Diverse Artists Breaking New Ground
During Center Theatre Group’s second decade, we cemented our position as one of the nation’s foremost regional theatres and a space for artists like Luis Valdez, Marsha Norman, Lanford Wilson, and Denzel Washington.
Zoot Suit, written and directed by Luis Valdez, makes its World premiere at the Mark Taper Forum before going on to an extended run at the Aquarius in Hollywood, becoming the first Chicano play on Broadway, and being adapted into a feature film.
On opening night, when the character of El Pachuco, memorably played by Edward James Olmos, swaggered onto the Taper stage, Chicano theatre became American theatre.
'They're Playing Our Song'
Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz star at the Ahmanson Theatre in the World premiere of They’re Playing Our Song, with book by Neil Simon, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager.
Terra Nova by Ted Tally made its West Coast premiere at the Taper under the direction of Center Theatre Group's Founding Artistic Director Gordon Davidson. The cast included Donald Moffat as Robert Falcon Scott and James Cromwell as Roald Amundsen as they portrayed the rival Antarctic explorers.
Anthony Hopkins plays Prospero in 'The Tempest' at the Taper, May 17 – July 1, 1979
Lanford Wilson in Repertory
Lanford Wilson’s 5th of July joined the West Coast premiere of Talley’s Folly at the Taper in 1979, marking the first time Center Theatre Group produced a repertory of two plays by the same author in the historic venue. Presented in association with Circle Repertory Company, cast members included Judd Hirsch and Jeff Daniels.
[Children of a Lesser God] opens up a conversation between those in the community who can't hear and those who can hear, when we listen. There goes the Taper, putting people together again.
'Children of a Lesser God' by Mark Medoff, directed by Gordon Davidson, makes its World premiere at the Taper, October 25 – December 9, 1979
'I Ought to Be in Pictures'
Tony Curtis and Joyce Van Patten in the World premiere of Neil Simon’s I Ought to Be in Pictures at the Taper. The play heads to Broadway where Dinah Manoff earns a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play and goes on to reprise her Taper role in the movie version.
'The West Side Waltz'
Ernest Thompson, winner of the first George Seaton Award for Playwrights, was commissioned to write a new work for the Ahmanson. The West Side Waltz, starring Katharine Hepburn and Dorothy Loudon and directed by Noel Willman, makes its World premiere. The production moves to Broadway later that year and earns Hepburn a Tony nomination for Best Actress.
Elizabeth Taylor stars in 'The Little Foxes' by Lillian Hellman at the Ahmanson, September 25 – December 5, 1981
'A Flea in Her Ear'
Elizabeth Huddle, Keene Curtis, and Jeffrey Tambor in A Flea in Her Ear at the Taper. Marking the Taper’s 15th Anniversary Celebration, A Flea in Her Ear was part of The Repertory Festival, which also included The Misanthrope.
'A Soldier’s Play' at the Taper features Denzel Washington, August 19 – October 2, 1982
'A Little Family Business'
The incomparable Angela Lansbury marks her Ahmanson debut in the American premiere of A Little Family Business alongside John McMartin.
Matthew Broderick in the World premiere of Neil Simon’s 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' at the Ahmanson, December 10, 1982 – January 29, 1983
Matthew [Broderick] was everything I hoped Eugene Morris would be—shy, intelligent and funny without ever trying to be.
'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'
Kirstie Alley stas in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Taper, part of a venerable cast including James Morrison, Jeffrey Cohen, Alice Ghostley, Jason Hervey, and Helen Martin.
Gordon Davidson and Arthur Miller at work on 'The American Clock' before its West Coast premiere at the Taper, June 14 – August 19, 1984
Matthew Broderick performed alongside a cast including Penelope Ann Miller and Alan Ruck in the World premiere of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues at the Ahmanson, which goes to Broadway and wins the Tony for Best Play.
'In the Belly of the Beast'
In the Belly of the Beast, which got its start as a Taper, Too production, plays the Taper March 28 – May 12, 1985. From 1982–1991, Taper, Too presented intimate plays in the smaller setting of the 100-seat black box theatre of the John Anson Ford Cultural Center in Hollywood.
'The Odd Couple'
Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers star in Neil Simon’s reworking of The Odd Couple for two female leads at the Ahmanson, with Tony Shalhoub also in the cast. They head straight to New York’s Broadhurst Theatre, where Shalhoub makes his Broadway debut.
Donna Bullock, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and Keith Carradine in 'Foxfire' at the Ahmanson, November 22, 1985 – January 11, 1986
Mary Martin and Carol Channing star in the World premiere of Legends! by James Kirkwood, directed by Clifford Williams at the Ahmanson.
Mary Martin and Carol Channing on the same stage! Is that box office or what? Why, they almost wouldn't need a play.
Kathy Bates and Anne Pitoniak in '’night, Mother' at the Taper, March 27 – May 11, 1986
Kate Mulgrew appears in Hedda Gabler at the Taper at the James A. Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood.
Kate Burton and Ian McKellen in 'Wild Honey' at the Ahmanson, October 10 – November 30, 1986
'Sweet Bird of Youth'
Lauren Bacall and Mark Soper in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth at the Ahmanson.
John Malkovich, Center Theatre Group Founding Artistic Director Gordon Davidson, and Joan Allen rehearsing 'Burn This', 1987
Burn This reminds us that…Lanford Wilson is a member of an endangered species that theatre like the Taper, Circle Rep and Steppenwolf must continue to nurture.
The Taper hosts the World premiere of Lanford Wilson’s seminal Burn This, an LGBT play that moved to Broadway and later the West End, featuring Joan Allen and John Malkovich.
I don’t know how many times Rob [Reiner] came to see that play, but it was a lot. He’d seen my work in New York, but I think this is where he got the idea to use me in Misery.