The Daily Mirror

Los Angeles history

« Previous Post | The Daily Mirror Home | Next Post »

Pilgrimage Play Opens

July 31, 2009 |  8:00 am
May 31, 1920, Pilgrimage Play  

May 31, 1920: Preparations are underway in El Camino Real Canyon for "The National Pilgrimage Play."

Aug. 26, 1938, Nuestro Pueblo  

Aug. 26, 1938: Joe Seewerker and Charles Owens visit what was then Pilgrimage Play Theater for Nuestro Pueblo. The play wasn't presented in 1938 because the theater was being used for a production of "Faust."

July 31, 1939, Pilgrimage Play

July 31, 1939: Jesus cures a leper in a scene from "The Pilgrimage Play."

July 1, 1939, Pilgrimage Play
July 31, 1939, Pilgrimage Play

Until the early 1960s, when a legal ruling ended its government funding, "The Pilgrimage Play" was one of the more enduring fixtures in The Times' drama pages, along with "The Mission Play" and "The Drunkard."

Originally called "The National Pilgrimage Play" in hopes that people from across the U.S. would come to Los Angeles to see the annual production, the play was "transcribed from the Scriptures by Mrs. W. Yorke Stevenson, with assistance from Brander Matthews, Clayton Hamilton, Sheldon Cheney and Prof. Baker of Harvard," The Times said in 1920. 

The script consisted of 14 scenes, divided into a prologue, two acts and an epilogue. The original production was directed by Stevenson and H. Ellis Reed.

The play was presented every summer until a fire destroyed the original structure in 1929. After a two-year gap for construction what is now known as the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in honor of the former county supervisor, production resumed, with another gap during World War II. In 1943, the property was deeded to Los Angeles County.

Construction of the Hollywood Freeway once again interrupted productions, which resumed in 1955 under John Arnold Ford, the son of John Anson Ford. 

In 1961, Atty. Gen. Stanley Mosk ruled that the play could not receive city or county funding on the principle of the separation of church and state. A privately funded production was given in 1964 and John Arnold Ford presented some scenes in 1978.

Nov. 4, 1978, Pilgrimage Play

Nov. 4, 1978: John Arnold Ford presents scenes from "The Pilgrimage Play." A movie version, partially shot at the amphitheater with some segments filmed on  leftover sets from "Joan of Arc," was released in 1949.