Forest Theater

Nestled in a natural bowl alongside Country Club Road in Battle Park, this outdoor theater space is defined by stone walls and light towers. It came into official use as a performing space in 1918, when the founder of the Carolina Playmakers, Frederick H. "Proff" Koch, came to Chapel Hill. The first theatrical performance there, William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, was presented by summer school students in July 1919. Those first audiences sat on a sloping lawn; the tiered seating and stonework were added in 1940 as a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. During that work, designers added a stone brought from Roanoke Island that is believed to be a ballast stone from the ships that carried Sir Walter Raleigh's first colonists in the 1500s. The theater was dedicated to Koch in 1953, and the name was formally changed to Koch Memorial Theatre. The North Carolina Botanical Garden now maintains the space, which is still used as a performance space and venue for receptions, weddings, and picnics.


Date Established: 1940

Date Range: 1940 – Present

Early performance at Forest Theatre before the addition of seating in 1940. UNC Photo Lab Collection, North Carolina Collection Photo Archives, Wilson Library.