Tonic for the City

Los Angeles has a new theater--a gain for downtown, for theater people and for theater audiences. The refurbished Security Bank Building at 514 S. Spring St. now houses the Los Angeles Theater Center, with three mid-size houses and a smaller stage--for a total of 1,221 seats. Three plays will open there today.

The new theater center is the brainchild of its artistic producing director, Bill Bushnell. He had major assistance from the Community Redevelopment Agency, which provided money to purchase the bank building and the land and a parking lot next door, as well as loans to start operations and to provide basic equipment. The entire project cost $16 million--including money raised from bonds, federal urban-development grants, private investors, local business people and individuals.

For that money Los Angeles receives lower ticket prices than those at many other major theaters, free child care on selected days for subscribers and free parking for theatergoers--not to mention an increased variety of theatrical experiences. As Times theater critic Dan Sullivan wrote, “If Chekhov doesn’t appeal, try a Sam Shepard, a reggae concert, a reading by Ferlinghetti.” On the schedule of coming events are new plays by Joyce Carol Oates and Luis Valdez of El Teatro Campesino.

The success of the Mark Taper Forum in the Music Center demonstrated the potential for theaters in the central city. The Japan America Theater, which opened in 1983, and the Theater Center are welcome additions--tonic for the central city.