PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 4

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

1880 Writer Damon Runyon, whose short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" will go on to form the basis for the musical Guys and Dolls, is born today.



1920 The musical Jim Jam Jems opens at the Cort Theatre, starring Harry Langdon, Virginia Clark and Joe E. Brown.

1955 Jean Giraudoux's "Iliad"-based Tiger at the Gates opens, starring Michael Redgrave and Diane Cilento, both of whom earn Tony nominations, along with director Harold Clurman and the play itself.

1956 A new CBS series, "Playhouse 90," begins tonight. Many would call it the pinnacle of live drama on television. Throughout its run the series will give voice to such writers as Tad Mosel, Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky, and showcase versions of such plays as The Miracle Worker and The Days of Wine and Roses.

1960 A Taste of Honey opens tonight at the Lyceum Theatre. This play, about a working class white girl who sleeps with a black man in her provincial town and becomes pregnant, features the likes of Angela Lansbury, Joan Plowright, Nigel Davenport and Billy Dee Williams. Playwright Shelagh Delaney is only 19. The play runs 49 weeks.

1962 Every producer longs to hear the phrase, "long line at the box office." David Merrick self-actualized it today — the day after Stop the World - I Want to Get Off opened on Broadway. Faced with mixed reviews, Merrick closed all but one of the windows at the Shubert Theatre box office, forcing ticketbuyers to stand in one long line.

1972 The songs of Noel Coward get an airing tonight in the revue Oh, Coward! at the New Theatre. Barbara Cason, Roderick Cook and Jamie Ross star in this show, which will run 294 performances.

1981 The Royal Shakespeare Company's landmark adaptation of Charles Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby opens at the Plymouth Theatre. The production is historic in two ways: It's presented in two parts over two evenings — the first such show to win the Tony Award as Best Play. It's also the first to charge $100 a ticket to see the entire epic. Trevor Nunn and John Caird direct the production, which stars Roger Rees.

1990 Bill Cain's Stand-up Tragedy opens on Broadway at the Criterion Center Stage Right. The story of a dedicated teacher who tries to save a gifted Hispanic student from the trappings of urban poverty and prejudice plays 13 performances and closes Oct. 16.

1998 The world premiere of Evan Smith's The Uneasy Chair, starring Roger Rees and Dana Ivey, open tonight at Playwrights Horizons. The play, directed by Richard Cottrell, tells of a miserly boarding house owner who sues her crotchety tenant over a breach of promise.

2009 Wishful Drinking, actress-writer Carrie Fisher's darkly comic autobiographical one-woman show about her adventures in Hollywood — and her experiences with substance abuse and mental illness — opens at Broadway's Studio 54.

2011 The Berliner Ensemble, the German theatre company founded by Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel in 1949, makes its New York debut with Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Robert Wilson directs the five performance run.

2012 Craig Wright's Grace, a four-person darkly comic drama set in Florida that examines the meaning of religion and life, opens on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. Directed by Dexter Bullard, the play stars Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington and Edward Asner.

More of Today's Birthdays: Arthur Hopkins 1878. Charlton Heston 1924. Susan Sarandon 1946. Armand Assante 1949. Liev Schreiber 1967. Alicia Silverstone 1976.