Perhaps the most magical place in Wimberley lies almost hidden off of Ranch Road 2325 just north of town. It’s the EmilyAnn Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by several acres of gardens, nature paths, play spaces, secondary theaters, and memorials.
Remarkably, this place was built entirely by donations and volunteers- an outpouring of love by the community.
Ann and Norm Rolling founded the theater after their 16-year-old daughter, Emily Ann, died in a traffic accident in 1996. Emily studied drama at Wimberley High School and participated in Shakespeare Under the Stars when it was held at the school’s theater. The non-profit program also offers scholarships, internships, and workshops.
“Sometimes Norm and I get so very tired,” Ann says. “But when you meet the special people who gather here, it’s simply magical. It’s grown beyond our wildest dreams.”
The EmilyAnn now provides a permanent home for Shakespeare Under the Stars, the only high-school accredited program of its kind in the nation. Other plays, such as recently acclaimed productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Grease, fill out the calendar year.
Another popular event is the annual Butterfly Festival, now in its 14th year. The festival features a live release of hundreds of butterflies, a butterfly flight house, live and silent auctions, music, puppet shows, and a butterfly art display on April 21.
The past 14 years have been more magical than Ann could have ever imagined, she says. “I’m as in awe of this as a newcomer.”
And if you want to be in awe, don’t miss out on the annual Trail of Lights that begins on the day after Thanksgiving and runs daily through New Years.
All the trails and hills are festively lit and holiday displays by individuals, community organizations, and local businesses vie for a visitor’s attention. As if that weren’t enough, the Trail of Lights also features music, refreshments, and the opportunity to make S’mores around the Yule Log.
At any time — even when events aren’t scheduled—visitors can still enjoy themselves. In addition to the main amphitheater there is an indoor stage, an art Stage, and a Renaissance Stage. Play in Justin’s Castle, celebrate love with your sweetie at the 200-year-old Betrothal Tree, play chess or checkers on a life-sized game board, make a joyful noise in the Musical Garden, or just stroll through The Glade or The Meadow. You might spy Sleeping Beauty’s carriage or a dinosaur.
At the top of the hill, you’ll find the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Dedicated in 2007, the plaza honors veterans by displaying the US flag, the Texas flag, the POW-MIA flag, and the flags of each of our military services.
A Walkway of Honor around the flags features bricks that can be inscribed with the names of those who have served our country in the military.
“It’s important to honor all vets and the memorial bricks get that honor down to each individual,” explains Rodger Parker, the man who came up with the idea for the memorial.
“I saw a vision of what this could be and it turned out much better than I could have imagined,” Rodger says. “It took on a life of its own. The Wimberley community embraced it and individuals and various organizations contributed money and labor and we got it done.”
The plaza is located on one of the highest hills in Wimberley, providing visitors with commanding views of the scenic valley.
The hilltop location — adjacent to another memorial honoring children in the community who have died — has become a sacred place in Wimberley.
“People come up here laughing and cutting up, and when they find out what this is, their attitude changes. They get solemn,” Rodger says. “They see the flags and see the hills and the valley. It’s wonderful. It’s sacred. It takes people’s breath away.”
Other EmilyAnn events this season include Dancers Under the Stars Showcase on May 5, Shakespeare Day Camp for Kids on June 4-15, summer musical Annie June 1-July 1, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing July 30-August 11, Shakespeare’s Macbeth September 14 -October 13. And on the indoor stage, A Christmas Carol: The Musical on November 1-18. Other events are likely to be added throughout the year, so check the theater’s web site regularly for updates.
The EmilyAnn Theatre is open daily from dawn to dusk except during the Trail of Lights when it is open into the late evening. It is located at 1101 Ranch Road 2325. For reservations or more information, call 512-847-6969 or visit the web site at www.emilyann.org.