Mark Taper Forum Reopens After $30 Million Makeover

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Arts and civic leaders reopened downtown L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum Tuesday after a one year, $30 million makeover. The theater opened 41 years ago with the name of its main benefactor, Mark Taper, a Polish immigrant who'd made a fortune as a developer and investor. Taper valued thought-provoking theater. And as KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports, that'll continue in the improved facilities.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Eight characters took the stage for the Taper's reopening: four L.A. County supervisors who'd approved nearly $5 million for the remodeling, a philanthropist who'd given $5 million, two theater administrators, and the county's CEO.

[Sound of bang, followed by music]

Guzman-Lopez: On cue, they pressed a button that fired off streamers and raised the curtain on the Taper's new era.

[Music: "There's No Business Like Show Business"]

Guzman-Lopez: Show business at the Taper will be better with the overhaul. The original home for national hits like "Angels in America" now has new carpeting, bigger seats, a cleaned up 1960s interior, and an overhauled backstage and lighting system. Artistic Director Michael Ritchie:

Michael Ritchie: More importantly is what goes on on the stage, because that's why the building exists; it doesn't exist for people to stare at the walls and the chairs.

Guzman-Lopez: So Ritchie's selecting plays that provoke, attract younger audiences, and that keep traditional theatergoers happy. That's a tall order. Ritchie says subscribers, those who buy tickets to a theater's entire season, are getting to be a smaller share of the Taper's audience.

Taper Production Manager Jonathan Lee is excited that the overhaul's backstage improvements will make his job easier at the 740 seat theater. And taking a tour of the women's bathrooms during the inauguration, he predicts there will be fewer complaints during intermissions.

Jonathan Lee: Let's just say that in the old women's bathroom women had six stalls, there were only six, actually in the original there were only four. It was improved to six in the 1980s. Here there are 16 stalls.

Guzman-Lopez: Artistic Director Michael Ritchie jokes he's selling tickets on the bathroom improvements alone.