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