HOLLYWOOD — The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre reopened July 14 with a civic dedication ceremony, marking the completion of a multi-year construction project that has restored, upgraded and enhanced the iconic and historic venue on Cahuenga Boulevard East in the Hollywood Hills.
Dancers and musicians from the troupe Viver Brasil, among the artists to be featured in the 2017 Ford summer season, led a celebratory procession to the venue’s completely new stage, where county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl cut a red ribbon to inaugurate an era of broadened programming, national artistic partnerships and improved technical facilities and audience amenities.
The latter includes the new Ford Terrace Café on the new Zev Yaroslavsky Terrace, “The Zev,” which was dedicated in honor of retired county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who championed the Ford’s revitalization during his 20 years as the supervisor for the Third District.
The 1,200-seat Ford Amphitheatre reopened to the public July 15, with an inaugural season performance featuring world-renowned tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover.
Opening weekend continued July 16 with Culture Clash’s “OG Summer Desmadre,” commissioned by the Ford Theatres and featuring the LA-based Latino/Chicano trio in performance with a host of guest artists. The season runs through Oct. 16.
“Today, we celebrate the Ford Theatres,” Kuehl said at the dedication ceremony. “The Ford has undergone its most significant transformation in more than 75 years. This summer, audiences will be dazzled by artists of the highest caliber from world-class performers rarely seen in L.A. to outstanding local artists, all of whom reflect the rich multicultural life of this county.
“This is the summer to visit the Ford — to listen, to enjoy a meal on the new Terrace, and to take advantage of this marvelous amphitheatre under the stars.”
“We open our 2017 season with an increased commitment to having our stage represent the global community that is Los Angeles,” said Olga Garay-English, interim executive director of the Ford Theatre. “The 2017 season deepens the Ford’s long-held commitment to presenting local and regional artists who reflect LA’s cultural diversity — some of them returning to the Ford and some taking the stage for the first time — while also expanding our program to include nationally and internationally recognized artists and partner institutions.”
Owned by Los Angeles County and operated in partnership with the Ford Theatre Foundation and the county Department of Parks and Recreation, the Ford Theatre has a rich history dating back to the 1920s.
Nestled in the canyon of a 32-acre county regional park in the Cahuenga Pass, the current venue was built in 1931 after a brush fire destroyed the original 1920 wooden theatre.
In 2010, Yaroslavsky and Los Angeles County Arts Commission Executive Director Laura Zucker hired Levin & Associates Architects to develop a comprehensive master plan with the goal of preserving the aging theater and prolonging its life as a cultural resource and architectural landmark. Initial work on the project began in 2012, and in September 2014, the Ford Theatres broke ground on the current $72.2 million project, the first major renovation and construction initiative since 1931.
The project, designed by Levin & Associates Architects with Mia Lehrer and Associates landscape architects, required a 21-month closure of the amphitheatre. Programming in 2015 took place at venues off-site. In 2016, Ford Theatres reopened for a partial summer season while construction continued.
“For those of us who have known and loved the Ford Theatres for many years, this has been substantially more than a renovation project,” architect Brenda Levin said. “Our firm, and Mia Lehrer’s, found inspiration for our design work in the fabled history, extraordinary natural setting and brilliantly popular and inclusive mission of this great Los Angeles landmark.
“We hope we have given the people of Los Angeles County a Ford Theatres that stays true to their best memories while offering a future of richer, livelier, and more enjoyable and inclusive experiences.
The new, 2,300-square-foot Zev Yaroslavsky Terrace (“The Zev”), introduces an outdoor dining experience and full-service concessionaire at the Ford for the first time, as well as providing added informal performance space.
“The Zev” honors Yaroslavsky for his commitment to supporting the Ford as an important Los Angeles artistic and architectural resource. The construction of a new attached building adjacent and north of the amphitheatre adds 11,055 square feet, which accounts for “The Zev,” concession/kitchen space, new administrative offices and loading and storage, further maximizing the Ford’s existing campus.
A sound wall at the rear of the amphitheatre minimizes noise from the nearby Hollywood (101) Freeway and enhances the modern beauty of the Ford. The sound wall includes a new projection booth and control room, as well as a new lighting platform to replace past lighting positions.
In addition, there are new Digico SD 10 sound consoles for both the front of house speaker system as well as the house monitor system.
“We are proud to note that the Ford’s new sound system makes the renovated John Anson Ford Amphitheatre one of the best sounding 1,200-seat amphitheatres in the country,” Garay-English said. “We are excited to welcome the public here to enjoy this revitalized space as a community.”