1954 Playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein is born. He wins Tony Awards for writing and performing in his play Torch Song Trilogy, as well as for his book for the musical La Cage aux Folles, and his performance as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. Other dramas include the plays Safe Sex and Casa Valentina, and the books for the musicals A Catered Affair, Kinky Boots, and Newsies. As an actor, Fierstein becomes a familiar face in Hollywood after hits such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day.
1971 Stage legend Helen Hayes takes her final bow. Upon finishing her last performance of Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., Hayes retires due to acute asthma after a stage tenure of five decades.
1972 Playwright Tennessee Williams makes his stage debut in the Off-Broadway production of his play Small Craft Warnings. His run is both unexpected and short-lived, however; Williams was simply filling in for three performances for the actor who regularly played the role.
1979 Broadway and film actor Jack Haley dies. Haley is best known for playing the Tin Man in the classic film The Wizard of Oz.
1985 Herb Gardner’s play, I’m Not Rappaport, about growing old as seen through the friendship between a black man and a white man, opens Off-Broadway at the American Place Theatre. The play starring Judd Hirsch and Cleavon Little plays 181 performances before transferring to Broadway’s Booth Theatre to win Hirsch and Gardner Tony Awards for Best Actor and Best Play.
2000 On the 25th anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, Tony-winning choreographer George Faison (The Wiz) mounts a version of the play at the American Place Theatre in New York. Carol Jean Lewis, Eleanor McCoy, Lizan Mitchell, Novella Nelson, J. Ieasha Prime, Katharine J. Smith, and Jackee star as the women representative of seven colors.
2002 Hugh Jackman and Audra McDonald headline a concert of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Carousel at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Jackman plays Billy Bigelow and McDonald plays Julie Jordan in the one-night-only event that benefits the famed music hall. Also on stage: Jason Danieley as Enoch Snow, Judy Kaye as Nettie Fowler, Lauren Ward as Carrie Pipperidge, Blythe Danner as Mrs. Mullin, Philip Bosco as the Starkeeper, Norbert Leo Butz as Jigger Craigin, and original Carousel star John Raitt as narrator.
2002 Tom Mallow, legendary booker and producer of national tours, dies at age 72. Time magazine dubs him "King of the Road."
2011 The American premiere of Through a Glass Darkly, Jenny Worton’s adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar-winning film, opens Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop. Produced by Atlantic Theater Company, the drama about a woman newly released from an asylum stars Carey Mulligan, Chris Sarandon, Jason Butler Harner, and Ben Rosenfield.
2016 David Javerbaum’s An Act of God has its second coming on Broadway, as Sean Hayes opens in the comedy at the Booth Theatre. The play was previously seen on Broadway in 2015, with Jim Parsons in the role of God.
More of Today’s Birthdays: Paul Giamatti (b. 1967).
Watch Harvey Fierstein and his Kinky Boots collaborator Cyndi Lauper receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: