He may be a movie star, but Kirk Douglas had theatre as his first love.
The film idol of 83 pictures began his acting career as a singing-telegram boy in the Broadway run of Spring Again. Unfortunately, the pressures of providing for his family (including actor-son Michael) eased his transition into film, where he would go on to make "Paths of Glory," "The Bad and the Beautiful," "Spartacus," "The Devil's Disciple," "The Glass Menagerie," "Mourning Becomes Electra" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
Douglas always meant to return to the theatre (and did, in a flop 1963 revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), but now at the ripe age of 86, he's found another way to benefit the performing arts. He and his wife Anne, a former Center Theatre Group board member, will donate $2.5 million for the renovation of the historic Culver Theatre by the Center Theatre Group.
The Culver Theatre, to be renamed the Kurt Douglas Theatre, opened in 1947 and had served as a film house until 1989. The Center Theatre Group will transform the building into a 400-seat live venue in time for the 2004 season.
The Douglas Theatre will house the play development programs of the Taper Forum, which have until now played at more intimate spaces such as the Actor's Gang Theatre. It will also host the Taper's youth theatre programs. Culver City will donate an additional $1.25 million. Local architect Steven Erlich will carry out the design and renovation project.
The Center Theatre Group currently runs both the 745-seat Mark Taper Forum and the 2,100-seat Ahmanson Theatre, where Into the Woods begins its pre-Broadway run Feb. 1. They are on the web at http://www.TaperAhmanson.com.
— By Christine Ehren