ON A COLD, dreary February afternoon in 1930 when I found the 52 acres that were to be the first of the 168 that made our Wolf Trap Farm, I was attracted to the land, the brook, the woods and even to the dejected, run-down 300-year-old house, which had hand-hewn logs for most of its interior.
Having lost all my money in the 1929-1930 crash and with $9,000 my entire resource, I spent $5,200 for those 52 acres with no thought except I felt this land should be a part of my life. And that it has been.
A run-down farm and dilapidated house became a producing farm and a house for my family on weekends. I raised and trained my own hunters (horses) and had a kennel that produced champions in three breeds. We farmed vigorously. Many friends from all over the world enjoyed the farm. The atmosphere of Wolf Trap gave to all a sense of alliance with nature and the spirit of looking ahead. Under the large trees outside the old farmhouse there were countless gatherings for discussions by world leaders and for fun. Wolf Trap gave all she had to those who needed the atmosphere of challenge and hope.
My gift of land and the funds for the Filene Center was accepted by an act of Congress in 1966. Wolf Trap no longer belongs to me--it belongs to the thousands who have attended performances and the thousands of children who have enjoyed their Theatre in the Woods, their Tent-in-the-Meadow in which they have been exposed to various forms of the performing arts--dance, puppetry, plays, opera and music.
These thousands feel they are a part of Wolf Trap. Children were as shocked as their parents the morning after the fire. They initiated projects that very day, quite on their own, and have collected funds from their friends who also feel Wolf Trap is built into their lives. This expresses the possessive feeling of so many. A mother leaving the park with her son saw him drop an empty cup. She stopped and said, "Son, pick up that cup. This park belongs to you." Another mother wrote that her two sons had played in the brook and in the meadow after a morning performance, and that it was the first day in her life she had not had to say "no." That's a sad commentary on the pent-up life of today and the justification for what Wolf Trap can give.
Our staff has been deluged with calls from those who want to rebuild the Filene Center. I cannot afford to rebuild again. Many ask what responsibility for rebuilding the government will take. This has not yet been decided.
Friends across the nation and Europe have telephoned. Mrs. Reagan sent a message before breakfast the morning after the fire. President Reagan telephoned, as did former presidents Nixon and Carter and Mrs. Carter. Beverly Sills, Zubin Mehta, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Van Cliburn, Jerome Hines, Roberta Peters, Pierre Boulez, Elizabeth Taylor and Burt Reynolds are among Wolf Trap's friends who communicated immediately to offer their services. The great opera director of the Hamburg and Paris operas, Rolf Liebermann, cabled:
"Wolf Trap, one of the most intelligent artistic democratizations, is lost. I hope you will find the courage to start from the beginning. Be sure of my assistance if ever you need it."
With President Reagan's appointment of a task force headed by Interior Secretary James Watt and National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Frank Hodsoll, the government has demonstrated concerned leadership. William Bolger, the postmaster general, had already accepted the chairmanship of Wolf Trap's Annual National Fund Drive and is now devoting his efforts to Wolf Trap's Rebuilding Fund. He asks that all donations be addressed: Wolf Trap, Washington, D.C. 20260
With the outpouring of aid to rebuild the theater, it is important to remember that there are many vital aspects of Wolf Trap that are continuing to develop in spite of our present great adversity. The Wolf Trap Company--20 talented young American singers chosen through national auditions--will once more be on hand for a rigorous and respected performance training program and its production of "Regina" will be in August. Our area-wide workshops for Head Start children and their families and a precedent-setting handicapped program continue to receive top priority. The Barns, our newest performing arts facility, will continue its premiere season--making Wolf Trap truly a year-round program. And we have extensive plans for developing our opera program to include courses for technicians, stage designers and others in the performing arts.
Where do we go from here? Forward! In my days of farming, I learned the importance of planning ahead. These basic principles can be translated into our daily lives in so many ways, and I believe we have always applied them in our planning for Wolf Trap.
The challenge issued when Wolf Trap was first created is still being met by the thousands of people who will make the rebuilding of Wolf Trap possible. Messages of concern as well as checks have expressed the deep personal sorrow of so many. That love has already helped to ease my sadness. These make the challenge even more meaningful.
I have said that I feel that in giving Wolf Trap its buildings I gave a challenge to my government and to people everywhere to create for themselves and for others so that Wolf Trap and what it represents may enrich the lives of generations to come.
Little did I realize that the great challenge upon us today would be to build and create Wolf Trap II.