The Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre at Lake Matoaka at William & Mary was also known as the Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre, the Common Glory Stage, and Amphitheater. The facility, on the edge of Lake Matoaka, is used primarily for concerts. The amphitheatre was planned in 1946 on the site of an old boathouse and was intended to be used for a colonial pageant in the summer and William & Mary functions during the academic year. Preliminary grading was in progress in 1946.
The Jamestown Corporation oversaw building the stage (118' x 60'), dressing and prop rooms, and spotlight towers. Architect Charles M. Major's sketches show a colonnaded, bowl-shaped theater. Convict labor was used in the construction project. The amphitheatre opened in the summer of 1947 with the production of The Common Glory, which ran from July 17 to September 14 of that year.
In 1977, the lease with Jamestown, Inc., ended. In 1979 equipment was auctioned, and storage and dressing rooms were used by dance classes. An old foundry building was used as a studio for the Fine Arts Department. In 1983, Campus Police evicted two students who had been living in the light tower. Limited restoration began in 1985.
In May of 2006, a $7.6 million renovation began in cooperation with the Jamestown 2007 commemoration. Improvements include a new stage and seating area, ADA access ramps, underground utilities, and new buildings for equipment and a ticket office/restroom. The project was completed in April of 2007.
This William & Mary location has also been referred to as Matoaka Park(Flat Hat, 2/11/1947, p. 9), Matoaka Woods, Matoaka Amphitheater, Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre, and other variations over time. The street address is 121 Ukrop Way.
At its April 2016 meeting, the Board of Visitors approved the renaming of Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre to the Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre at Lake Matoaka, in honor of Briggs (Class of 1955) for her commitment to the facility's restoration. Her support provided the necessary funds to restore the stage, dressing rooms, sound and lighting systems, seats and entrance area, as well as ensuring the facility is accessible to those with disabilities. 1
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- Flat Hat, 2/11/1947, p. 9; 4/22/1947, p. 1.
- Colonial Echo
- University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- Board of Visitors Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
- 2007 construction information
- See history by David H. Dudley and other material in the folders "Buildings & Grounds--Lake Matoaka" and Matoaka Woods--Amphitheater (Common Glory)," University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.