While Gotham has Broadway and London has the West End, Los Angeles has Hollywood. Although theater certainly exists, it’s long been overshadowed by film and TV. However, Center Theater Group’s new artistic director Michael Ritchie plans to change that.
The question is, can he?
“L.A. is this great laboratory and we have an opportunity to explore completely new ways of presenting new theater,” Ritchie tells Variety.
Ritchie hopes that creating and producing plays in L.A. will help distinguish the city’s theater community.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” and “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which Ritchie is producing, and “Curtains,” a show being workshopped in June, are three shows he would like to eventually see on Broadway.
However, producing and creating shows does not necessarily guarantee the acknowledgement Ritchie is looking for.
Under the management of CTG’s founder and former creative director, Gordon Davidson, the Mark Taper Forum saw shows including, most recently, “The Dinner Party,” “Flower Drum Song” and “Like Jazz” (since renamed “In the Pocket”) head to Broadway.
Despite the success of these shows, as well as a handful of others that went on to the Great White Way, L.A. has yet to be considered a serious theater town.
Ritchie also plans to court celebrities — Annette Bening has signed on for the role of Madame Ranyevskaya in “The Cherry Orchard,” playing at the Taper later this season — and unify CTG’s three venues, to raise its profile.
And while he’s supportive of L.A.’s other theater groups, ultimately he wants his org to be front and center.
“What I want is, when people in the L.A. area think of the word ‘theater,’ I want their immediate image to be the Center Theater Group,” Ritchie said.
Yet Ritchie’s own observation about Los Angeles may ultimately explain why the city isn’t considered a theater town.
“One of the reasons is because in New York and London everything is together, so you have a sense of it,” Ritchie said. “When you go to Broadway, you go to a location where everything is. Obviously, like everything else here, things are much more spread out.”