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What separates the Ford from other outdoor ampitheaters is that it doesn’t have a manmade shell.

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Ford Theatres: The newly remodeled amphitheater in 12 photos

Nearly a century old, the outdoor theater is sporting a sleek new look

The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre is the Hollywood venue you might not have heard about. It’s been likened to the stepsister of the far more famous Hollywood Bowl and Greek Theatre, but it should be on your Los Angeles bucket list.

The intimate venue is set in the prickly, golden hillsides of the Cahuenga Pass, and it’s fresh off the heels of a $72.2-million makeover that brought in a new dining terrace, beautiful wood stage, and top-notch acoustics that block out the roar of the 101 freeway.

“It’s had a harness on it that it held it back,” says former Los Angeles County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who helped lead the effort to refurbish the venue. In LA, he says, “no single venue needed bringing into the 21st century more than this one.”

The renovations were helmed by celebrated LA architect Brenda Levin and landscape architect Mia Lehrer.

Given the Ford’s history, it’s fitting that the work was helmed by women. The ford exists today because of wealthy heiress and aspiring playwright, Christine Wetherill Stevenson. She wanted a rustic outdoor setting for staging a religious drama that she had written, and in order to build the Ford, she “helped carry stones from the nearby hills.” Originally called the Pilgrimage Play Theatre, it opened in 1920.

The Ford’s season lasts through October, so there’s plenty of time to take in a show as as we head into the dog days of summer.

Below is a photo tour of the theater’s sleek new renovations.


The new sound wall was built atop original concrete facade. “If you have any doubts about the effectiveness of the sound wall, step out to the plaza, where you’ll hear the roar of the 101 and back into the amphitheater, where you’ll hear the birds chirping,” Levin said.
The new dining terrace.
The new stage was made from Ipe, a reddish brown Brazilian wood that’s gentler on performers’ feet.
The panels painted gray and green to evoke the colors of the canyon, and they’re interspersed with wood battens.

Top: The towers are original and were designed to resemble the gates of Jerusalem. Bottom: The sound wall panels were manufactured by a company that typically makes refrigerators. The panels alternate in pale hues of blue, green, and gray.

The hillside behind the stage was excavated and shored up, and a new drainage system was added, to prevent flooding. The rock walls are new, designed to keep with the original rustic look.
“The [Hollywood] Bowl is fabulous, but the Bowl seats 18,000 people. We seat 1,200 people. Instead of looking at big screens, you're looking at an artist's eyes, and you get a completely different visceral experience when you see an artist at the Ford The
“The [Hollywood] Bowl is fabulous, but the Bowl seats 18,000 people. We seat 1,200 people. Instead of looking at big screens, you're looking at an artist's eyes, and you get a completely different visceral experience when you see an artist at the Ford Theatre than you do at the Bowl. There's no bad seat in the house,” Ford executive director Olga Garay-English tells KPCC.