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Pilgrimage Play photos


Pilgrimage Play

The largest collection of Pilgrimage Play photos is on the website. When Mrs. Christine Witherill Stevenson withdrew from the Hollywood Bowl in 1920, she was intent on promoting her religious place. She purchased a 29 acre Canyon across the Cahuenga Pass from the Hollywood Bowl. After building a crude structure, which was later to develop into the beautiful Pilgrimage Play Theater, Mrs. Stevenson journeyed to the holy land to obtain authentic fabrics, 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 was held on June 27, 1920, with Henry Herbert starring as Jesus of Nazareth. Performances were given every summer in the original structure, until it was destroyed by fire on October 24, 1929. The elevated seating at the mouth of the canyon, and realistic replicas of essential scenes from the holy land, were constructed and elaborately illuminated under the direction of Mr. Reid. During the eight weeks of the summer of 1920, the drama of the life of Christ was 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 Christ. Many fine actors per trade Jesus over the years, but none for as long as Nelson Leigh, who held the role for over 15 years.


Mrs. Stevenson’s Passing

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. When Mrs. Stevenson passed away in 1922, Hollywood was stunned. As a memorial to this fine lady, four of Hollywood's residents caused a 40 foot lighted cross to be erected atop a hill alongside the Pilgrimage Theater. Dedicated on July 8, 1923, the cross, which was built of structural steel and covered with concrete, was the joint effort of George L. Eastman, C.E. Toberman, William Lee Woolet and Mrs. Chauncey Clark.


New Theater

A new theater, with seating capacity of 1312 was built of concrete in ancient Judaism architecture and the play reopened in 1931. It continued until 1940, when war conditions caused brief interruptions. During the war, the dressing room sections were converted into dormitories, where hundreds of servicemen slept during visits to Hollywood.

The play was continued after the war and continued until the last performance in 1964. Renamed the John Anson Ford County cultural arts theater in commemoration of Ford's 24 years service as County supervisor of the third district of Los Angeles, the theater now houses the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival.


Photo Collection

The largest collection of Pilgrimage Play photos is on the website. All the photos are available for purchase.  Other photos on the website include, Hollywood Canteen, Movie Studios and Hollywood Blvd.

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