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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: August 12

1881 Birthday of Cecil B. DeMille, who begins his career as a Broadway actor in shows including Hearts Are Trumps and To Have and To Hold, and as a Broadway playwright and producer. He later heads west to become one of the pioneering movie moguls of Hollywood.

1892 Alfred Lunt is born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After graduating from Carroll College and scratching plans to be an architect, Lunt soon finds himself enjoying a career in the theatre, making his Broadway debut in 1917’s Romance and Arabella and achieving stardom in 1919 with Clarence. In 1922 Lunt marries actor and future stage partner Lynn Fontanne. Among their many credits together are Design for Living (1933), I Know My Love (1949), and The Visit (1958).

1915 Choreographer and director Michael Kidd is born in New York. His Broadway choreography and/or directing credits include Finian’s Rainbow, Guys And Dolls, Destry Rides Again, and The Goodbye Girl.

1982 Nebraska-born actor Henry Fonda dies at age 77. Fonda graced both the stage and the screen, earning a Tony Award in 1948 for his performance in the title role of Mister Roberts. He also starred on Broadway in Two for the Seesaw and The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.

1987 Paul Portner’s farce Shear Madness opens for a 12-week run at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. The show later changes to an open-ended run and becomes the longest-running show in the nation’s capital. The improvisational whodunit transports the action of the play to present day Georgetown at the Shear Madness Hair Styling Salon. The performance culminates nightly with an audience vote on who is guilty and who isn’t. To date, it has run more than 13,000 performances.

1999 Though it technically started at the beginning of June with Natalie Merchant‘s special concert engagement at the Neil Simon Theatre, the 1999–2000 Broadway season begins in earnest today when John Pielmeier‘s thriller Voices in the Dark opens at the Longacre Theatre. Judith Ivey stars as a radio talk show host who finds herself menaced by a mysterious caller while staying in an isolated Adirondack cabin.

2001 Take Flight, a musical based on the lives and adventures of famous aviators, opens at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. Christiane Noll plays Amelia Earhart in the show written by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire (Big) and Marsha Norman (The Secret Garden).

2003 Broadway theatres dim their lights this evening to honor the life of tap-dancing actor singer Gregory Hines, who died of cancer August 9 at age 57.

2010 The world premiere of Paul Weitz’s Trust—starring Zach Braff, Bobby Cannavale, Sutton Foster, and Ari Graynor—opens at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre.

2013 The Public Theater‘s world-premiere musical Love’s Labour’s Lost, penned by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson collaborators Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers, opens at the Delacorte Theater as part of Shakespeare in the Park. The cast includes Daniel Breaker, Colin Donnell, Rachel Dratch, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Patti Murin, and Bryce Pinkham.

2014 Stage and screen acting legend Lauren Bacall dies at age 89. She won two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical, for her performances as Margo Channing in Applause (1970) and Tess Harding in Woman of the Year (1981).

More of Today’s Birthdays: Jane Wyatt 1911. Kurt Kasznar 1913. William Goldman 1931. Dana Ivey 1941.

Watch highlights from Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers’ 2013 musical Love’s Labour’s Lost:

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