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Center Theatre Group Is Closing the Mark Taper Forum

By: Alex Tang

On Thursday, June 15, 2023, the Center Theatre Group announced that it was indefinitely pausing shows at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. “Pausing” in this case is a euphemism for “closing”. This decision comes after COVID-19 shutdowns that began in March 2020 and in some cases lasted two years. In COVID’s wake, audiences are not returning to shows in the droves needed to make profits.

This has resulted in hardships for theaters across the nation. Many major theaters, like The Public Theater in New York, the Oregon Shakespeare center, Dallas Theater Center, and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, have seen decreasing ticket sales, increasing production costs, and recession-wary donors. This has resulted in layoffs, cuts to programming, and in LA, the shutdown of the number one site for drama. Additionally, at the Mark Taper Forum, the shutdown came in the middle of a season prominently featuring many female, non-binary, and BIPOC artists, causing controversy.

According to Meghan Pressman, the chief executive and managing director of Center Theatre Group, the organization’s budget has a gap of between $12 and $13 million. Donations are down by 20 percent and ticket sales are down by 30 percent, compared with pre-pandemic numbers. According to the Theater Communications Group, a network of 500 theaters across the nation, a survey of 99 member theaters found that 62 percent were budgeting for a deficit, up from 30 percent in 2022 and 10 percent in 2021.

Other theaters have also suffered. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival laid off 90 percent of its 500 staff members between March and June 2020, and right now it is operating with only about half of the original number. It also cut the number of shows from 10 to five.

According to Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of The Public Theater, companies have been hoping for a return to normal.

“And this spring, I think all of us are going, ‘They’re not returning to the old normal.’ We don’t know what’s going to happen exactly. But we need to stop improvising and hoping for the best. And we need to actually make solid plans that we know will sustain the organization in the future,” Eustis said. “And the Taper’s announcement is part of that wave of knowledge.”


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