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Frank Stephens Memorial Theater (Open-Air or Field Theatre)

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Open-Air or Field Theatre
1905, Frank Stephens. Woodland Ln.
  • Frank Stephens Memorial Theater (Open-Air or Field Theatre) (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

The first area of Arden to be settled was around Village Green, a field in an angle of the woods. A huge boulder suggested a backdrop for an outdoor theater, fronted by a turf stage and originally flanked by two wooden Ionic columns. Patrons sat on grass seats up front or wooden benches; the stage was lit with Japanese lanterns and, later, carbide lights and kerosene footlamps. Plays were a cherished community-building activity, starting with Merchant of Venice in 1906 with Stephens as Shylock and William Price as Antonio. In 1909, plays were performed in Esperanto, another of Stephens's passions. During the fall festival of 1912, the Stephens Cottage next door (BR8) was used as a backdrop for Robin Hood, illuminated by automobile headlights. In early performances, actors robed at the Craft Shop (BR11), then marched across the Green by candlelight. The boulder provided a balcony for Juliet and a cliff for King Lear. Renamed for Stephens in 1961—his ashes lie buried beside the rock—the theater today hosts concerts and weddings, and Shakespeare is still performed at least once a year.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard


What's Nearby


W. Barksdale Maynard, "Frank Stephens Memorial Theater (Open-Air or Field Theatre)", [Wilmington, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 39-39.

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