The Center Theatre Group is one of the largest and most prolific theater organizations in the United States, overseeing the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum in downtown L.A. and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. As the organization heads into its 50th anniversary season, artistic director Michael Ritchie joined The Frame’s John Horn at KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum to discuss the past, present and future of Los Angeles theater.
In a lively and varied conversation, Ritchie discussed recent projects like Jon Robin Baitz’ “Vicuña,” a satire about an immigrant tailor and the real estate tycoon turned presidential nominee he outfits, and upcoming projects like the theater’s Broadway-bound “Amélie, a New Musical” and Luis Valdez’ revival of his landmark play, “Zoot Suit.” He and Horn also explored the challenges and opportunities facing 21st century theaters, such as producing new, daring work that appeals to a younger audience while still pleasing loyal subscribers. Since audiences increasingly want to be engaged rather than just observing, Richie said, creative and interactive projects may be theater's future. Asked about the challenge of a largely affluent and homogenous theater audience, Ritchie pointed to the Center Theatre Group’s $25 entry tickets, which are made available for all shows.
The event’s atmosphere was light-hearted and playful: Horn and Ritchie took a break from theatre talk to “battle” in naming the starting lineup of the 1967 Red Sox (Ritchie won). Ritchie also told the story of how he went from an “Irish-Catholic mutt from Massachusetts” to a spotlight operator living on $70 per week to a prominent artistic director.