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Looking for More Diverse Leadership, Michael Ritchie To Exit Center Theatre Group

Michael Ritchie, in a portrait, smiles in a light-colored suit with his arms crossed.
Michael Ritchie.
(Courtesy Center Theatre Group)
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The pandemic has cost the Center Theatre Group as much as $55 million in lost ticket sales. In addition to closing its three venues, CTG had to lay off more than 80 employees.

Listen: Center Theatre Group Artistic Director Michael Ritchie To Step Down

Now that it’s getting ready to reopen, Artistic Director Michael Ritchie is stepping down.

Ritchie has run the Center Theatre Group since 2005, when he succeeded founding artistic director Gordon Davidson.

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Ritchie said this week he’ll leave the job at the end of December, about a year before his contract expires. He said he wants to make room for a new artistic director with a different creative perspective.

Under Ritchie, CTG has remained one of the nation’s biggest and most important theater companies. Its venues are the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

I recognize the need for new and diverse voices.
— Michael Ritchie

“I want to give the organization an opportunity to seek out a future vision and make space for new leadership to be successful,” Ritchie said in a statement. “With so much vital attention and focus being placed on the future of theatre leadership across our field, I recognize the need for new and diverse voices. Those responsible to carry out that new vision should be in position as soon as possible.”

Ritchie oversaw the staging of more than 260 shows, including world premieres of the musicals “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Curtains” and the plays “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” and “Marjorie Prime.”

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Like other arts organizations, the CTG has been criticized for lacking diversity, particularly in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Ritchie told us in a recent interview that the company is committed to change. “Internally, there isn’t one conversation that’s going on, that doesn’t include that challenge, and how we’ll respond to it,” he said.

The Center Theatre Group reopens in late November, with “A Christmas Carol” at the Ahmanson Theatre. The Taper and Douglas will reopen early next year.

The next shows at those two smaller theaters are from Black playwrights. The Douglas will present “Tambo & Bones” by Dave Harris, while the Taper will stage “Slave Play,” by Jeremy Harris.

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John Horn covers the business of entertainment, examining what's next for Hollywood post pandemic.