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The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) has had a long history of working closely with professional theaters as an extension of its academic mission.
For many years UCLA owned and operated the Doolittle Theater (now the Ricardo Montalbán Theater) in Hollywood to fulfill this partnership. In the early 1990s, when Gil Cates was Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT), he recognized that the Doolittle’s geographic distance from campus created a barrier to any meaningful relationship with UCLA. Cates argued that a better partner would be the Westwood Playhouse, located right across from campus in the heart of Westwood Village. Compelled by the proximity and potential of the historic theater, Chancellor Charles Young agreed to sell the Doolittle and pledged the proceeds of the sale to assist Cates with the purchase and refurbishment of the Westwood Playhouse.
The goal was to create a new non-profit professional theater company that would enrich the cultural life of Greater Los Angeles and the UCLA community through plays and educational programs that inform, entertain and inspire. To accomplish these goals, UCLA created an independent board, helmed by Cates, which would assume all costs and risks of operating the theater, as well as take over sole responsibility for the theater’s programming and future development.
It was decided that members of the UCLA community would sit on the board to ensure that the university remained represented in all important decisions. The university leased the theater to the newly named Geffen Playhouse (in recognition of an endowment gift from philanthropist David Geffen) to begin the creation of a permanent professional theater in Westwood.
Today, UCLA still leases the building to Geffen Playhouse as a non-profit and affiliated organization. The university’s vision of enhancing academics through the creation of the Geffen is realized almost every season at the Geffen Playhouse through countless internships, residencies and workshops at the theater.