PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 20

By David Gewirtzman
and Ernio Hernandez and Robert Viagas
20 Sep 2013

1886 Birthday of writer/director John Murray Anderson (1886-1954), whose work for revues Ziegfeld Follies, Greenwich Village Follies and John Murray Anderson's Almanac helped launch and further the careers of countless Broadway stars.



1919 The Hudson Theatre plays host tonight to the opening of Clarence, a new comedy by Booth Tarkington. This play, about a diffident entomologist who teaches a family persistence and values, stars Alfred Lunt and a young Helen Hayes. Variety reports that the young actress is "delicious all the way" and proclaims that she is a "child prodigy."

1924 Today is the Walter Winchell's first daily article in the New York Evening Graphic. Titled "Your Broadway and Mine," this was Winchell's first Broadway column and, accordingly, he was the first Broadway columnist. The news of the day is that Sophie Tucker has left Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1924 in a dispute over stage time.

1929 Anne Meara is born today. She is the wife of Jerry Stiller (to whom she was married on this day in 1954) and mother of Ben Stiller. She starred with Jerry in Bertolt Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan in 1956, John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves in 1970, Richard Greenberg's Eastern Standard in 1988, and the revival of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie in 1993. She also scored an off-Broadway success with her first play, After-Play.

1955 Kurt Weill's and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera was a flop in its 1933 original Broadway production, but today's Off-Broadway revival at the Theatre de Lys, with a new translation by Marc Blitzstein, is a sensation and goes on to run more than 2,600 performances. The cast includes many who went on to stardom: Bea Arthur, Jane Connell, John Astin, Jo Sullivan, along with Weill's widow, Lotte Lenya.

1978 The musical revue, Eubie!, about the music of Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, opens at Broadway's Ambassador Theatre. The production features Gregory Hines and brother Maurice Hines in the cast. At the curtain of tonight's premiere, 95 year-old musician Blake takes a bow. The show will last 439 performances and close Oct. 7, 1979.

2000 Ally Sheedy makes her debut as the obscure and tortured transsexual rock singer in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The actress, known for her work in films such as "The Breakfast Club," "St. Elmo's Fire" and "High Art," is the first female to play the part of the German transsexual Hedwig. To date, only male actors have filled the role: the show's creator John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Cerveris and Kevin Cahoon. The musical opened at the Jane Street Theatre in Feb. 14 of 1998 and will close April 9, after 12 previews and 857 performances.

2001 Urinetown opens on Broadway, having worked its way up from Fringe Festival to Off-Broadway to Broadway, and having postponed its planned Sept. 13 opening in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The oddly titled and themed musical would go on to win 2002 Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book of a Musical.

2004 Actor Iggie Wolfington, the portly character actor who snagged a 1958 Tony Award nomination for playing Prof. Harold Hill's pal, Marcellus Washburn, dies of natural causes in Southern California at age 84.

2012 The American premiere of Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, featuring Annie Funke, Michelle Gomez, Brýan F. O'Byrne and Jake Gyllenhaal, opens Off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre. Michael Longhurst directs the play about an overweight fifteen-year-old girl whose life is changed by the arrival of her estranged uncle.

More of Today's Birthdays: Upton Sinclair 1878. Elliott Nugent 1899. Albert Marre 1925. Rachel Roberts 1927. Kristen Johnston 1967.