The Greek Theatre: The Story Of An L.A. Icon
Backstage at The Greek Theatre, snippets of the venue's history hang on its walls. There are vintage photos of casts that look as if they're performing theatrical pieces. More recent images display the stars who have performed there, including Sheryl Crow, Tony Bennett, Gladys Knight, and Neil Diamond, who recorded two live albums at the Greek, including the acclaimed Hot August Night.
Surrounded by hiking trails, flora and fauna, The Greek Theatre is located in Griffith Park, a massive piece of land given to the city by Griffith J. Griffith in the late 1800s that's also home to the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles Zoo, Autry Museum of the American West, and more. The park was named a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in January 2009.
Designed to look as if it came from ancient Greece, the 5,900-seat amphitheater has changed since its debut season in 1931, but it has retained much of its personality. In the early years, performers stood in the sunlight, with large Greek-style columns on the sides of the stage. Within the first decade of its existence, a roof was added. The consequence of this is that the columns aren't visible to the crowd. If you're on stage, you can still find them on the sidelines. One is now painted black, another is cream-colored and hidden behind the sound equipment.
When you enter The Greek Theatre from the main street, you're actually looking at the back of the stage. The small windows that light up at night are old ticket booths. If you're lucky enough to get backstage, you'll see large dressing rooms designated for the "Men's Chorus" and "Women's Chorus." The rooms are decorated with black-and-white tile floors and large vanity lights that harken back to the venue's Art Deco youth.
Becky Colwell, general manager for SMG (the company that runs the Greek for the City of Los Angeles), combs through playbills and other ephemera inside an on-site office that's plastered with posters advertising everything from a Yankee Doodle cocktail to Duran Duran's 1982 concert. "We have a patron that comes a lot - he's a collector and he finds these things and he brings them to me," she says.
Other times, they'll receive memorabilia from people who are cleaning out their parents' old items. We check out a schedule from 1971 that would make so many music fans drool. That summer, Blood, Sweat and Tears played with Thelma Houston, Roberta Flack and Quincy Jones were billed together. So did Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Four Tops. All artists played multi-night stints. The Supremes played through Fourth of July weekend.
These days, artists are usually at the Greek for one night, though sometimes more, as in the case of Khalid (May 9-10) and Niall Horan (Aug. 7-8). Seasons at the Greek open in mid-April and run through late October, with about 70 events scheduled during this time period.
Highlights of the 2018 season include Liam Gallagher (May 11), Tom Jones (May 24), War (May 26), Ray Lamontagne (June 3), Barenaked Ladies (June 15), Smokey Robinson (June 30), Primus & Mastodon (July 5), Freestyle Summer Festival (July 21), Jackson Browne (Aug. 4), Voodoo Threauxdown feat. Trombone Shorty & Preservation Hall Jazz Band (Sept. 15), and Boy George & Culture Club with The B-52's (Oct. 3).
2700 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
In addition to onsite parking, visitors can grab a $10 spot at the Pony Ride Train Lot in Griffith Park at 4400 Crystal Springs Dr. From here, you can catch one of the shuttles that run between the lot and the venue before and after the show.
Launched in March 2017, the DASH Observatory Bus offers convenient transportation to two L.A. icons, the Greek Theatre and the Griffith Observatory. The service runs seven days a week — even on Mondays, when the Observatory is closed. Connect to the DASH Observatory bus via the Sunset/Vermont Station of the Metro Red Line. The DASH Observatory Bus runs every 20 minutes Monday through Friday from noon to 10 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.