In 1973, Hazel Robinson and her husband John had been living in Asheville and raising their four children since 1957. Hazel had been involved with the Asheville Community Theater, serving as their Technical Director from 1964 to 1972 when, a year later, in 1973, she and John founded the Montford Players, a free outdoor Shakespeare Theater company.
The Montford Players Journey
Beginning with Shakespeare’s As You Like It in the municipal park from which the company draws its name, the all-volunteer theater established non-profit 501(c)3 status in 1975 and eventually added Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a holiday offering a few years later.
In 1983, the City of Asheville provided a flat-roofed storage building near Riverside Cemetery while the U.S. Navy’s Construction Battalion (“SeaBees”) carved an amphitheater into the steep hillside. The Montford Amphitheater was opened with a production of Romeo and Juliet.
With the advent of their 25th Season coinciding with Asheville’s Bicentennial in 1997, the company revived As You Like It. Directed by Montford Players’ founder, the production was the first in the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater, newly renamed by the City Council in honor of her contribution to the community.
While Ms. Robinson passed in 2016, the amphitheater continues to host concert events and remains home to her 50-year legacy, The Montford Players — one of only 15 theaters worldwide to have staged all of Shakespeare’s plays.