YEAR IN REVIEW 1993 : THEATER : An Eventful Period for Theater in L.A.
Following are some of the most important dates of the year in Los Angeles theater:
Jan. 15: The University of California Regents granted permission for UCLA to raise $5 million of private money to buy the Westwood Playhouse. The deal was completed later in the year; UCLA hopes to launch a professional theater there next fall.
Jan. 26: Producer Cameron Mackintosh announced he would close “The Phantom of the Opera” on Aug. 29 to accommodate the long-awaited reconfiguration of the Ahmanson Theatre. He wasn’t kidding: The play closed on schedule, after 1,772 performances. It was the most prominent of several long-running shows that closed in 1993: Others included “Kvetch,” “Tamara” and “Forever Plaid.”
March 2: The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and the Pasadena Playhouse signed an agreement based on the union’s Off Broadway contract, ending a three-month strike over how directors and choreographers are compensated on the playhouse’s now-standard tour to Poway and Santa Barbara. The strike served to organize the Los Angeles wing of the union.
March 8: The Center Theatre Group won nine of the 30 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards, thanks to its two 1992 epics, “The Kentucky Cycle” and “Angels in America.”
March 10: Los Angeles City Council approved a $200,000 loan and $50,000 matching grant to Actors Alley in North Hollywood--seed money for what is expected to become the first major theater in the San Fernando Valley in more than two decades, at the El Portal, a former vaudeville and movie theater.
May 7: The Mark Taper Forum received a four-year, $1.47-million grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund to develop Latino audiences--the Taper’s largest grant ever from a non-Music Center source.
June 6: The La Jolla Playhouse won the Tony Award for a non-New York theater, the La Jolla-begat “Tommy” won five Tonys, and the Taper-begat “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” won four. Earlier in the year “Millennium” also won the Pulitzer Prize--the second year in a row that the award went to a play that was at the Taper before it went to New York.
June 8: Theatre Corp. of America, which already ran the Pasadena Playhouse, was hired to run the newly restored Alex Theatre in Glendale and announced plans to present two three-musical seasons each year. In December, the Alex programming grew into a circuit that will include the foundering Starlight Musical Theatre’s Spreckels Theatre operations in San Diego and the Warnors(sp?) in Fresno.
June 15: GroveShakespeare, Orange County’s second-largest professional theater, canceled its summer season. It apparently was the final nail in the bankrupt company’s coffin.
Sept. 1: The first eligibility period began for the competitive Ovation Awards--a program the sponsoring organization, Theatre L.A., hopes will be Los Angeles’ annual answer to the Tonys.
Oct. 19: The reconfiguration of the Ahmanson Theatre was expanded to include the lobby, forecourt and backstage, the latter of which paved the way for the later announcement that “Miss Saigon” will reopen the theater in January, 1995. The price tag for the package climbed to $17.1 million, split among five organizations.
October-November: The Mark Taper Forum canceled its January production of “Oleanna” after playwright David Mamet insisted on casting Lionel Smith in the male role. Smith, who is black, charged the Taper with behaving in a racist manner; the Taper denied it and cited several other considerations. Another production of “Oleanna” with Smith is planned for January at the Tiffany Theatre, and Mamet returned a $25,000 grant he had received from the Taper. The Taper replaced “Oleanna” with “Death and the Maiden,” featuring an all-Latino cast.
Nov. 3: Des McAnuff announced that he will leave his job as artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse after next season.*