Mark Taper Forum will reopen in 2022 with ‘Slave Play’ and the LeBron-centered ‘King James’
After nearly two years of pandemic darkness, audiences once again will gather around the stages of the Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre. Center Theatre Group on Thursday announced 2022 lineups for both venues featuring some much-anticipated shows originally slated for the 2020-21 season, including Jeremy O. Harris’ Tony-nominated “Slave Play” and world premieres of Rajiv Joseph’s “King James” and Dave Harris’ “Tambo & Bones.”
“When COVID hit and we realized it was going to be years between shows, we kept in touch with all the people we were talking to and said, ‘We’re committed, and when the time comes to reschedule we’ll work with you to find a way to fit these shows into our seasons,’” said CTG Artistic Director Michael Ritchie, who earlier this year announced that he will retire on Dec. 31 after 17 years at the helm of the company.
Because of CTG’s commitment to pick up where it left off, Ritchie said that programming the seasons wasn’t a scramble. Still, much behind-the-scenes maneuvering was required to reschedule productions while so many other theaters in the country were doing the same thing.
“Lucky for us, we were able to keep everything we had planned,” Ritchie said.
That includes the first production of “Slave Play” outside of New York. The show opened on Broadway in 2019 and completed an acclaimed 17-week run in January 2020. It earned 12 Tony nominations but was shut out in the recent pandemic-delayed ceremony. “Slave Play” begins a new engagement at the August Wilson Theatre in New York in late November and has its West Coast premiere at the Taper on Feb. 9.
Ritchie said “Slave Play” is “one of the most exciting and provocative and conversation-starting plays that I’ve seen in the last 10 years.”
“King James,” Joseph’s ode to basketball star LeBron James, is a co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago, of which Joseph is a member. CTG has a long history with Joseph. In 2009 it staged the world premiere of his play “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” at the Kirk Douglas before moving the critical hit to the Taper in 2010. “Bengal Tiger” later headed to Broadway and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. Ritchie also commissioned Joseph to write “Archduke,” which premiered at the Taper in 2017.
“The Lehman Trilogy,” written by Italian playwright Stefano Massini and adapted in English by Ben Power, is being presented by the Taper but staged at CTG’s Ahmanson Theatre. It originally was announced as part of the latter’s 2020-21 season. Ritchie noted a history of “Taper at the Ahmanson” shows, including Moises Kaufman’s “33 Variations” and John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons.”
Ritchie said that the scale of “The Lehman Trilogy” cries out for the Ahmanson stage.
“It’s a large Broadway show written specifically for a proscenium stage,” he said of the production, which chronicles the rise and fall of one of America’s most powerful financial institutions. “It suits not only the Taper audience but Ahmanson as well.”
The Kirk Douglas season consists of two world premieres and two Block Party shows featuring productions by the 99-seat theaters Sacred Fools and Los Angeles LGBT Center. The premieres are Harris’ “Tambo & Bones,” which tackles the past, present and future of racism in America through two characters trapped in a minstrel show; and Benjamin Benne’s “Alma,” which deals with the relationship between a mother and daughter on the eve of the daughter’s SAT test.
Here are the Taper and Kirk Douglas season schedules in chronological order.
Mark Taper Forum
Written by Jeremy O. Harris, directed by Robert O’Hara
Feb. 9-March 13
“The Lehman Trilogy”
Written by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power, directed by Sam Mendes
March 3-April 10
“Blues for an Alabama Sky”
Written by Pearl Cleage, directed by Phylicia Rashad
April 6–May 8
Written by Rajiv Joseph, director to be announced, a co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company
June 1–July 3
“Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool”
Written and performed by Mike Birbiglia, directed by Seth Barrish
July 27–Aug. 28
“I’ll Be Seein’ Ya” (presented on CTG’s digital stage)
Written by Jon Robin Baitz, directed by Robert Egan
Streaming dates to be announced
Kirk Douglas Theatre
Written by Benjamin Benne, directed by Juliette Carrillo, produced in cooperation with American Blues Theater
March 6–April 3
“Tambo & Bones”
Written by Dave Harris, directed by Taylor Reynolds, a co-production with Playwrights Horizons
May 1–May 29
Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theatre
The Los Angeles LGBT Center production of “To T or Not to T? A Comedic Trans Journey Through (T)estosterone and Masculinity”
written and performed by D’Lo Direction and dramaturgy by Adelina Anthony
June 25–July 10
Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theatre
Sacred Fools Theater Company production of “The Art Couple”
Written by Brendan Hunt, directed by Lauren Van Kurin
July 23–Aug. 7
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