PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: JUNE 18

By David Gewirtzman
and Ernio Hernandez and Doug Nevins
18 Jun 2013

1956 The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario kicks off its season with productions of Henry V, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia. Also included are productions of three Moliere comedies.



1962 A New York theatregoing tradition is born as the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park first opens, with a production of The Merchant of Venice starring George C. Scott. The construction of the famed home of free Shakespeare is made possible by a $400,000 donation from George Delacorte of Dell Publishing.

1963 The 1876-vintage Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, reopens after an extensive renovation as a headquarters for musical revivals and new musicals. The first show in the new series will be Oh Lady, Lady. Among Goodspeed Musicals productions to land on Broadway will be Man of La Mancha, Shenandoah and Annie.

1998 A New Brain, the latest work from Falsettos composer William Finn, opens at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre in New York's Lincoln Center. The musical, about a composer who faces the possibility of death from a brain tumor, stars Malcolm Gets, Mary Testa, Kristin Chenoweth, Chip Zien and Penny Fuller.

2000 Solo performer Sarah Jones brings her Surface Transit to New York City's downtown mecca Performance Space 122 starting today. The show headlines the First NYC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival produced by and also starring Danny Hoch (Jails, Hospitals, & Hip-Hop). In the piece, Jones embodies eight widely varied characters that range from a raving bag lady to a widowed Russian mother to a narrow-minded Jewish grandma to a recovering hip-hop rhyming addict turned-slam poet. She will later use this experience as a springboard to her 2006 Tony-winning play Bridge & Tunnel.

2010 The City Center Encores! Summer Stars production of the Charlie Smalls-William F. Brown musical The Wiz, which boasts R&B artist Ashanti as Dorothy, officially opens at the famed New York venue. Directed by Thomas Kail, the cast also includes Orlando Jones at The Wiz, LaChanze as Glinda and Tichina Arnold as Evillene.

2012 Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep — both veterans of The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park — play star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, respectively, in a one-night-only gala staged reading of the William Shakespeare classic at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The all-star cast also includes Christopher Walken as Mercutio, Sam Waterston as Benvolio, Jeffrey Wright as Tybalt, F. Murray Abraham as Friar Laurence, and Christine Baranski as Nurse.

Today's Birthdays: Philip Barry 1896. Keye Luke 1904. Sammy Cahn 1913. E. G. Marshall 1914. Michael Blakemore 1928. George Hearn 1934. Elizabeth Franz 1941. Carol Kane 1952. Kerry Butler 1971.