Dreamers in Spearfish are bringing the Passion Play Amphitheater back to life. Local organizers Scott and Mary Temple, Terri Dunwoody, and Zach Eixenberger has rechristened the 6,500-seat arena the Lookout Amphitheater and are doing real renovation to reopen the facility for meetings, reunions, speakers (can you say Chautauqua?), and big summer outdoor concerts:
The organizers said that there are a lot of details yet to determine, but Temple said they play to offer smaller events in the former ticket building at the top of the site starting this winter, with the full venue open next summer. They’ve discussed how the site could host weddings, receptions, meetings, old movie nights, speakers, graduations, reunions, concerts – “It is up to people’s imaginations what can be happening up here,” Dunwoody said. “Of all of the ideas the group has had as they’ve discussed its future.”
They want to model the amphitheater after other successful venues, such as Red Rocks, an open-air amphitheater in Red Rocks Park, Colo.
“Why reinvent the wheel?” Dunwoody said, adding that the group will work to model the success of other popular venues. Temple added that the group plans to cement working relationships with as many venues as possible, to help one another to get various bands and entertainment offerings to make this area a destination on their concert tours [Kayla Swisher, "Resurrecting a Spearfish Landmark," Black Hills Pioneer, 2014.10.17].
Red Rocks?! Heck yeah, dream big! Owner Rand Williams reminds us that the Passion Play was huge. For decades, big crowds flocked to the Queen City to watch Josef Meier re-enact the execution of a Jewish carpenter and troublemaker; why can't we imagine that thousands of people would come again for music and fun under the backdrop of Lookout Mountain at sunset?
I admire this sort of vision and ambition. At the same time, I am somewhat relieved to read in Swisher's article that plans for a giant Jesus sculpture on the amphitheater grounds have been scaled back. There's big, and there's too big.
Whatever shows come to the amphitheater, I can already spot my favorite seat in the house... which won't actually be in the house. Spearfish architects Andy and Shauntel Fett have built a rammed-earth bench up the hill from the amphitheater, just below the Thoen Stone monument. You may think bench-schmench, but the South Dakota chapter of the American Institute of Architects found the bench so remarkable that it feted the Fetts with a merit award for sustainable design and materials. The view from that bench of Spearfish and Lookout Mountain is more than enough reward for the mere quarter-mile uphill hike to the monument.