Ahmanson, Taper To Remain Dark Until April 2021
In a blunt assessment of the pandemic's impact on a leading cultural organization, the Center Theatre Group — which runs the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and the Kirk Douglas Theatre — said today it will remain closed until April.
That means the performing arts venues will have been dark for more than a year by the time they reopen.
CTG also said the coronavirus has cost it as much as $40 million in lost revenue, prompting more furloughs and slashing nearly two-thirds of the organization's budget. The canceled shows for the abandoned season include the L.A. premieres of "The Lehman Trilogy" and "Hadestown," and revivals of "Dear Evan Hansen" and "Les Misérables."
The next show at the Ahmanson, according to a revised calendar, will now be a touring version of the Broadway hit "To Kill a Mockingbird," debuting April 29. Runs of the returning musicals, "Come From Away" and "Ain't Too Proud," will be truncated to two weeks each next year, as well.
CTG expects the Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre to also resume production next spring, though details of those seasons have not yet been announced.
About six out of every 10 full-time CTG employees working before the pandemic either have been or will be furloughed, according to a statement from the organization.
"Since we first announced our closure during the initial wave of the pandemic, we have been tirelessly working through every possible scenario for reopening, all the while ensuring that the health and safety of our audiences, artists and staff were our top priority," Michael Ritchie, CTG's artistic director, said in a statement.
"This is painful not only to hundreds of our staff members and artists, but also to the tens of thousands of Angelenos we proudly serve each year, both from our stages and throughout our communities," Ritchie said of the cuts to staff and programming.
The organization has launched an emergency fund for artists and staff affected by the closures and cutbacks.
As CTG struggles with its financial situation, its management recently received an anonymous letter from a group of employees who refer to themselves as "BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) staff of Center Theatre Group."
The letter says that "BIPOC employees have yet to see" CTG realize its mission "to reflect the community we serve."
It says CTG "must make swift and radical adjustments starting immediately and have a board-approved plan" that commits "to producing and amplifying more voices from Black artists and artists of color in our mainstage programming, and to seeking out, empowering, and creating spaces for those who have historically been marginalized or silenced."
The group said it is remaining anonymous because, "We feel Center Theatre Group is not a safe place for us to speak freely."
CTG artistic director Michael Ritchie sent us this statement:
"We are very grateful for the care that our BIPOC colleagues took in writing their response to our previously published commitments to change. We are committed to ease and heal the hurt and anger people have experienced and to become the anti-racist organization our entire community needs. This is a watershed moment for America, for American theatre, and, yes, for Center Theatre Group. We are all being pushed to do better. The leaders of the organization, in full agreement with the Board of Directors, have pledged to enact these changes and work with our BIPOC Community to address the steps, ideas, and issues from the call to action in their statement."