Jenkins Greek Theatre
This outdoor theater has been in use since 1929.
Backstory and Context
The Jenkins Greek Theatre is located on the Westhampton side of the University of Richmond campus next to the Westhampton College Tennis Courts and North Court. The Greek Theatre itself was built in 1929 thanks to donations from Luther H. Jenkins, a Richmond book manufacturer and trustee of the University. The Jenkins Greek Theatre is built in the Classical Greek style with Doric columnns flanking both sides of the stage. The Theatre itself is completely outdoors and capable of seating between 1,500 and 1,700 spectators depending on whether or not the aisles are left open.
Due to its picturesque and somewhat secluded location the Jenkins Greek Theatre is popular among many University of Richmond students as a peaceful location to study and read. The Theatre also hosts live entertainment, theatre productions, alumni events, outdoor worship services and the May day Festival.
The Jenkins Theatre first opened on October 23, 1929, with the performance of the Greek tragedy “Electra”. The play was performed during University Week and was preceded by an address by the poet Robert Frost. The Collegian, the University of Richmond school paper, especially praised Elizabeth Gill for her performance as Electra. This would be the start of a long-standing tradition of the drama department performing plays in the Jenkins Greek Theatre.
A play being performed at the Greek theatre
During the 1940s and 1950s the Jenkins Greek Theatre was primarily used for performing plays and hosting the commencement ceremony. It was just before the annual May Day festival when possibly the most dramatic event in the Theatre’s history took place. On the night of April 30th, 1961, multiple vandals defaced the columnns of the theatre “leaving a trail of obscenities, paint smears, and empty beer cans in their wake (3).” The cost for repairing the columnns ran into the several hundreds of dollars since all of the columnns had to be sand-blasted in order to maintain their uniform appearance. The current Dean of the college urged students to turn over the perpetrators as well as suggesting that “"If I were in a fraternity, and I discovered that a brother was Responsible for such an act, I would no longer desire him as a brother (3)
Despite its popularity in the first half of the 20th century the Jenkins Greek Theatre fell out of favor as many of the plays moved to indoor venues. The Jenkins Greek theatre remained, however, a popular venue for on-campus concerts. During the 90s the Campus Activity Board was able to attract multiple famous or soon-to-be-famous groups to campus. Bands such the Connells in 1990, Indecision and The Dave Matthews Band in 1993 and Dispatch in 2001 were all booked by the Campus Activity Board. This shift from theatre to musical performances helped the Jenkins Greek Theatre remain relevant during the 90’s and early 21st century Unfortunately the Greek theatre has fallen out of favor at the University and is now used primarily as a peaceful spot for students to study in an outdoor setting.
Brockwell, Faul, Jr. ""My Fellow Graduates ..."" University of Richmond Magazine, May 15, 2015.
"University Players to Present "Electra"" The Collegian (Richmond), September 20, 1929. Accessed November 7, 16. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19290920.2.16&srpos=1&e=------192-en-20--1--txt-txIN-Luther Jenkins------#.
Walsh, J. Harris. "Campus Sidelights." The Collegian. Accessed November 9, 16. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19291025.2.18&srpos=8&e=------192-en-50--1-byDA-txt-txIN-jenkins Greek Theatre------#.
"University Officials Condemn Greek Theater Vandals." The Collegian (University of Richmond), May 12, 1961. Accessed November 9, 16. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19610512.2.3&srpos=1&e=------196-en-20--1--txt-txIN-jenkins Greek Theatre------#.
Gold, Elizabeth. "Dave Matthews Band Draws Regulars Weds. Nights." The Collegian. Accessed November 9, 16. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19930325.2.60&srpos=5&e=------199-en-20--1--txt-txIN-jenkins Greek Theatre------#.
Norton, Bill. "The Connells Will Play Rock Music in the Greek Theatre." The Collegian. Accessed September 9, 16. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19900301.2.36&srpos=3&e=------199-en-20--1--txt-txIN-jenkins Greek Theatre------#.
Jenkins Greek Theatre (Richmond, Virginia)." Wikimapia. 2015. Accessed November 9, 16. http://wikimapia.org/25098102/Jenkins-Greek-Theatre.