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Tony Awards 2012: From L.A. to the Great White Way

Best play winner 'Clybourne Park' had a production at Taper; and other nominees have local histories.

June 11, 2012|By Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times
  • "Clybourne Park" had a production at the Taper.
"Clybourne Park" had a production at the Taper. (Erik Tomasson )

The Tony Awards may be the toast of Broadway, but there were Champagne glasses being raised for some of Sunday's victors who have roots in Southern California.

The most noteworthy production was "Clybourne Park," which was named best play. The Pulitzer Prize-winningdrama by Bruce Norris about race relations, class and real estate was produced earlier this year at the Mark Taper Forum.

Michael Ritchie, the artistic director of Center Theatre Group, which operates the Taper, the Ahmanson and the Kirk Douglas Theatre, called the appeal of "Clybourne" universal.

TONY AWARDS: Red carpet | Winners | Best & worst

"Bruce is someone who's not afraid to ask questions," said Ritchie by phone Sunday evening. "Though we've made great strides in the past 50 years, a play about race — it's still a very complicated conversation.

"What Bruce does is essentially say, 'Let's not pat ourselves on the back, we're not finished with this.' And I think that connects in a deep way with a lot of people," Ritchie said.

Norris' companion piece to Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" garnered rave reviews over its six-week run at the Taper, and Ritchie said it was one of the Taper's hottest tickets in recent years. Times theater critic Charles McNulty called "Clybourne" "smart, abrasively funny and fiendishly provocative…"

CTG helped shepherd the play to Broadway — a destination that earlier this year was uncertain after a falling out between Norris and Scott Rudin.

Norris cited the importance of productions of "Clybourne Park" at regional theaters — the Taper's as well as the Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C.— along with such prestigious venues as the Royal Court Theatre in London, the Lincoln Center Theater and Playwrights Horizons — in his acceptance speech, and Ritchie appeared onstage with some of the play's cast and other producers.

"Regional theater was mentioned constantly during the awards," Ritchie said. "Gordon Davidson started that, that connection with Broadway, through CTG. It's not so much that the goal is Broadway, but the goal is to do work that's so good it demands a larger audience."

Another SoCal connection was the Tony win for Christian Borle in "Peter and the Starcatcher," which had a 2009 production at La Jolla Playhouse.

"Leap of Faith," an adaptation of a movie that was originally produced at the Ahmanson in 2010, was nominated in the category of best musical, though it lost to "Once." It closed last month after a short run.

Jon Robin Baitz's nominated play "Other Desert Cities" is scheduled to play at the Taper in November. Actress Judith Light won featured actress in a play for her work. Said Ritchie of the play: "Robbie Baitz is an L.A. native.... And it's a Southern California story!"

TONY AWARDS: Red carpet | Winners | Best & worst

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

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