Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 11

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 11
Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in Fences.
Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in Fences. Joan Marcus

1867 Actor-producer Joseph Weber, of the vaudeville comedy team Weber and Fields, is born in New York.

1924 Raunchy singer and vaudeville star Sophie Tucker opens at the Palace.

1924 Helen Hayes opens in Edgar Selwyn and Edmund Goulding's play Dancing Mothers about a girl who decides to become a—gasp!—"flapper" over the objections of her parents. It stays for 312 performances and is later filmed with Clara Bow.

1933 Birthday of avant garde Polish director Jerzy Grotowski, whose techniques enjoy a great vogue in the 1960s after publication of his book, Towards a Poor Theatre.

1965 Actor Viola Davis is born in South Carolina. A star of both stage and screen, she wins Tony Awards for her performances in August Wilson's King Hedley II and Fences, and an Academy Award for the 2016 film adaptation of Fences.

1999 Cheryl L. West's Jar the Floor opens at Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre. The play looks at four generations of African-American women who gather to celebrate the family's great-grandmother's 90th birthday. The connections between the various mothers and daughters are exposed when the youngest member of the clan arrives with an unexpected guest. The production stars Irma P. Hall, Regina Taylor, Lynne Thigpen, Linda Powell, and Welker White.

2008 George Furth, a playwright and actor who made his lasting contribution to the American theatre through two collaborations with composer Stephen Sondheim—the musicals Company and Merrily We Roll Along—dies at age 75.

2011 Three years after the original Broadway production closed, Rent returns to New York. A revival of Jonathan Larson's award-winning rock musical about a group of friends, lovers, and artists seeking to express themselves in the age of AIDS, opens Off-Broadway at New World Stages. The freshly conceived production is helmed by the show's original Tony Award-nominated director, Michael Greif. The cast includes Adam Chanler-Berat as Mark, Matt Shingledecker as Roger, and Annaleigh Ashford as Maureen.

2013 Shirley Herz, a veteran theatre press agent who ran her own firm at a time when her industry was dominated by men, dies at age 87. She worked on nearly 100 Broadway plays, revivals, and musicals, including La Cage aux Folles, Jerry's Girls, Gypsy starring Tyne Daly, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Singin' in the Rain, Fiddler on the Roof, On Golden Pond, Dancing at Lughnasa, and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

2014 Academy Award-winning actor and celebrated comedian Robin Williams dies at age 63. Williams appeared on Broadway in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Robin Williams: Live on Broadway, and starred opposite Steve Martin in a 1988 Off-Broadway production of Waiting for Godot.

2015 The world premiere of Annie Baker's John opens Off-Broadway at Signature Theatre's Irene Diamond Stage. Georgia Engel stars as Mertis, the cheerful innkeeper at a Bed & Breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

More of Today's Birthdays: Helen Broderick 1891. Hugh Martin 1914. Arlene Dahl 1928. I. M. Hobson 1935. Ian McDiarmid 1944. Sophie Okonedo 1968.

Watch highlights from the 2011 Off-Broadway revival of Rent:

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