Monday night, January 9th, at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown there will be a memorial for Gordon Davidson, who died last fall at the age of 83, one of the truly liked notables of the L.A.’s arts and entertainment community.
I will be attending as a friend dating from way, way back, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu. net and select websites everywhere.
The founding artistic director of the Center Theatre Group for 38 years – from 1967 to 2005 – Davidson guided the center and the city to unquestionably the crest of regional theatre across the country.
More than that, I feel, he established Los Angeles as a theatrical wellspring in its own right, separate from New York, though, to be sure, always looking respectfully and at time enviously at the Broadway of his home.
And Broadway looked back at Davidson also with respect. It awarded him a Tony in 1977 for his direction of “The Shadow Box,” a play by Michael Cristofer he brought to New York after polishing it in L.A. The same year the center’s centerpiece Taper was awarded \a Tony for outstanding regional theatre.
That recognition was followed in 1978 with the resounding success of “Zoot Suit,” as both a play and a social commentary , exposing the bitter injustices toward Mexican Americans in L.A. That also went on to New York to great acclaim.
Then there was also the landmark production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” that explored the AIDS epidemic in two six hour epics. Staged at the Taper in 1992, it went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes.
Davidson was an unabashed liberal sensitive to the social and political issues of the day, for which I truly respected him, pursuing with an uncommon passion productions that challenged the status quo. He loved directing, but I feel his conscience compelled him to be a producer.
And on a personal note, he also had been an actor, in college, at Cornell University. That is where I first met him and, truth be told, where we were in several productions together, including Elmer Rice’s Street Scene and Bertold Brecht’s “Good Woman of Setuzan.”
Back then 60 years ago he was known as Gordy., and a causal friend then, and also through the years, in New York and L.A. And once, through the center, actually encouraged me to finish a play I was struggling with, and mercifully didn’t finish.
He was a good person, and a great stage producer. He will be missed. The memorial will be at 7.30, I intend to be there. on cue..