The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre was built in 1920 as the site of The Pilgrimage Play. The author, Christine Wetherill Stevenson, believed the rugged beauty of the Cahuenga Pass would provide a dramatic outdoor setting for the play. Together with Mrs. Chauncey D. Clark, she purchased this land along with that on which the Hollywood Bowl now sits. A wooden, outdoor amphitheatre was built on this site and the play was performed by noted actors every summer from 1920 to 1929, until the original structure was destroyed by a brush fire in October 1929.
The present theatre, constructed of poured concrete and designed in the style of ancient Judaic architecture to resemble the gates of Jerusalem, was built on the same site and opened in 1931. The Pilgrimage Play was again performed here until 1964, interrupted only by World War II., In 1941 the land was deeded to the County of Los Angeles. The Pilgrimage Play continued to be presented until a lawsuit in 1964 forced its closure because of its religious nature.
In 1976, the Pilgrimage Theatre was renamed the John Anson Ford Theatre in honor of the late L.A. County Supervisor's significant support of the arts. John Anson Ford (1883-1983) helped found the L.A. County Arts Commission, encouraged the Board of Supervisors to support the building of the Music Center and led the County's acquisition of Descanso Gardens, among many other achievements. The theatre was used intermittently for Shakespearean theater, jazz concerts and dance performances until former County Supervisor Ed Edelman revived the historic theatre, spurring the creation of the Ford Amphitheatre Season (originally called "Summer Nights at the Ford") in 1993 and obtaining funding for capital improvements to the facility.
From a nascent program of only 12 performances that first year, the Ford has now blossomed into the only facility of its kind. Dedicated to reflecting the diverse cultures of Los Angeles County, the Ford is committed to both artists and audiences; traditional and contemporary works. With its popular multi-disciplinary performing arts summer season, a series of theatrical works mounted during the winter months, interactive events and community, the Ford has become a hub for the surprising, the unusual and the intriguing.
The Ford’s beautiful historic site and buildings require maintenance and renewal. During the past several decades, the County of Los Angeles has made over $6.1 million in capital improvements to the facility to meet modern safety, access and performance standards. To learn more about upcoming restoration work and the Ford Theatres Project, download the Ford Theatres Project Fact Sheet or go here.
For more information about the facility, click here.