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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: August 13

1895 Bert Lahr (née Irving Lahrheim), the future stage and screen clown, is born in New York. Following an early career in Vaudeville, Lahr enjoys a widely successful career on Broadway in such musicals as Du Barry was a Lady and Foxy. Lahr is best remembered by today’s audiences for his performance as the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

1921 Lynn Fontanne has her first major hit in the starring role of Dulcy, a comedy by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly. Despite her success, she rarely performs without future husband Alfred Lunt again.

1981 Ira Levin’s thriller Deathtrap becomes Broadway’s longest-running show of that genre, as it plays its 1,445th performance. Featured in the cast of the production at the Music Box Theatre are Farley Granger, Elizabeth Parrish, Ernest Townsend, and Marian Seldes. Deathtrap opened at the Music Box on February 26, 1978, with Seldes, John Wood, and Victor Garber in the cast. Tony nominations were awarded for the play, director Robert Moore, and actors Seldes and Garber.

1997 Mere Mortals and Others, the Off-Off-Broadway success which played at Primary Stages, moves to Off-Broadway’s John Houseman Theatre. The follow-up to playwright David Ives‘ comic compilation of one-acts All in the Timing, Mere Mortals combines six other one-acts as directed by John Rando. The six plays comprising the show are: Mere Mortals; Speed-the-Play; Foreplay, Or, The Art Of The Fugue; Degas, C’Est Moi; Dr. Fritz; and Time Flies.

2001 “I love you, Butthead,” Monica Lewinsky confessed she told then-President Bill Clinton in a phone conversation with her confidante, Linda Tripp. A collection of such illuminating details from the infamous Lewinsky incident which almost led to Clinton’s removal from office, are gathered into a play with the unfortunate title Snatches. The comedy, adapted verbatim from the women’s taped talks by Laura Strausfield, begins performances at the 78th Street Theatre Lab Off-Broadway.

2011 The New York premiere of Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life), a new musical by Urinetown‘s Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, starring Harriet Harris, begins performances as part of the 15th annual New York International Fringe Festival. The production sells out its entire run at La Mama ETC before the first performance.

2014 Jeremy Jordan and Laura Michelle Kelly star in the world premiere of Gary Barlow, Eliot Kennedy, and James Graham‘s musical Finding Neverland, opening at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Diane Paulus directs the work based on the 2004 film about Peter Pan playwright J.M. Barrie. The production transfers to Broadway in 2015, with Matthew Morrison replacing Jordan in the role of J.M. Barrie.

2017 Writer, director, and actor Joseph Bologna dies at age 82. Onstage, Bologna was known for his collaborations with wife Renée Taylor; the couple wrote and co-starred in a number of Broadway shows that touched on the comedic side of romance and marriage, including Lovers and Other Strangers, It Had to Be You, and If You Ever Leave Me…I’m Going With You!

2018 Gettin’ the Band Back Together, a musical about an out-of-work banker who reunites his old high school rock band, opens on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre. The show has a book by producer Ken Davenport and the performance group Grundleshotz, and songs by Mark Allen. It runs 40 performances.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Buddy Rogers 1904. Barbara Bennett 1906. Gene Raymond 1908. John Beal 1909. Claudia McNeil 1917. James Carpinello 1975. Euan Morton 1977. Wesley Taylor 1986.

Watch Yeast Nation creators Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis talk about the musical:

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