway's Manhattan Class Company hosts the New York premiere of The Glory of Living by the prolific playwright Rebecca Gilman, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and starring Anna Paquin.
2001 A Halloween Eve resurrection for Broadway's The Rocky Horror Show, which had suspended performances September 23, in the wake of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. The campy musical goes to to play another two months, finally closing January 6, 2002.
2003 The untold story of the witches of The Wizard of Oz lands on Broadway as Wicked opens at the Gershwin Theatre. Idina Menzel (who wins a Tony Award for her performance) and Kristin Chenoweth play the witches, with veteran Joel Grey hoofing as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The production also welcomes back to Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz.
2012 Due to the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and the resulting suspension of New York City's public transportation, all Broadway shows are canceled. Performances were also canceled on October 28 and 29. Most Broadway shows resume on October 31.
2014 Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal make their Broadway debuts in Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, opening at the American Airlines Theatre. The Sam Gold-directed production also stars Cynthia Nixon and Josh Hamilton.
2016 Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber star in a Broadway revival of Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The production, directed by Josie Rourke, was first seen at London's Donmar Warehouse in 2015 with McTeer starring opposite Dominic West.
2018 Cuban-American playwright María Irene Fornés, the recipient of nine Obie Awards and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, dies at age 88. Known to many as “Mother Avant-Garde,” she wrote and directed over 40 plays throughout her prolific career, was an inspirational teacher to many, and the director of the Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Laboratory at INTAR in New York City. Her plays included Letters From Cuba, Fefu and Her Friends, And What of the Night?, and The Office.
More of Today's Birthdays: Jane White (1922-2011). Ann Roth (b. 1931). Dick Gautier (1937-2017). Henry Winkler (b. 1945). Steve Kazee (b. 1975). Matthew Morrison (b. 1978).