THE­ATRE OF THE SU­PERB

FOR 50 YEARS, CEN­TER THE­ATRE GROUP HAS TAPPED TINSELTOWN FOR SOME HIGH-WATTAGE STAR POWER.

Los Angeles Confidential - - Full Frontal - BY SPENCER BECK

“Since we didn’t in­herit great cul­tural mon­u­ments we had to cre­ate our own.” So said movie leg­end Gre­gory Peck on April 9, 1967, to kick off a week-long cel­e­bra­tion to mark the much-an­tic­i­pated open­ing of the Ah­man­son The­atre and Mark Ta­per Fo­rum. And it was a long wait. Twelve years ear­lier, LA grand dame Dorothy “Buff” Chan­dler had be­gun her quest to raise $20 mil­lion to build The Mu­sic Cen­ter atop Bunker Hill in Down­town. “Why should we only have movies here?” she once fa­mously opined. Hol­ly­wood agreed. Phil­an­thropic-minded busi­ness­men such as Howard Ah­man­son and S. Mark Ta­per joined hands— and check­books—with In­dus­try folk like leg­endary mogul Lew Wasser­man (who be­came the Cen­ter The­atre Group Board of Direc­tors’ first pres­i­dent) to make Chan­dler’s “im­pos­si­ble dream” come true, earn­ing Buff the cover of Time mag­a­zine, no less, the week the CTG opened.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, that first cel­e­bra­tion was a doozy! Ev­ery­one in Tinseltown showed up to rally be­hind the Ta­per’s con­tro­ver­sial premiere of The Devils. Later that year, the stars turned out not just as au­di­ence mem­bers but as play­ers in the pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing Eu­gene O’Neill’s More Stately Man­sions, which starred three-time Os­car win­ner In­grid Bergman. It was the be­gin­ning of a grand tradition that saw myr­iad Hol­ly­wood roy­alty knight pro­duc­tions at both the Ta­per and Ah­man­son, as well as the Kirk Dou­glas The­atre in Cul­ver City, which opened in 2004. Vanessa Red­grave, Charlton He­ston, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Al Pa­cino, Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, Mag­gie Gyl­len­haal, Chris Pine, Vi­ola Davis, and more have all starred in CTG’s plays for the past half cen­tury, earn­ing the Cen­ter The­atre Group mul­ti­ple world pre­mieres and even a Pulitzer Prize for Robert Schenkkan’s Ken­tucky Cy­cle, the first given to a pro­duc­tion that had not opened on Broad­way first. Now that’s star power... 601 W. Tem­ple St., LA, 213-628-2772; cen­terthe­atre­group.org

A bravo new world: In 1967, when

three-time Os­car win­ner In­grid Bergman (top right) head­lined at

the brand-new Ah­man­son The­atre, so be­gan a 50-year star-stud­ded chain re­ac­tion. Among the dozens of Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters who have graced Cen­ter The­atre Group’s three LA stages

over the years have been (clock­wise from top left) Neil

Pa­trick Har­ris, Chris Pine, Bergman, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Al

Pa­cino, and Vi­ola Davis.

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