The Group Repertory Theatre has renamed itself the Lonny Chapman Theatre as a tribute to Chapman, who has served the GRT as artistic director for the entire 27 years of its existence. The GRT made it official Dec. 3 at 1 PM with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by politicos Joel Wachs and James Hahn, and such celebrities as Martin Landau, Mark Rydell and Sean Penn (a former GRT member).
The ceremony was timed with the opening of the GRT's latest production, Cole, a revue based on the music and lyrics of Cole Porter. "The company wanted to recognize Lonny for his artistic leadership and community service," said the GRT's executive director Bill Arrigon.
Chapman made his Broadway debut in the 1950 world premiere of William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba, starring Shirley Booth. He also appeared opposite Kim Stanley in The Chase by Horton Foote and The Glass Menagerie with Helen Hayes. With the late Curt Conway, he operated the Fishkill Summer Playhouse in upper New York state for many years, where such stars as Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall got their start.
Chapman has appeared in over 30 feature films and innumerable television shows. He is also a veteran playwright with such credits as The Buffalo Skinners and Cry the Raindrop to his name.
In 1972 Chapman became artistic director of GRT, an actor's cooperative which has mounted 150 productions over the years, many of them original works. The company has won countless awards during Chapman's unbroken reign as artistic director, including one from the L.A. Drama Critics Circle for "continuing excellence in theatrical production.""We will remain committed to theatre that entertains, illuminates the human condition, and, most importantly, never bores," said Chapman, whose passion for theatre is shared by his wife of 50 years, Erma Dean Chapman, who serves as General Manager of GRT.
The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd. in NoHo. For tickets and information call (818) 789- PLAY.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent