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Los Angeles Times

He Was the Joseph Papp of Los Angeles Theater, Focusing on ‘new plays and unheard voices’: Gordon Davidson Dies at 83

Oct 3, 2016  •  Post A Comment

“Gordon Davidson, the Center Theatre Group impresario who launched, defined and for 38 years personified Los Angeles’ flagship theater, the Mark Taper Forum, has died, his family said,” reports the Los Angeles Times. He was 83.

The story adds, “Davidson died Sunday night after collapsing at dinner, said his wife, Judi Davidson.”

In a second article the Los Angeles Times writes, “As news of his death spread, collaborators and friends remembered Davidson as a generous but demanding producer who almost single-handedly turned L.A. into an important theater town — not just for well-heeled patrons but also for marginalized communities that previously saw theater as rarified territory.

“Davidson sought out challenging plays with political arcs and reached out to local, relatively unknown playwrights.

“‘He was a champion of artists who wrote little plays, and he put them on the big stage. Hundreds of people saw them — not just audiences of 99 people,” said Charlayne Woodard, the actress and playwright. ‘He was living diversity before anyone started bandying the word about.’”

Many thought of Davidson as the Joseph Papp of Los Angeles. Papp, who died in 1991, was the famous impresario who founded the Public Theater in New York City, which also focuses on new works.

In its first article the Times writes, “Gordon was one of the few who made a conscious decision to focus on new plays and unheard voices,” [said Michael Ritchie, artistic director of the Center Theatre Group,] calling Davidson a visionary.”

Notes the Times’ second article about Gordon, his “risk-taking attracted some of the world’s greatest stage artists to Los Angeles, but for many in the city, no collaboration was as significant as when he worked with Luis Valdez, the writer of the historical drama ‘Zoot Suit.’

The 1978 play recounted a contentious period in L.A. history: the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon case, in which a group of Mexican American men were unjustly convicted of murder, and the Zoot Suit riots that followed. ‘Zoot Suit’ became one of the Mark Taper Forum’s landmark productions.

To read a lot more about Davidson, we urge you to read both of these pieces in the Los Angeles Times. The first one you can find here, and the second one you can find here.

Here’s a short video we found on YouTube, made in 2012, in which Davidson talks about his theater work:

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