Kirk and Anne Douglas give $2 million to L.A. theater group

“Theatre was always my first love,” Kirk Douglas said in a statement announcing a major financial gift to L.A.’s Center Theater Group. His wistfulness came through, even in a press release. “In fact, when I came to Hollywood to make my first picture, I thought it was just a temporary detour. I would earn enough money to tide my family over only until my first long-run hit on Broadway…

“That never happened,” he added, “and I soon resigned myself (believe me, it wasn’t hard) to being a movie star.”

Along with a healthy dose of talent, that stardom led to three Oscar nominations, an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement and the accumulation of great fortune. The 93-year-old’s film success also enabled him to establish The Douglas Foundation, which in 2004 provided $2.5 million in seed funding to transform a defunct Culver City movie house into what is now The Kirk Douglas Theatre. Since then, the 317-seat theatre has focused on nurturing new and emerging artists and has helped land two major works—“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” and the musical “13”—on Broadway. In fact, after an intensive workshop at the theatre, Douglas and his wife, Anne contributed $250,000 to launch the world premiere of “13” at Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum in Downtown L.A.

The Douglas’s latest gift, a $1 million challenge grant aimed at raising additional funds for the theatre, follows a previous $1 million seed grant for developing new work.

In addition to world premieres of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” “The Wake,” and the revival of “Come Back, Little Sheba,” Douglas’s namesake theatre also played host to the actor’s autobiographical show, “Before I Forget” in March 2009.

Only the man who played Spartacus could sustain such stamina as a nonagenarian.