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Entertainment & Arts

Center Theatre Group suspends all shows until fall, furloughs half its staff

The Mark Taper Forum, which will remain dark until fall.
The Mark Taper Forum, which will remain dark until fall.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Center Theatre Group has indefinitely postponed all of its summer programming, including the Diane Paulus-directed revival of “1776,” Aasif Mandvi’s one-man show “Sakina’s Restaurant” and the world premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s play about LeBron James, “King James.”

The three productions were to close the 2019-20 season at CTG’s Ahmanson Theatre, Kirk Douglas Theatre and Mark Taper Forum, respectively. They were suspended because of the novel coronavirus outbreak and “the uncertainty in the world about public gatherings and when such activities will be safe to resume,” Artistic Director Michael Ritchie and Managing Director and Chief Executive Meghan Pressman wrote in a joint statement late Monday.

“We are truly in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 crisis is something we have never seen in our lifetime, in the world at large and in its implications for our theater community,” the statement read.

The losses have led Los Angeles’ largest nonprofit theater company to furlough about 50% of its full-time and part-time staff through Aug. 9. Furloughed employees will continue to receive their current health benefits, the company said. Staff who remain employed face pay cuts or reduced schedules.

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The Industry had to close “Sweet Land,” its acclaimed opera in a downtown L.A. park. The production shifted online — and is as compelling as ever.

The loss of ticket sales and the cancellation of its annual fundraising gala are creating what is estimated to be a $6 million budget deficit, the company said.

“As a nonprofit with more than 75% of our annual revenue coming from ticket sales, such unexpected losses are beyond devastating, both for our financial situation and for our ongoing mission to produce theater,” the statement read.

“We have been working around the clock to explore all possible options, knowing that every member of the staff is part of our family. We have made it our top priority to take care of as many staff as possible in this horrible moment.”

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Center Theatre Group said it remains committed to reopening theaters in the fall. The Ahmanson’s 2021-22 season includes “Hadestown,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Lehman Trilogy,” “The Prom” and “Les Misérables,” plus return engagements of “Come From Away,” “Ain’t Too Proud” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”

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The company said it is trying to add the musical “Once on This Island,” canceled earlier this month, to the Ahmanson’s future season in partnership with other theaters. CTG said it is “in the process” of securing “1776" immediately following its Broadway engagement.

“We are certain that the urgency of our collective health concerns will subside, that Los Angeles will thrive once again and that our entire Center Theatre Group family will return to work as we prepare to open our venue doors once again,” the statement concluded.

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Center Theatre Group becomes one of numerous major theaters nationwide that have scrapped spring and summer productions because of coronavirus-related venue closures.

The L.A. theater follows the Bay Area’s California Shakespeare Theater; Arena Stage of Washington, D.C.; Yale Repertory Theatre of New Haven, Conn.; Asolo Repertory Theatre of Sarasota, Fla.; Alley Theatre of Houston; Ars Nova of New York; and Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Portland Center Stage, among others.

‘He gave us a road map for how to be a survivor and how to honor those we lost,’ writes playwright Matthew Lopez of Terrence McNally, who died Tuesday.


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