JOSEPH PAPP, New York Public Theatre : "Historically, the very presence of that theater (in Los Angeles) has been a catalyst. The level of work has been high. (But after 20 years a theater) has to begin to think strongly about what it is and what it does. Theater has to be revived, reformed, reclaimed, its audience renewed and expanded. Gordon's troubled and that's good."
JACK O'BRIEN, San Diego Old Globe : "When you say it's the 20th anniversary I'm astonished, because (Gordon's) impact and his aesthetic seem continually fresh and young. He's avoided the concrete boot syndrome. We may not always share his enthusiasm, but it's a remarkable commodity in this world that tends to fade before the last inning. He has amazing visionary stamina. We'd all be the poorer without it."
MARK TAPER, founding father after whom the theater was named : "I'm proud of the Mark Taper Forum. It has lived up to my original intent. It's Gordon and (William) Wingate (Taper executive managing director). It's team(work). It's rare that somebody starts out with an idea and it's so efficiently carried out."
CHARLES MAROWITZ, director of "The Importance of Being Earnest" at LATC : "The Mark Taper Forum is the temple for the middle-class, middle-aged, middle-brow public in Los Angeles, and a reflection of the worst features of that public. Gordon Davidson is a prisoner of a public that demands comfort, that wants to be mollified."
JOE STERN, Actors for Themselves : "The programming at the Taper, Too and the (Itchey Foot) has been more adventurous in the last five years and there should be a stronger relationship between what happens there and what happens on the mainstage. The cord that was there in the '60s between the Taper and its audience, when the Taper knew what it was, is no longer there. 'The Trial of the Catonsville Nine' was the Taper's quintessential production and Gordon's best work. It dealt with its time in an unpretentious, entertaining way. Now their political work, such as 'Green Card' and 'Ghetto,' makes statements for statements' sake--the larger the better. It's as if they make choices that are not organic--choices that they feel they should be making."
BILL BUSHNELL, Los Angeles Theatre Center : "The Taper has developed a serious audience with a taste for exploration. Because of that, it has been easier for us than it must have been for them 20 years ago. It's an institution infused with a liberal political-cultural-social philosophy, and one that has been informed by the Western European tradition, as opposed to the African or Pacific traditions--though I sense that's beginning to change as the city changes. It's hard to sustain the energy flow over 20 years, but the signs out of the Taper in the past year indicate that the flow is very positive now."
ELIZABETH SWADOS, author of "The Beautiful Lady" : "Gordon knows how to spend time with an artist, knows how to take the time needed to help an artist receive notes in a way that's palatable, who will encourage by listening without bullying. In this time when people are rushing and being nutty to put things on, get hits and move to Broadway, that there's a man who appreciates the value of time is for me, as a musician, extremely important. It's a very deep quality."
REVA FURMAN, 63, Pasadena , former subscriber: "We stopped, after many years, because the plays were so crappy. Out of a whole season, maybe one was worth seeing. The early years were far more spectacular: original, provocative pieces. Then things started getting redundant--not original, challenging or contemporary."
DOROTHY MEGHREBLIAN, 57, Van Nuys , subscriber since 1972: "The Taper is not as exciting as it used to be. Less professional, more hackneyed. It seems more important for them to be commercial. I'll never forget the high points, like 'Metamorphosis,' 'Children of a Lesser God.' These are things we need to see--rather than the Neil Simon kind of play."
SANDY BUTTITTA, 43, Rancho Palos Verdes , subscriber since 1978: "I thought that 'Belly of the Beast' was very thought-provoking. Not that I liked it; I was actually annoyed by a lot of it."
MRS. JOHN PETERSON, 62, Panorama City , subscriber since 1978: "I like the staging best: what they do with that nothing stage. What you see there you don't see anywhere else. Of course, there've been times we walked out. We just did that for 'The Traveler.' "
TERESA KOVNER, 45, Manhattan Beach : subscriber since 1980: "We've seen 'Zoot Suit,' 'Children of a Lesser God'--wonderful theater that has gone on to become a big hit. I don't always enjoy it, but something like 'Green Card,' which was a little heavy, forced me to rethink my stereotypical attitude towards immigrants."