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Memories of the Taper Also

From the Center Theatre Group Archives


Spalding Gray in "Swimming to Cambodia."

Photo by Jay Thompson.

The following letter is excerpted from Reflections, The Taper at Twenty, a publication produced by Center Theatre Group in recognition of the Mark Taper Forum’s 20th Anniversary. In this section, Spalding Gray reflects on his time developing Swimming to Cambodia through Taper, Too. Taper, Too launched in 1983 at the John Anson Ford Theatre in Hollywood as an extension of the Mark Taper Forum and a testing ground for new and experimental theatre, helping develop such works as Stand-Up Tragedy and Angels in America.

I remember my wonderful run of Swimming to Cambodia at the Taper, Too as one of the most beautifully organic experiences I’ve had at any theatre anywhere. The day would start with a nice quiet time in the sun with a little reading (not too much to make me think). This would be followed by a healthy lunch (eaten in the sun by the pool that was too cold to swim in). Then there was the wonderful walk around the Beachwood Canyon Reservoir just under the Hollywood sign (lest I forget where I was), then back for my nap and All Things Considered on the radio interrupted by the dreamy Shadow Traffic Report. Then a light dinner with Renée [Shafransky], and my trusty state manager Mary Klinger would pick me up and drive me the short distance through these insane crumbling Hollywood hills to the wonderful John Anson Ford Theatre, where I made a quiet, almost mystical entrance into that mysterious theatre. Not only were these grand entrance steps like some odd Italian Garden, but the piercing poplars added even more mystery as well as stories of ghosts haunting the upper amphitheater. But most of all I loved the little organic clear stream that flowed through my dressing room.

As for the audiences, they were wonderful. Not only to play to but to go out with after. There were always about three of four people that would want to take Renée and me out for after-theatre snacks and drinks and one thing that I was impressed by that I rarely see in New York is that most nights one person (other than myself) would insist on taking care of the whole bill with a major (often golden) credit card.

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