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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: March 26

1905 Actor Maurice Barrymore dies at age 57. He was father to Lionel Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore, and John Barrymore.

1911 Thomas Lanier Williams is born in Columbus, Mississippi. In 1940, a play opens in Boston titled Battle of Angels by ‘Tennessee’ Williams and theatre soon changes forever. He goes on to write The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and other plays.

1923 Actor Sarah Bernhardt, 79, dies in Paris. She began her stage training at the age of 13 and had her first stage success at the age of 28. It was a double triumph as she played the roles of Cordelia in King Lear and the queen in Ruy Blas at the Comedie-Francaise. She also acted the lead in Hamlet. She toured Europe and America with her own companies.

1964 Barbra Streisand becomes “the greatest star” when she opens on Broadway in her signature show, Funny Girl, and debuts her signature song, “People” by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill.

1970 Martin McDonagh is born in Camberwell, London, and after a childhood spent in Ireland, writes a series of lauded plays set mostly in County Galway. His first trilogy of plays consists of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, and The Lonesome West. McDonagh goes on to write The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Pillowman, A Behanding in Spokane, and Hangmen.

1973 Playwright, composer, and actor Noël Coward dies in Jamaica. He made his Broadway debut in The Vortex, which he also wrote and directed. A prolific writer and composer, his style set and captured the wit and elegance of the time. He was 74 years old.

1987 August Wilson comes out swinging with his new play, Fences, which opens at the 46th Street Theatre. The drama about a family in the 1950s wins the Tony, Drama Desk, New York Drama Critics Circle, and Outer Critics Circle Awards, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Stars James Earl Jones and Mary Alice also go home with Tonys.

1997 The sun finally comes out for another tomorrow when the 20th anniversary revival of Annie, starring Nell Carter as Miss Hannigan, opens at the Martin Beck Theatre. In the weeks prior to the opening, the show made headlines after replacing star Joanna Pacitti, the young actor chosen via a nation-wide contest, with Brittny Kissinger.

2001 The meaning of the phrase “Nuremberg Defense” is explored for a new generation in a stage adaptation of Abby Mann‘s Judgment at Nuremberg, about postwar Nazi trials. It opens on Broadway with Maximilian Schell, George Grizzard, and Michael Hayden.

2008 Jeremy Irons makes his London National Theatre debut in Howard Brenton’s play Never So Good, playing British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

2009 Geoffrey Rush holds court in a Broadway revival of Eugene Ionesco‘s absurdist comedy Exit the King at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Neil Armfield directs a cast that also includes Susan Sarandon, Lauren Ambrose, and Andrea Martin.

2017 Lynn Nottage’s Sweat opens on Broadway at Studio 54, following a sold-out Off-Broadway engagement at the Public Theater. Kate Whoriskey directs the play about a group of friends who work together on the line of a factory floor, who are pitted against each other by layoffs and picket lines. A few weeks later, the play is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

2018 Four New Yorkers are involved in a murder investigation in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment complex in Lobby Hero, Kenneth Lonergan‘s 2001 play making its Broadway debut at the Hayes Theater. Chris Evans, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Cera, and Bel Powley star.

More of Today’s Birthdays Chico Marx 1886. Pierre Boulez 1925. Alan Arkin 1934. Martin Short 1950. T.R. Knight 1973.

Watch highlights from the 2014 Broadway production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, starring Daniel Radcliffe:

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