Center Theatre Group's Michael Ritchie to Meet with Local L.A. Theatre on Collaborations

News   Center Theatre Group's Michael Ritchie to Meet with Local L.A. Theatre on Collaborations
 
Following his controversial move to cut the Center Theatre Group's minority-based developmental theatre initiatives, new artistic director Michael Ritchie will be meeting with leaders from more than a dozen local stages, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Michael Ritchie
Michael Ritchie Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Former Williamstown Theatre Festival head Ritchie took over CTG duties in January. When news of his program cuts were announced, it was revealed that he planned to fill the gap with collaborations with small theaters.

Ritchie, who has since had private meetings with the Blank Theatre Company and the Black Dahlia, told the California daily of his upcoming Oct. 5 gathering. The CTG head, with his associate producer for new play development Diane Rodriguez, organized a select group that represents the diversity of the area, noting those not invited should not feel excluded.

Among the representatives to meet with CTG will be Antaeus Company, California Institute of the Arts' Center for New Theater, Cornerstone Theater Company, East L.A. Classic Theatre Company, East West Players, Evidence Room, Ghost Road Theatre, Latino Theatre Company, L.A. Women's Shakespeare Company, Pacific Resident Theatre, Playwrights' Arena, Road Theatre Company, Robey Theatre Company, Son of Semele, Theatre @ Boston Court and Watts Village Theater Company.

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Effective July 1, 2005, CTG did away with the three ethnic-based programs — Latino Theatre Initiative, BlackSmyths and Asian American Theatre Workshop — and The Other Voices Project (which is "dedicated to the empowerment of writers and performers with disabilities in the American theatre," according to the company's website). All those new play programs were created by founding artistic director, Gordon Davidson, who left the company earlier this year. Ritchie also planned to cut readings and workshops conducted under the direction of playwright Luis Alfaro — who serves as Director of New Play Development, a job that will be eliminated, as will the other lab directors. "I've never liked having a play read to me," Ritchie said, telling the publication about not having attended a reading in several years. Ritchie, during his tenure at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, was notorious for not attending play readings sponsored by the company.

"Development is where you meet emerging artists. A festival is not about readings. It's about relationships and building a community of artists," the Times quoted Alfaro, who has overseen the Taper New Work Festival. "Great art rises collectively, not because one person writes the play that every regional theater produces."

"I want to see a shorter list of plays in production," Ritchie explained about the change, "as opposed to a long list that gets mired in development." He further added, "If plays that are in development hell are valid, they'll find a home. With too much development, they wither and die."

Reactions to the move were varied, ranging from playwright Jessica Goldberg, who is quoted as being "heartbroken," saying the artistic community at CTG's Taper "has been essential to the development of my last three plays," to outgoing Blacksmyths director Brian Freeman, comparing the collaborations with smaller companies to "outsourcing. That's not new play development. It's bringing in a product. It's apples and oranges."

Director Juliette Carrillo, who headed up the also-defunct Hispanic Playwrights Project at South Coast Repertory, expressed her concern for emerging playwrights. "It's a very difficult and lonely task, and professional and financial success is a rarity. They need nurturing. The fact that these labs were focused on ethnic groups that are already suffering from underexposure makes it even worse."

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