Here’s something I have been monitoring throughout the day.
Of the top 17 stories on the home page of the Los Angeles Times website, not one of them is about the passing of Gordon Davidson, the founding artistic director and producer of the Mark Taper Forum, and, for a bit, the Doolittle Theatre, and ultimately the Ahmanson Theatre and the Kirk Douglas Theatre, all while in the same job with Center Theatre Group.
Yes, the story is on the LA Times site, but it’s way way way down the bottom, and small.
This is a real head-scratcher to me.
Say what you will about the perceived importance of theatre in Los Angeles — but Gordon Davidson was a leader in remaking the entire cultural landscape of Los Angeles. Yes, there was some small theatre, or touring theatre, before Gordon Davidson. But after Gordon Davidson, it was at least arguable that Los Angeles was a theatre town.
He was hired expressly to try to bring culture to downtown — and because, at the time, in 1969, no one of any significance would take the job of helming (and founding) the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles being perceived as a backwater.
It’s because of Gordon Davidson that the theatre and television worlds got hold of playwright and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz, Gordon being instrumental in his career. It’s because of Gordon that Luis Alfaro was introduced to theatre, and emerged with the career he has. Without Gordon, would we have gotten these plays (all developed or premiered at the Taper): “In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” “The Shadow Box,” “Children of a Lesser God” and, especially, Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” All of these transferred to Broadway, and all of them went on to great acclaim.
I’m glad to have known Gordon Davidson, somewhat and slightly, for years, and I’m sorry to know that he’s left the room. He enabled me to see many great plays that have informed my thinking and my life, including “The Persians,” directed by Peter Sellars; “Slavs! Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness” by Tony Kushner; “Angels in America,” also by Kushner (in its workshop presentation! before Broadway); many, many great plays by Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett and Edward Albee and other “absurdists”; “Fences” by August Wilson, in a production starring James Earl Jones; an utterly wonderful production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” starring Glenda Jackson, John Lithgow, Cynthia Nixon and Brian Kerwin; and so so so much more. I can’t even begin to remember it all.
Somehow, to the paper of record here in Los Angeles, his demise is just passing news.
To the rest of us, it represents a shooting star crossing above the firmament.
Here’s the obit from the NEW YORK Times.
When, on Facebook earlier today, I bemoaned the bad placement of this story on the LA Times site, a friend who works for the LA Times commented, “But — but — Kim [Kardashian] got robbed today!” And, indeed, that was highly placed news.
Gee, I don’t know why Los Angeles is frequently depicted as a shallow province.