The Ford Theatres, the 97-year-old outdoor amphitheatre nestled in the Hollywood Hills, has finally completed its $72.2-million renovation, and the facility is promising a spirit of collaboration.
In a statement about its upcoming 2017 summer season, the Ford recently announced a new series, "Ignite @ the Ford!," which is defined as a partnership with cultural institutions locally and in New York. For the first time, the venue will present work in collaboration with New York's Lincoln Center Festival and Apollo Theater, as well as L.A.'s Music Center, Skirball Cultural Center and LA Opera.
"I think collaboration is really the wave of the future," interim executive director Olga Garay-English said in an interview. "It expands resources, both human and financial, it opens up new horizons for the types of artists and venues those artists can aspire to, and it builds audience diversification."
"Ignite @ the Ford!" is intended to bring highly curated, culturally broad, contemporary programming with an emphasis on national and international work, Garay-English said. The Ford will still heavily feature local artists through its premiere program, the Artists Partnership Series, but whereas until now the venue has had "a very L.A.-centric vibe," now it's broadening its scope, she said.
"Realizing that the space is so different than any other space in Los Angeles, I wanted to reach out to collegial institutions and say ,'What kinds of artists or projects would you realize here that you couldn't in your own venue?'" Garay-English said. "For local collaborators, it's about coming to a venue unlike any other in L.A. For collaborators from New York — and next season we want to expand that to other parts of the country — it's an opportunity to amplify their presence in the L.A. market."
The Ford this fall will launch two additional initiatives for the presentation of diverse and experimental programming in more intimate spaces than its 1,200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. "On Stage @ the Ford" will present works-in-progress, small commissions, experimental and theater-based work for as few as 50 people, with audiences capped at about 100.
The campus' new performance terrace, a centerpiece of the Ford's renovation, will host spoken word, jazz, performance and media-based works for up to 150 people. The facility is part of a new, three-story second building that also houses administrative offices. During the renovation, the grounds were also relandscaped, while the amphitheater was significantly updated, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting and a new green room.
"It's all aimed at making the experience better for the artists that perform there," Garay-English said. "New dressing rooms, new bathrooms, the infrastructure is light years from what it was. It was built in 1920 to house religious plays, it was very bare-bones. This deep investment by the county of Los Angeles brings it into the 21st century."
The Ford's 2017 summer season opens July 15 with tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover . The full season lineup is available online.
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