Pilgrimage Play


When Christine Witherill Stevenson withdrew from her participation with the Hollywood Bowl in 1920, she was intent in promoting her religious plays. She purchased 29 acres across the Cahuenga Pass canyon from the Hollywood Bowl. After commissioning Ellis Reed to build the first crude structure, which was later to develop into the beautiful Pilgrimage Play Theater, Mrs. Stevenson journeyed to the Holy Land to obtain authentic fabric utensils and props. She wrote the entire play from her translation of the four gospels according to the King James version of the Bible. The first performance of the Pilgrimage Play as held on June 27, 1920. The elevated seating at the mouth of the canyon, and realistic recplicas of essential scenes from the Holy Land, were constructed and elaborately illuminated under the direction of Mr. Reed. During the eight weeks of the summer of 1920, the drama of the Life of Christ ws produced under the stars. Jesus of Nazareth was portrayed by Henry Herbert for the first four weeks, until he was forced to return to New York. His most capable understudy, Reginald Pole, took his place as the Christus. Many fine actors portrayed Jesus over the years, but none for as long as Nelson Leigh, who held the role for over fifteen years. Mrs. Stevenson's objective had been achieved and a beautiful tradition had begun that was to continue long after her untimely death just two years later. Her parents then deeded the property and the Pilgrimage Play itself, together with a trust fund for its continuance, to the Pilgrimage Play Association. Performances were given every summer in the original structure until it was destroyed by fire on October 24, 1924. A new theater, with seating capacity of 1,312, was built of concrete in the ancient Judian architecture and the play reopened in 1931. It continued until 1940, when war conditions causes brief interruptions. During the war, dressing room sections were converted into dormitories where hundreds of servicemen slept during visits to Hollywood. On October 17, 1941, the Pilgrimage Play Association deeded the property to the County of Los Angeles, subject to a 99 year lease to the Hollywood Bowl Association on terms similar to the Hollywood Bowl lease. In 1964, a lawsuit brought against the County for using a County facility exclusively for a religious performance put an end to The Pilgrimage Play. In 1976 the theatre was renamed for former County supervisor John Anson Ford, who was known for supporting the creative arts in LA including the development of the Music Center. The theatre is currently operated by the LA County Arts Commission. Each summer they give more than 35 local Los Angeles-based arts organizations an opportunity to present public performances. The apilgrimage Play theater is just west of the hollywood sign,

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Henry Herbert plays Jesus Christ in the Pilgrimage Play in the Cahuenga Pass
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Henry Herbert as Christ at the Pilgrimage Play
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Henry Herbert as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
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The Pilgrimage Play in the Cahuenga Pass
Pilgrimage PlayHenry Herbert plays Jesus Christ in the Pilgrimage Play in the Cahuenga Pass
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1920
Pilgrimage PlayHenry Herbert as Christ at the Pilgrimage Play
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1920
Pilgrimage PlayHenry Herbert as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
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1920
Pilgrimage PlayThe Pilgrimage Play in the Cahuenga Pass
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1920
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Henry Herbert as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
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Ian MacLaren as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
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Ian MacLaren as Chris in the Pilgrimage Play in the Cahuenga Pass
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Ian MacLaren plays Jesus Christ during the Pilgrimage Play
Pilgrimage PlayHenry Herbert as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
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1923
Pilgrimage PlayIan MacLaren as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
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1927
Pilgrimage PlayIan MacLaren as Chris in the Pilgrimage Play in the Cahuenga Pass
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1927
Pilgrimage PlayIan MacLaren plays Jesus Christ during the Pilgrimage Play
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1927
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Ian MacLaren plays Chris in the Pilgrimage Play
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Ian MacLaren as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
 
Pilgrimage PlayIan MacLaren plays Chris in the Pilgrimage Play
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1929
Pilgrimage PlayIan MacLaren as Christ in the Pilgrimage Play
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1931