Almost everyone in Los Angeles knows the Hollywood Bowl as a premier venue for summer concerts and headlining events. But, surprisingly, few we speak with know that, literally, just across the freeway lays the quaint John Anson Ford Theatre complex. For those of you who love the experience of outdoor theatre but not the crowds associated with a large venue, then the Ford could quickly become your favorite outdoor theatre.
The Ford is rich in history, originally built as the Pilgrimage Theatre to host the Pilgrimage Play however the original wooden structure burned in a brush fire in 1929 and was replaced by the current stone and concrete Judaic architectural structure to resemble the gates of Jerusalem, reopening in 1931. The land was deeded to the County of Los Angeles in 1941 and eventually was forced to discontinue the Pilgrimage Play in 1964 because of its religious nature.
In 1976 the theatre was renamed the John Anson Ford Theatre in honor of the late L.A. County Supervisor's love and support of the arts. Today, the Ford is one of the oldest performing art venues operating in Los Angeles, with support of the L.A. County Arts Commission, Parks and Recreation and the Ford Theatre Foundation.
The Ford is a magical place and as you climb the stone staircase that leads to the main complex you are quickly engulfed in its charm. A thick grove of trees and vegetation serve as the backdrop to the amphitheater stage where eclectic mixes of artists perform. The amphitheater can seat 1,241 visitors and the intimate inside theatre a mere 87, providing the visitor with an up-close and personal experience.
The best way to enjoy the Ford is with a group of friends, a picnic basket and a bottle of wine. You can bring your own, order a box lunch with your ticket or purchase a la carte on site. You can picnic on the steps or on one of several patios and limited tables can be reserved for seated dining depending on your support level. Our favorite way to enjoy an evening here is to bring a picnic meal based on the theme of entertainment of the evening. For the Russian ballet it was caviar and sips of Russian vodka, while the circus was a whimsical menu of ‘bozo’ bowtie pasta, animal cracker cupcakes and grown-up lemonade – lemon drop martinis. The Ford hosts many types of shows – musical concerts, performance arts and film. There is bound to be something for everyone here at very reasonable prices. Many of the events are family friendly and a perfect way to introduce your children to arts.
While the stairs can be daunting there is a wheelchair accessible ramp and special parking is available for easier access to the amphitheater. If you take the stairs just traverse them slowly and enjoy the surroundings, the friendly theatre fans and savor your evening at this hidden gem of a venue.