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Saturday, January 8, 2011

A ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE IN BEREA KENTUCKY

CONSTRUCTING THE SEATING AREA AT INDIAN FORT 
AMPHITHEATRE DESIGN 
1954 VINTAGE PHOTO 
Courtesy: Berea College Special Collections

From what I’ve read, outdoor theaters are popular with folks. The idea of being in an outdoor atmosphere, watching a play or  band can be relaxing or exciting depending on your preference.  As  far as construction of these outdoor theaters -- they come in all different configurations and materials.

ANCIENT ROMAN ORANGE AMPHITHEATRE, PARIS, FRANCE
CONSTUCTION: ARC AND ASCENDING SEATING
Courtesy: Simply Groups

I am familiar with a particular theater that is configured as an amphitheatre. It was built to celebrate the 1955 centennial of Kentucky’s Berea College. The seating ascends downward toward the stage -- the audience sits in a curving arc facing the stage -- both are traditional building practices of the ancient Roman amphitheatres.


PARTIAL VIEW OF THE CURVING ARC OF THE SEATING AREA
FOLDING CHAIRS WERE SET-UP ALONG THE TOPS OF THE LIMESTONE ROWS.
SEE PHOTO SECOND FROM BOTTOM

The theatre I am speaking of is called Indian Fort. Its entire arc of seating is stacked limestone. This construction is very graphic visually. Similarly, ancient Roman amphitheatres used limestone frequently.

I thought I could find another U.S. amphitheatre made of limestone online but had no such luck. Natural limestone is found abundantly in Kentucky. Historically it became customary to use it for construction of both simple and formal buildings and decoration. It probably presented itself as the natural stone of choice for the centennial construction.  

VIEW OF THE WORKMANSHIP OF THE STACKED STONE ROWS 
The labor to build Indian Fort would have been skilled. Stacking rock requires knowledgeable masons. The entire project cost $100.000. This included a wooden entrance structure that held the ticket office, rest rooms and associated needs

THE CHAIRS ALL IN PLACE ON THE LIMESTONE-STACKED ROWS 
WAITING FOR THE CROWD.
VINTAGE PHOTO
Coutesy Berea College Special Collections

During the 1950s through the 1970s a commonly held play at the Indian Fort was Wilderness Road by Paul  Green. Other activities such as Berea College graduations were once held at the amphitheatre.  

CROWDS RELAXING IN THE FRESH AIR WHILE 
WATCHING A PLAY AT INDIAN FORT.
VINTAGE PHOTO
Courtesy Berea College Special College

During the past few years the Indian Fort location has been the venue for the  popular Berea Craft Festival which draws crowds from several different states.

The attendees probably are unaware they are getting a taste of ancient Roman architecture as they gaze at crafts from Kentucky and beyond. 

11 comments:

  1. Boy, this brings back memories. Like the time I played a member of the "country folk' in a play about Robin Hood. We gave our show at an outdoor amphitheater in NC. Also, I used to take my kids to the 'Shakespeare on the Mall' plays every year here in DC during the summer. Also an outdoor stage. Thanks for the story. Very enjoyable.

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  2. I grew up in Boone, NC and had a non-speaking role in "Horn in the West." What an exciting time it was, not the least of which was getting to stay up late every night. I still love the amphitheatres. We have lots of small ones here in the mountains.

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  3. You call to mind a scrap of memory that I've been trying to reconstruct for a few hours now. When traveling in Turkey we visited a fine Roman amphitheatre and the very well educated guide told us that "amphitheatre was not the correct term for that structure which was much like your picture except the back was enclosed so the whole thing was like an unroofed building. If I remember correctly that was really an arena. Later we saw an amphitheatre in Ephesus which was truly like your picture, no semi-circular back wall enclosing it. These are very handsome photographs in your post, I enjoy seeing them.

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  4. June -- You have done some great traveling -- to see an ancient amphitheatre would be grand. I researched amphitheatres before I would claim Indian Fort as one.

    It is located in a lovely forest and actually is quite primitive looking. The term amphitheatre is not used by Berea College -- rather they use theater to identify it.

    Thanks for the informative comments -- barbara

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  5. Now you've set my mind in memory mode and I'm enjoying remembering amphitheatres and arenas -- at least two in Greece, one below the Acropolis where the great Greek tragedies and comedies are still performed, and one in Delphi where a whisper on stage could be heard in the back row. An arena theater in Israel [Roman era], probably a few more. The Romans especially loved entertainment.

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  6. June, You remembered quite an extensive list of amphitheatres. Were all of them seen on the same trip? I have never traveled to Europe or Asia. My routes have always been focused in the U.S. Thanks for all this related info -- I appreciate it -- barbara

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  7. Schmidleysscribbling -- I thought the construction of Indian Fort was amazing for a small college to initiate. I am sure it was delightful entertainment as one sat and enjoyed the cool of the evening.

    i am glad I found your blog. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  8. NCmountainwoman -- I had found a list of U.S.amphitheatres online -- unfortunately, I did not book mark and haven't the slightest idea how to get back to that site. Perhaps your amphitheatres would have been listed. I imagine it would be a thrill to be in a play. When my son needed a bit of extra money he used to sign up as a movie extra. They paid quite well and he thought the whole thing was lots of fun. This was out West. -- barbara

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  9. Sorry it took a while to get back to you. No, not at all on the same trip. I've taken many two-week and ten-day trips, Europe and Asia. If I were a rich lady I'd travel about 6 months of the year in little trips. I won't win the lottery because I don't buy tickets so that's just a dream. I LOVE traveling.

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  10. I like your juxtaposition with the roman version. The construction shot of the Indian Fort theatre is interesting too, an ambitious project. We have a small version of this in a town on the St. Lawrence near here. In summer, a couple of Shakespeare plays are staged.

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  11. barefootheart -- Indian Fort is not used as it once was. They are trying to revise a play that was once a regular feature. Can't imagine putting up all those folding chairs for each performance. Thanks -- barbara

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