Amanda Anderson 2017-09-05 01:28:49
The Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum celebrate an impressive 50-year history of developing new voices and uniting a multicultural city with the resident Center Theatre Group. "Tonight marks the realization of what seemed an impossible dream,” said actor Gregory Peck on April 9, 1967, at the opening celebration for the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum atop Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. “Since we didn’t inherit great cultural monuments, we had to create our own,” Peck said. Just as the metropolitan sprawl of 1960s Los Angeles had no true physical center, this multiethnic, chaotic city was in need of a cultural center. The Ahmanson and Taper were born during the civil rights movement, in a nation divided by issues of race, fear, tension and misunderstandings between people of different abilities, cultures and points of view—a time that bears a striking resemblance to today. A prominent figure of resident company the Center Theatre Group, which now includes the Kirk Douglas Theatre, was its first artistic director, Gordon Davidson, who served in the role for 38 years and kept this cultural center rooted in its original spirit. The beloved stage director, who passed away last October, was noted as describing how lucky he felt to be in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, saying the country was alive to the issues of the time and people felt they could make a difference. Center Theatre Group continues to believe that theater makes a difference. In 1979, the premiere of Mark Medoff’s Tony-winning “Children of a Lesser God” opened up a conversation between those in the community who literally can’t hear and those who can hear. Metaphorically, the Center Theatre Group’s productions continue to give people new ways to hear one another: They push boundaries, promote empathy and give voice to previously unheard voices. Also in the 1970s, Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit,” which went on to become Broadway’s first Chicano play after originally being commissioned and developed by Center Theatre Group, became popular after it was made into a major motion picture. The story about a clash between multiple generations of a Chicano family explored how the injustice of racism can affect a city and society. “Zoot Suit” ran at Mark Taper Forum earlier this year as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. Medoff and Valdez’s plays are examples of dozens of productions developed at the Ahmanson and Taper theaters that have garnered highest honors, incredible box office success and, eventually, motion picture adaptations. Among those were Neil Simon’s “I Ought to be in Pictures” at the Taper, which went on to Broadway where Dinah Manoff won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress and reprised her role in the movie version; 1981, when a new work for the Ahmanson, “The West Side Waltz,” starring Katharine Hepburn and Dorothy Loudon, made its world premiere and moved to Broadway where Hepburn earned a Tony nomination for Best Actress; 1985, when “Biloxi Blues” had its world premiere at the Ahmanson starring Matthew Broderick and Penelope Ann Miller and went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway; and 1990, when August Wilson finished developing “The Piano Lesson” at the Ahmanson, which went on to Broadway where it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play and received five Tony nominations. Later, Taper-backed plays “The Kentucky Cycle” and “Angels in America” each won Pulitzer Prizes, in 1992 and 1993, respectively. In 2012, “Clybourne Park” moved from the Taper to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Play. And the list goes on. Now under the direction of Michael Ritchie since 2005, after 50 years of large-scale success in a world-class facility, Center Theatre Group still clings to its roots in community theater, continuing to champion unique voices and new ideas. Front and Center Experience the artistry and history of Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum’s resident Center Theatre Group by heading to one of these anticipated productions. To buy tickets, visit centertheatregroup.org. “HEAD OF PASSES” MARK TAPER FORUM Sep. 13 – Oct. 22 MacArthur Genius Award-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney offers a dramatic tale that delves into themes of family, acceptance and faith. “THE RED SHOES” AHMANSON THEATRE Sep. 15 – Oct. 1 Matthew Bourne’s intoxicating adaptation of the legendary film tells the magical story of one girl’s dream to become the world’s greatest dancer. “BRIGHT STAR” AHMANSON THEATRE Oct. 11 – Nov. 19 Grammy Award winners Steve Martin and Edie Brickell bring a musical of love and redemption set in the American South in the 1920s and 1940s. “SOMETHING ROTTEN!” AHMANSON THEATRE Nov. 21 – Dec. 31 Two brothers in the 1590s are desperate to write a successful play and attempt to create the world’s first musical in this comedic production from the co-director of “The Book of Mormon.”
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