Stories from the Stage

Curious happenings on and off stage from theaters around the world

From brilliant acting to extraordinary choreography, what takes place on the stage mirrors the infinite variety of life. Here’s a look at some of the world’s most unique theaters and performances.

Ford Theater,
Washington DC

The Ford Theater in Washington D.C. is notorious for being the site of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. On April 14th, 1865, Booth (who came from a distinguished family of actors) gained access to the Presidential box, pointed a derringer at Lincoln’s head, and pulled the trigger on the loudest “laugh line” in the last act of the comedy Our American Cousin.

View from Stage, Renovated Ford’s Theater, © Maxwell MacKenzie (From the collection of Ford’s Theatre)

That same stage now commemorates Lincoln’s legacy with history-based performances.

Abbey Theater,
Dublin

In 1907, M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World debuted at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Later, during the American tour of the play, the entire cast and Abbey director were arrested in Philadelphia, considering the play to be “immoral and indecent.”

Abbey Theatre, Dublin Ireland

Teatro Massimo,
Palermo

The Teatro Massimo in Sicily was constructed over 100 years ago with the purpose of rivaling the great opera houses and theaters of Europe and creating a stage befitting of the tradition of acting in Sicily. It is one of the largest in Italy and all of Europe.

Massimo Theatre Foundation, Palermo Italy

This Sicilian theater doesn’t exactly keep things “traditional”, known for featuring international performers from all over the world, including Brooklyn-based actor John Turturro, in order to make the arts accessible to all audiences.

Turturro, John & Aida (From the collection of LIFE Photo Collection)

Globe Theater,
London

Originally built in 1599, the Globe Theatre, London was closed several times to avoid having 3000 people under one roof, reason being – The Great Plague. All those germs in one room, could easily turn a comedy into a tragedy on and off stage.

Shakespeare’s Globe Exterior (From the collection of Shakespeare’s Globe)

The privy council stated that theaters must close if the number of plague fatalities went over 30 people per week, with actors sometimes lobbying to make it 40 in order to earn their weekly wages.

Yorick’s Skull, Jonathan Fenson , The prop skull used in the famous Gravedigger Scene - Act V, Scene 1, Hamlet (From the collection off Shakespeare’s Globe)

Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre,
Tel Aviv

The Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre in Tel Aviv was established to cultivate the art of contemporary dance in Israel with an aim to attract quality Israeli and international performances. The 2011 performance of Wonderland debuted at the theater, proving to be a modern masterpiece of forward thinking theater.

Berlin State Opera,
Berlin

Originally constructed in 1742 under King Friedrich II of Prussia, The Berlin State Opera (Staatsoper Theater) has been destroyed three times: once by fire in the 19th century, and twice during WWII.

THE TURN OF THE SCREW Benjamin Britten | CONDUCTOR Ivor Bolton | DIRECTOR Claus Guth | Premiere on 15 November 2014, Photo by Monika Rittershaus (From the collection of Berlin State Opera)

But that hasn’t stopped this theater from bouncing back. A recent renovation finished in 2017 cost 400 million euro, and the makeover has extended to their performances as well.

FOOTFALLS / NEITHER Samuel Beckett/Morton Feldman | CONDUCTOR François-Xavier Roth | DIRECTOR Katie Mitchell | Premiere on 22 June 2014, photo by Stephen Cumminskey (From the collection of Berlin State Opera)

The theater has gained an avant-garde reputation by pushing theatrical boundaries to include violence and nudity on stage in an attempt to redefine opera, film, drama and art.

WOZZECK Alban Berg | CONDUCTOR Daniel Barenboim | DIRECTOR Andrea Breth | Premiere on 16 April 2011, photo by Bernd Uhlig (From the collection of Berlin State Opera)

National Theater of Korea,
Seoul

The National Theater of Korea performs both traditional Korean plays as well as international ones. The 2014 performance of Scent of Ink captured the elegance and refinement of Korean dance.

The striking costumes and brilliant colors are an interpretation of the tradition of The Four Gentlemen from Chinese painting. The performance follows the movement of the seasons in this performance and has been called poetry on stage.

National Theater of Korea (From the collection of National Theater of Korea)

Bolshoi Theater,
Moscow

The Bolshoi Theater dates back to 1776 when Catherine the II wanted a theater devoted to the Russian performing arts. The Theater was in danger of being destroyed in 1918 when Lenin decided that opera was too high brow. Stalin changed Lenin’s mind, and the theater remains.

The Bolshoi Theater (From the collection of The Bolshoi Theater)
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