Building on Decades of Tradition
For over 100 years the Mountain Play has been a unique, annual tradition for thousands of Bay Area residents. Established in 1913 as a part of the outdoor theatre movement, the award-winning Mountain Play Association (MPA) has been a gateway to a lifelong appreciation for live theatre for generations of playgoers. The annual “great outdoor adventure” is a unique community event and has become a beloved cultural tradition.
Early in the 20th century, Mountain Play productions attracted thousands of patrons who hiked or took the gravity train, “the crookedest railroad in the world”, up the mountain to see traditional plays like Abraham and Isaac and Peer Gynt. However, by the middle of the last century, when small audiences were threatening to end this community tradition, Mountain Play Association changed its artistic programming to Broadway-style musicals resulting in a financial revival and recent stunning artistic achievements.
Congressman William Kent, original owner of the land on Mount Tamalpais where the amphitheatre is sited, was a founding member of the association’s board of directors and served as its second Vice President. After three successful production seasons, he deeded the amphitheatre, named for the mountain railroad magnate Sidney B. Cushing, to the Mountain Play Association. The Association held the deed until 1936, when the land was donated to California to complete the Mount Tamalpais State Park. That freed the Civilian Conservation Corps to begin work to quarry and set the gigantic boulders that make up the 3,750 seat classic stone amphitheatre that holds Mountain Play audiences today.
Respected for its high artistic quality, professional production values and longstanding community partnerships, the Mountain Play provides an accessible live theatre experience for more than 15,000 patrons each year and has become a quintessential rite of spring for the entire Bay Area.