PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 11

By David Gewirtzman
and Ernio Hernandez and Sam Maher
11 Sep 2013

1912 Jane Cowl becomes a star while performing in Within the Law by Bayard Veiller, which opened on this night. The play is about a woman wrongfully accused of theft. This was also the premiere production at the new Eltinge Theater on 42nd Street.



1918 A report comes out today commending the new army camp musical by Irving Berlin, Yip, Yip, Yaphank! The musical, which had been playing at the Century Theater since August 19, showcased 350 Camp Upton soldiers and Berlin himself. The report applauds Berlin's show because it makes a soldier's life seem not so bad. One of the themes of the musical is that "the soldier's life is after all a happy one." The show features among other things, soldiers in drag wearing blackface singing "Mandy," while Berlin himself sings "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning." Berlin's classic song, "God Bless America," was originally written for Yaphank but dropped because he felt it too "sticky" for the production. The song did not surface again until 1938, when Kate Smith will introduce it on the radio.

1940 After missing him for a decade, the Broadway stage once again sees Al Jolson. He co-stars with Martha Raye in Hold on to Your Hats at the Shubert Theatre.

1959 The now landmark statue of song and dance man George M. Cohan is unveiled in Times Square, opposite the Palace Theatre.

1994 Broadway's original Blanche Du Bois, actress Jessica Tandy, dies tonight at the age of 85. A legend of both stage and screen, she won three Tony Awards for her portrayals in A Streetcar Named Desire, The Gin Game and Foxfire. She also garnered an Academy Award for her role in "Driving Miss Daisy." Her husband and longtime co-star, Hume Cronyn, shared a Tony Lifetime Achievement Award with her earlier in the year.

2001 On a sunny Tuesday morning, terrorists fly two commercial airliners into New York City's World Trade Center "Twin Towers," and a third into the Pentagon in Washington DC, causing mass death, destruction and chaos in both cities. All theatrical performances are cancelled for the next two days around the U.S. In ensuing years, the event will inspire numerous plays, including The Guys, Omnium Gatherum, Portraits and Recent Tragic Events.

2002 On the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows cancel or reschedule performances, leaving their theatres dark for the day.

2004 Fred Ebb, the lyricist half of the Broadway composing team of Kander and Ebb, which produced classic musicals such as Cabaret and Chicago, dies at age 71.

2006 Joseph Hayes, a playwright, novelist and producer who won the 1955 Tony Award for Best Play for his suspenseful melodrama The Desperate Hours, dies in St. Augustine, Florida, at age 88.

2009 Larry Gelbart, the two-time Tony Award-winning librettist who was also a playwright and a screenwriter for TV and movies, dies at the age of 81. Viewed as a master of situation comedy and one-liners, Mr. Gelbart won Tonys for Best Book of a Musical for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which he co-wrote with Burt Shevelove, and City of Angels. Mr. Gelbart also developed the Robert Altman movie "M*A*S*H" into the hit TV series, co-wrote the screenplay to the Hollywood comedy "Tootsie," and wrote the Broadway plays Sly Fox (based on Ben Jonson's Volpone) and Mastergate.

2011 Sweet and Sad, the world-premiere drama by Richard Nelson set on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, has a timely opening night Off-Broadway at The Public Theater. Nelson revisits the Apple family (first seen in his 2010 play That Hopey Changey Thing) as they reflect on America a decade after the events of 9/11.

2011 The Select (The Sun Also Rises), Elevator Repair Service's dramatic look at Ernest Hemingway's post-war classic, opens Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop. ERS founder John Collins directs the three-hour and fifteen-minute ensemble work that pares the novel down to much of Hemingway's dialogue.

Today's Birthdays: D. H. Lawrence 1885. Georges Metaxa 1899. Henderson Forsythe 1917. Alan Bergman 1925. Lee Richardson 1926. Gerome Ragni 1935. Reed Birney 1954. Adriane Lenox 1956. Harry Connick, Jr. 1967.