Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: June 18

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: June 18
 
In 1998, William Finn's A New Brain opens at Lincoln Center; 20 years later, the campus hosts the NYC premiere of Antoinette Nwandu's Pass Over.
Jon Michael Hill and Namir Smallwood in <i>Pass Over</i>
Jon Michael Hill and Namir Smallwood in Pass Over Jeremy Daniel

1962 A New York theatregoing tradition is born as the Delacorte Theater in Central Park first opens, with a production of The Merchant of Venice starring George C. Scott. The construction of the famed home of free Shakespeare is made possible by a $400,000 donation from George Delacorte of Dell Publishing.

1963 The 1876 vintage Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, reopens after an extensive renovation as a headquarters for musicals. The first show in the new series is Oh Lady, Lady. Among Goodspeed Musicals productions to land on Broadway are Man of La Mancha, Shenandoah, and Annie.

1998 A New Brain, the latest work from Falsettos composer William Finn, opens at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York's Lincoln Center. The musical, about a composer who faces the possibility of death from a brain tumor, stars Malcolm Gets, Mary Testa, Kristin Chenoweth, Chip Zien, and Penny Fuller.

2000 Solo performer Sarah Jones brings her Surface Transit to New York City's downtown mecca Performance Space 122. The show headlines the First NYC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, produced by and also starring Danny Hoch (Jails, Hospitals, & Hip-Hop). In the piece, Jones embodies eight widely varied characters that range from a raving bag lady to a widowed Russian mother to a narrow-minded Jewish grandma to a recovering hip-hop rhyming addict turned-slam poet. She later uses this experience as a springboard for her 2006 Tony-winning play Bridge & Tunnel.

2010 The City Center Encores! Summer Stars production of the Charlie Smalls-William F. Brown musical The Wiz, which boasts R&B artist Ashanti as Dorothy, opens at the New York venue. Directed by Thomas Kail, the cast also includes Orlando Jones at The Wiz, LaChanze as Glinda, Tichina Arnold as Evillene, Christian Dante White as the Scarecrow, James Monroe Iglehart as the Lion, and Joshua Henry as the Tinman .

READ: Ease On Down the Road—The Cast Reflects on The Wiz at Encores!

2012 Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep—both veterans of The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park—play star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, respectively, in a one-night-only gala staged reading of the William Shakespeare classic at the Delacorte Theater. The all-star cast also includes Christopher Walken as Mercutio, Sam Waterston as Benvolio, Jeffrey Wright as Tybalt, F. Murray Abraham as Friar Laurence, and Christine Baranski as Nurse.

2018 LCT3 presents the Off-Broadway premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over, opening at Lincoln Center's Claire Tow Theater. The contemporary mashup of Waiting for Godot and the Exodus saga, centers on two young black men who dream of a better existence beyond their street corner. The cast includes Jon Michael Hill, Namir Smallwood, and Gabriel Ebert.

READ: 10 Moments That Made Pass Over Possible

Today's Birthdays: Philip Barry (1896–1949); Keye Luke (1904–1991); Sammy Cahn (1913–1993); E. G. Marshall (1914–1998); Michael Blakemore (b. 1928); George Hearn (b. 1934); Jack O'Brien (b. 1939);. Elizabeth Franz (b. 1941); Carol Kane (b. 1952); Kerry Butler (b. 1971); Erin Davie (b. 1977).

Watch highlights from the 2015 Encores! Off-Center revival of A New Brain, starring Jonathan Groff:

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