Especially Ours

Planned makeover will revive cherished amphitheater

It opened with a flourish, a sylvan setting for commencements, May Day celebrations, concerts, plays, and the rituals of campus life. But nature had its way with the Mary Washington amphitheater, chipping at its Greek-style columns and graceful character as a century slid by.

Even in its darkest hour, with words like “decrepit,” “dilapidated,” and “dangerous” hurled its way, this refuge off Campus Walk drew visitors. The birches and oaks that enclose the amphitheater keep their secrets – of private thoughts, late-night trysts, promises spoken.

Now a major makeover is planned for this iconic campus spot. Thanks to a $1 million gift from Robert S. and Alice Andrews Jepson ’64, and two other significant alumni donations, nearly half of the estimated $3 million cost of renovations has been raised.

Architects, consulting with historic preservationists, plan restored and replaced elements, weather-resilient seating for 600 rising into spruced-up woods, and handicap accessibility. The project will modernize the amphitheater but preserve its character – with columns and pergolas – leaving it looking much as it did in the early 1950s.

“Everybody seems to have a special spot for the amphitheater,” said Mary Washington’s final May Queen, Sally Monroe Kelly ’68. She hadn’t expected such excitement from students and alumni over plans to repair and renovate the space. “Maybe we all spent some alone-time there. It’s hard to put your finger on it.”

Read more alumni memories of the amphitheater:


  1. Does this design really plan to cut down the trees that are growing in the amphitheater?? Those trees, with every hand-carved initial, and each story behind the Mary Wash students who went there, are a romantic, silly place to visit as an alum. I can’t imagine those trees coming down! The amphitheater would seriously lack part of its current charm without them!

    • Neva Trenis says

      Thanks for your thoughts on the future of the amphitheater, M.

      I asked about your concerns, and I got this response from an administrator of the project, “The initial architectural renderings were commissioned to provide a sense of the visual impact of the amphitheater renovation. An architect has not yet been hired to do the kind of design work that would make recommendations about trees remaining in the performance space or audience seating area. Every effort will be made to preserve the trees either in their current location or as part of an adjacent outdoor exhibition.”

      Keep those comments coming!
      Neva Trenis