Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gallup's El Morro

We left Williams, AZ, heading due east on I-40 to Gallup in the northwest corner of New Mexico.

It had been awhile since we had visited a town with an old theater that had been or was being restored, but here was the El Morro.

The theatre is currently owned by the city of Gallup, and my phone call to the theatre's office to arrange a visit put me in touch with Beverly Newman, the Theatre Manager.

I arrived just after 1:30 and was greeted by Knifewing, who was responsible for the sound system, stage lighting, and booking the performers. He said they were just about ready to break for lunch.

I asked for 10 minutes, and I quickly moved into the theater when Knifewing agreed to that amount.

As he talked about the restoration process and I talked about other theaters we had visited during our travels, the 10 minutes stretched to 55.

We were joined by Beverly during our tour, and she provided some information about the theater's history. She noted that the Spanish Colonial style theater had been built in 1928 and that much of the present stage of restoration had been completed in 1991.

"We would really like to find some photographs or other record of the murals that were on the walls of the theater. Several people have reported that there were murals, but no one had any records of the type," Beverly sadly noted.

When the theatre opened in 1928, it had a seating capacity of 900, but today it has the capactiy to comfortably seat 471 guests.

The seats were replaced in 2006 with bigger, more plush seats with large cup holders.

"We even have a wall offstage that performers have begun signing after performances," added Knifewing.

"If I had known that when I came in, I would have asked if I could see it," I said.

"Let me show you," he volunteered.

As you can see in the photo, this custom is off to a good start.

Knifewing noted some of the signatures, which I tried to remember, but when he said he knew Willie Nelson and that Waylon Jennings was singing with Knifewing on his (Knifewing's) latest CD, I forgot all the other names on the wall.

My brush with greatness was slight, but I was pleased to have met two people dedicated to giving the El Morro Theatre a new life.

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