Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, known locally in the Washington, D.C. area as simply Wolf Trap, is a performing arts center situated in a setting of rolling hills and woods located on 130 acres (0.53 km²) of national park land in Vienna, Virginia. Through the unique partnership and collaboration of the National Park Service and the non-profit Wolf Trap Foundation, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts offers both natural and cultural resources.
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts began as a gift to the American people from Catherine Filene Shouse. Encroaching roads and suburbs inspired Mrs. Shouse to preserve this former farm as a park. In 1966 Congress accepted Mrs. Shouse's gift and authorized Wolf Trap Farm Park (its original name) as the first national park for the performing arts. On August 21, 2002, the park's name was changed to its present one, thus reflecting its mission while keeping the historical significance of this area.
In the year 2000, Wolf Trap debuted the Face of America program which was created “to celebrate the country’s national parks and to honor the relationship between nature and the creative process."
Presently, the Wolf Trap Foundation organizes and runs several distinct elements as part of the whole. These are:
This is the major indoor/outdoor performance venue with seating for 7,000 both under cover and on the lawn in a more casual style. Performances are given nightly from May to early September and cover a wide range of musical styles from country music to opera.
In the summer of 1971, sixty young musical performers were chosen for training in music, dance and acting, to culminate in a production in the newly conceived Filene Center. The inaugural season opening was delayed one month due to a fire that destroyed most of the nearly built center. But when finally completed, the theatre, constructed of Oregon redcedar, was a ten-story-high facility equipped with a computerized lighting system and sophisticated sound equipment.
As Wolf Trap was preparing for its 12th season, tragedy struck once again. On April 4, 1982, a fire of undetermined origin, intensified by high gusting winds, destroyed the Filene Center. Almost immediately the Wolf Trap Foundation, the park's non-profit partner, announced that a 1982 season would still take place in a huge tent erected in the meadow.
The second Filene Center is made of douglas-fir with a yellow pine ceiling. It includes a smoke/fire detection and suppression system, as well as fire retardant wood. The new amphitheater was also built with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment.
Wolf Trap's indoor venue is a casual performance space which operates year-round and offers a very wide variety of entertainment possibilies. It seats 382.
This young Company, established in 1971, has developed into a quality resident ensemble program for young opera singers. Its mission is to discover and encourage emerging talent in the opera field and it serves young singers of achievement and potential by giving them training and performance experience with fully-staged performances each summer at the Filene Center and The Barns.
Wolf Trap offers a wide variety of education programs for all ages both locally and nationally. Programs include the "Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts" for preschoolers through adult learners.
Mrs. Shouse bought Wolf Trap to offer her children a weekend retreat from the hectic pace of Georgetown, Washington DC. There they grew corn, wheat, alfalfa, and oats to feed their chickens, ducks, turkeys, and milk cows. They raised horses, built a stable and a hay barn, and opened a dog-breeding kennel, producing champion boxers, miniature pinschers, and Weimaraners. Inspired to share her love of Wolf Trap with others, Mrs. Shouse often hosted lawn suppers and carnivals there.
In the 1960s, Wolf Trap was threatened by encroaching urbanization. Forty acres nearby (16 ha) had been set aside for the Dulles access road, and Mrs. Shouse sought a way to preserve her extraordinary treasure. Recalling her delight at entertainments she'd witnessed in theaters and auditoriums all over Europe and throughout the world, she decided to offer a portion of her land in 1965 to the National Park Service to be devoted to the performing arts, and in the following year, Congress accepted her offer.
The first dozen seasons saw many performances and events of historical significance. In 1976, the Scottish Military Tattoo, a Bicentennial gift from Britain, performed at the Filene Center for capacity audiences including Britain's Prince Philip. The following year, the People's Republic of China's performing arts ensemble entertained Wolf Trap's audience with acrobatic troupes and dancers in one of the first cultural exchanges between China and the United States. In 1971, the National Folk Festival was the first event at Wolf Trap to use the park grounds (versus Filene Center itself) for performances, and it set a precedent for other events at Wolf Trap to do the same. From 1971 until the early eighties, the National Folk Festival was held at Wolf Trap.
Other highlights included Sarah Caldwell's production of War and Peace, the Royal Ballet, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the annual US National Symphony Orchestra's 1812 Overture concerts with live cannons and Beverly Sills' 1981 farewell appearance.
Following yet another Filene Center fire, the 1982 and 1983 Wolf Trap seasons took place in a huge tent-like structure known as the Meadow Center. The prefabricated structure, purchased with private and government funds, was disassembled from its previous site in the United Arab Emirates and transported to Wolf Trap through the generosity of the government of Saudi Arabia. Volunteers provided much of the labor needed to erect the structure.