By: Jessica Wang
On June 25th, the Mark Taper Forum, a 739-seat stage at the Los Angeles Music Center, temporarily closed due to financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected to remain closed through the 2024 season.
The Mark Taper Forum is run by the Center Theatre Group, which is a . The Group currently has a budget gap between $12 and $13 million because the money they receive from companies and individuals has decreased by about 20% compared to their pre- pandemic earnings. The largest issue is that their ticket sales, which usually make up most of their budget, are currently only at 70% of what they were in 2019.
For this reason, the theater has had to make difficult choices, including cutting back on the number of shows they offer, letting go of some staff members, and canceling or delaying highly anticipated productions.
The closure of the Mark Taper Forum was another one of those difficult choices. The closing is disappointing to theatre goers because it canceled a season that planned to feature shows by female playwrights and artists of color. The premiere of Larissa FastHorse's play "Fake It Until You Make It," would have been the first play by a Native American writer on the main stage of the Taper.
When FastHorse heard this news, she was devastated. “That show deserves an audience — a big audience — and the audiences that it deserves are not back,” said Mehan Pressman, the chief executive of the Center Theatre Group.
The closure of the Mark Taper Forum is a wake-up call for other theaters. They will need to adapt and find sustainable ways to overcome financial struggles and cuts.
Famous theaters like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater have faced similar financial challenges as the Mark Taper Forum. To handle their budgets, they made similar decisions like reducing programs and letting go of staff.
While trying to draw a bigger audience, playwright Jeremy O. Harris noticed that there wasn’t enough innovation to attract a new generation of people. “It took us years to get to this point, and it’s going to take us years to get out.”