PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 3

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher and Ernio Hernandez
03 Oct 2013

1859 Eleanora Duse born in Italy. One of the leading actresses of her day, "The Great Duse" will champion the realistic playwrights of the early 20th century, and will have some of her greatest successes in the works of Henrik Ibsen, notably Ghosts.



1898 Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac has its Broadway debut at the Garden Theatre, starring Richard Mansfield in the title role.

1910 Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm opens on Broadway, setting a standard for saccharine family fare. It runs 216 performances.

1938 In one of her most acclaimed performances, Helen Hayes plays Britain's Queen Victoria in Victoria Regina at the Martin Beck Theatre.

1962 Anthony Newley stars in the Broadway debut of his musical Stop the World - I Want to Get Off at the Shubert Theatre. This allegorical show about an Everyman was written by Newley and Leslie Bricusse, with Anna Quayle co-starring. The song "What Kind of Fool Am I?" would become a hit, and producer David Merrick will prove himself no fool in his PR tactics. When faced with a mediocre New York Times review of World, he translated the critique into Greek and ran it in the show's print ads. A film version of Stop will be released in 1966.

1967 The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter opens tonight at the Booth Theatre. This absurdist play features Henderson Forsythe, Ed Flanders, Alexandra Berlin and Ruth White in a cast directed by Alan Schneider. Variety reports the basic story line as being about "a psychoneurotic rooming with a moronic couple." It is actually about a couple, Meg and Petey, who lodge an insecure and untidy man, Stanley. The chaos occurs when two menacing "friends" show up to help Stanley celebrate his birthday. Birthday will party on for almost four months.

1978 Henry Fonda makes his last Broadway appearance playing a Supreme Court Justice in Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's drama, First Monday in October. The play is about the first female Supreme Court Justice, played by Jane Alexander.

1987 Playwright Jean Anouilh dies today. His 1942 adaptation of the Greek tragedy of Antigone is the most celebrated of his plays, though The Rehearsal and Ring Round the Moon would also receive revivals.

1995 Tommy Tune breaks his foot for the second time in two years and is left with no choice but to only sing and act his part in Busker Alley, which begins its tryout at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center tonight. Two other people dance for him in this show, but that doesn't work. Instead, the Broadway opening for November 16 is called off. The production was plagued with bad reviews from the start, and the $6 million debt left over from the broken foot and opening cancellation is not covered by Tune's insurance, which is only $3.5 million.

1996 Off-Broadway's St. Luke's Church becomes an apropos venue for Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's Late Night Catechism. The interactive comedy features Donovan as a nun lecturing audiences on Catholicism. The show will inhabit the theatre for years to come.

1999 Eve Ensler opens The Vagina Monologues at the Westside Theatre Off-Broadway. In the solo show, the playwright performer reveals a series of different women's stories and experiences involving their genitalia. Joe Mantello serves as production supervisor for the play, which will become a three-woman show, featuring a long series of female celebrities, following the author's departure.

2004 William Gibson's play Golda's Balcony becomes the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history. The stage portrait of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meier surpasses the previous record-holder, Lily Tomlin's The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

2010 Mrs. Warren's Profession, the 1894 George Bernard Shaw play so shocking that it wasn't performed in London until 1902 — and then only in a private presentation — opens in a new Broadway production at the American Airlines Theatre. Directed by Doug Hughes, the play stars Cherry Jones as Kitty Warren, and Sally Hawkins as her daughter Vivie.

2011 David I. Mitchell, a seven-time Tony Award nominee and two-time Tony Award winner, and a scenic designer for Broadway, opera and ballet, dies at age 79. Mr. Mitchell won his Tonys for his whimsical, circus-like set design of the 1980 musical Barnum, and for the original 1977 production of Annie.

More of Today's Birthdays: Warner Oland 1879. Henry Hull 1890. Gertrude Berg 1899. Johnny Burke 1908. Ray Stark 1914. Gore Vidal 1925. Peter Frechette 1956.