Bringing Shakespeare to the people of Western North Carolina for over 40 years, the Montford Park Players has established itself as a cultural mainstay in Asheville’s lively theater scene.
With stage productions at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre located on the 17-acre Montford Recreation Complex, the company has covered The Bard frontways, sideways and in between. Its newest production, the opener for the 2016 season, serves as a classic example. The Montford Park Players will present “The Asheville Shakesperience,” 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Sundays May 13–28, sporting some of the best scenes of Shakespeare.
Now the theater company is poised for growth.
With its attendance average of 10,000 a year, Montford Park Players has been awarded a Tourism Product Development Fund Grant for improvements to the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre.
To be clear, this is not a City project. It is a Montford Park Players project on City land. However, this project is noted on the Montford Recreation Complex Master Plan.
Details of the plan
Some of the enhancements will be significant.
“Montford Park Players will be putting in a guest services building, for concessions or tickets and a tavern, designed so that all guests come in through that area,” said John Russell, MPP managing director and CEO.
A walkway will be installed to guide theater-goers through this new entranceway and there will be some fencing as part of the new layout.
There will also be improvements to the seating area and the stage. Additional tiers of seating will be added and the stage will get a roof, in addition to lights and acoustic enhancements. With additional terraces for seating an additional 300-500 people, the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre will double audience capacity. The improvements are also aimed at making the facility more ADA compliant.
The TPDF grant was for $125,000. Russell estimates total cost for the project to be $1 million, of which over $350,000 has been raised. Toward that end, the Montford Park Players will conduct additional money-raising through the end of this year.
Construction could begin soon and will be structured so as to not interfere with weekend performances.
The City of Asheville has approved the construction plans; the lease agreement between the City and the Montford Park Players allows the theater company to do capital improvements on the grounds. Now the theater organization is going through the permitting process with Development Services.
“Our neighbors and leisure travelers have embraced Shakespeare under the stars for the past 44 years,” said Russell. “During the 400th anniversary year of his death, there is no more appropriate way that we could honor his legacy than by building for the future.”
About Montford Park Players
Montford Park Players performs a 20-week summer season of between five and six productions, plus an indoor winter season, with an estimated audience of more than 10,000 a year, ranking in the top four among outdoor theatres in North Carolina.
Montford Park Players actors and technicians are all volunteers. In any given year, about 200 people donate their time, talent, and expertise to its productions.
For information about the 2016 season performances, visit montfordparkplayers.org.