Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, Playbill On-Line tries to function as an internet theatre newspaper, but today, why not call us a "news-Taper?" Just a way to acknowledge 30 years of excellence at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum, which celebrates its anniversary today, April 9.
Ironically, this West Coast theatre mecca got off to a demonic start -- with Frank Langella starring in an adaptation of Aldous Huxley's The Devils in 1967. According to Diane Haithman of the Los Angeles Times (April 6), that production raised the ire of local Catholic officials and the LA County Board of Supervisors, so much so that a committee was formed to monitor the theatre, and a tax was levied on the playhouse. Nevertheless, theatre was here to stay in LA, and the more traditional Ahmanson Theatre opened in 1968. It was at the Taper that audiences viewed Pulitzer-winnners The Shadow Box, The Kentucky Cycle and Angels In America, which was workshopped at the Taper, Too in 1990. Other shows at the 750-seat playhouse have included Leonard Bernstein's Mass (1973), Children Of A Lesser God (1979), Jelly's Last Jam (1990), and Slavs! (1995). This summer, Leslie Ayvazian's Off-Broadway drama, Nine Armenians, will take the stage.
Gordon Davidson was artistic director of the Taper when it opened and remains in charge of the theatre. Not only that, he heads the Center Theatre Group, an umbrella title for both the Taper and the Ahmanson, making him artistic director of both.
According to spokesperson Nancy Hereford, the Taper has been holding a weeklong series of special events to mark the 30th anniversary. The biggie is on April 9: a conversation onstage with Tony Kushner, Anna Deavere Smith & Athol Fugard, moderated by John Sullivan, head of Theatre Communications Group. On April 10, the Taper's Youth Theatre will take the mainstage for a free performance. On April 11, anyone who ever appeared on the Taper or Ahmanson stage will do cabaret pieces (says spokesperson Nancy Hereford "It could be magical it could be horrible!"). Expected for that event are Jane Carr & Harry Groener (Crazy For You), Davis Gaines (Phantom), Ren Woods (the little girl in The Wiz at the Ahmanson), Culture Clash (Radio Mambo), Loretta Devine (Colored Museum at the Taper), Betty Garrett (Quilters), Rene Auberjonois (Metamorphosis on Broadway), John Rubinstein (Getting Away With Murder), blues singer Ron Taylor (Lost Highway at the Taper), Brock Peters, Nancy Dussault (Candide at the Ahmanson), Mark Harelik (author of Lost Highway, The Immigrant) and many more.
Davidson told the L.A. Times, "The best theatre should be dangerous -- dangerous to complacency, dangerous to the status quo." --By David Lefkowitz