Cemeteries as Event Space

Cemeteries have recently started to host to events like concerts, plays, and even weddings. By truly embracing their park-like features, the people who manage cemeteries are being more creative about how to connect to their communities through art, music, and community gatherings.

The Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland is no stranger to community events at the cemetery

Macbeth, production by Portland Actors Ensemble July 2015

Actors from Macbeth, production by Portland Actors Ensemble, July 2015 (Photo by Portland Actors Ensemble, Cecily Overman and Michael Godsey)

and has hosted the Portland Actors Ensemble on multiple occasions. In July of 2015, the PAE put on a production of Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth in the cemetery. Lee Williams, a reviewer for The Oregonian, described the production as a “white-knuckle thriller” in part because of the “ghoulish landscape.” While the author cited the audience’s restlessness while sitting on the hard ground, the play was an efficient and effective version of Macbeth. As many as 8,000 people came to the play during its entire run. This success was repeated in 2017 with a production of Shakespeare’s less famous Trolius and Cressida. This is an example of a exciting and fun event to put on in the cemetery. Shakespeare, as a venerated and classic playwright, is a perfect complement for the sometimes spooky atmosphere of a cemetery. Consider hosting a play at your cemetery!

As for music, the Eugene Masonic Cemetery hosts a concert series called “Music to Die For.” In the historic Hope Abbey Mausoleum, one might find a bassoon quartet or some “kickin’ stringband music.” This free event encouraged many people to come to the cemetery and especially to view the beautiful Hope Abbey Mausoleum. The Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis will begin hosting a similar event, “Music in the Chapel,” this summer.

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery, located in Los Angeles, California, hosts many concerts and movie screenings each year. The Arctic Monkeys are playing there in May of 2018. They’ve shown The Neverending Story, Drive, Almost Famous, and many other movies on their grounds, right alongside their many famous deceased residents.

Events don’t have to be limited to plays or music. The Oakland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, has a large selection of events, including photography workshops and “Bone Appétit,” a feast which takes place in the cemetery featuring the food of local restaurant owners.