“I didn’t want to be a movie star,” Kirk Douglas claimed. “I wanted to be a star on the stage. So how do you do it? You build your own theater.” He regaled those gathered for lunch Wednesday, noon, on the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It was the 40th anniversary of the Center Theater Group–and a tribute to the Founding Benefactors, the Ahmanson Family, the Mark Taper Family and the Kirk Douglas Family. Douglas and wife Anne recently attended a performance of “Come Back Little Sheba” at the Douglas theater–at 4.p.m. “Afterwards, we had a drink, dinner and were home before dark. I liked that,” he laughed–using that title for an exit line.
It was a day of looking back–and ahead–for L.A.’s triple-threat theaters. The speakers praised the foresight of Buffy Chandler and her tactics to get financial support fot the Music Center. She sent back Kirk Douglas’ initial contribution with this note: “Kirk–you can do better.” He did–and so did son Michael. She was responsible for urging showbiz titan Lew Wasserman to take on the duties of Founding Chairman of the Board of Directors. When Walter Mirisch was called on for remarks, he reminded of Wasserman’s “huge contribution” to the newborn Music Center in L.A. Janice Taper told of the courage of the CTG’s Gordon Davidson to present “The Devils” as the first show at the Mark Taper. There were many who opposed it, many who walked out during performances, but Buffy Chandler not only sat through it and applauded but went backstage to congratulate all and announced, “I will continue to give.”
Gordon Davidson led his successful productions to N.Y. and London. They won Tonys and a Pulitzer. Wednesday, he received a standing ovation when it was announced that a $2 million contribution from Lillian and Jon Lovelace would establish the naming of “The Gordon Davidson Stage” at the Taper. Brindell Roberts Gottlieb made a $5 million contribution to launch the renovation of the Taper. Among those lending their praises to the CTG was John Rubinstein who segued from performing “Children of a Lesser God” with the CTG to B’way–and a Tony. He also noted he was on stage at the same time his father Arthur was tuning at the Dorothy Chandler. Kate Burton reminded she’d appeared on three CTG stages–and promised she will again. Director Tom Moore, who has worked stages around the world, said “This is my theatrical home.” Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks paid tribute to artistic director Michael Ritchie who followed Davidson, but admitted to Gordon, “I feel like I’m peeking over your shoulder.” Of the 40th anniversary, he reminded, “This is not a destination, it is a journey and memories have just begun.” Phylis Hennigan and Nancy Livingston co-chaired the celebration whose speakers also included Zev Yaroslavsky, William H. Ahmanson and John Emerson, Chairman of the Music Center. Curtain’s up–again.