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Texas is a stage musical produced annually by the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation at the outdoor Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon outside of Canyon, Texas. The show is performed every Tuesday through Sunday from June through August. It was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green.
This family-friendly show is set against an authentic tapestry of history and the show's fictional characters bring to life the stories, struggles, and triumphs of the settlers of the Texas Panhandle in the 1800s. Some of the show's highlights include special fire and water effects. ("For many years," one journalist has noted, "the first act has ended with an explosion of lightning and thunder, a special effect created with a 450-foot length of military-grade detonating cord that stretches from a tree behind the stage partway up the canyon wall.") Also available as part of the visitor experience are backstage tours and catered chuck-wagon barbecue dinners.
- Calvin Armstrong, a young homesteader (role originated by Eddy Thomas, now of Dallas)
- Henry McLean, a wealthy rancher
- Elsie McLean, a visitor from the East and Uncle Henry's niece
- Anna McLean, Uncle Henry's wife
- Dave Newberry, the foreman on Uncle Henry's ranch (originated by Dean Kelly of Amarillo)
- Tucker Yelldell, a Southern gentleman turned gold prospector (originated by Jerry Williams of Canyon)
- Kate Lucas, a former entertainer
- Parmalee Flynn, a neighbor's daughter
- Flip Saunders, a cowboy
- Dude Forbes, a cowboy
- Abel Tatum, a homesteader
- Rachel Tatum, Abel's wife
- Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche Indians
The Watering Hole
Calvin's Farm and Dugout
Girl's Dressing Room
Cowboy's Bunk House
Colonel Henry's Ranch
Palo Duro Canyon
Colonel Henry's Ranch
A Gulch on Calvin's Farm
Colonel Henry's Porch
Kate's Wash Tub
Parlor of Colonel Henry's Ranch
Elsie's Boarding House in St. Louis
The Town of Henrianna
The musical drama deals fictionally with events from Texas history. The story's protagonist is Calvin Armstrong, a young homesteader from the East who seeks to make a living as a farmer in the Texas Panhandle. "Uncle" Henry, a wealthy rancher, is buying land and fencing it off for his cattle. Elsie McClain, Uncle Henry's niece, is Calvin's love interest. Tucker Yelldale, a gold prospector, serves as the play's comic relief.
The story begins with "the rider on the rim" — a cowboy brandishing the Lone Star Flag while riding his horse at full speed only a few feet from the edge of the 800-foot cliff side. The show then kicks off with an overture, featuring dancing and the singing of old Texas favorites. Uncle Henry introduces the characters and provides a brief historical backdrop to the story.
Texas was born in 1960 when Margaret Harper read an article in Reader's Digest about playwright and author Paul Eliot Green. Green had recreated the histories of several regions of America in what he called "symphonic dramas", featuring pageantry and music. Mrs. Harper began corresponding with Green about the land, people, and beauty of Palo Duro Canyon. As Harper reached out to friends and colleagues in Canyon, interest in the prospect of an outdoor theater began to grow, and soon a small group of Canyon families funded the first trip for Green to come from his North Carolina home to the Panhandle later that year. According to those in attendance that first meeting, Green immediately dedicated himself to the project of bringing the history of the High Plains to the stage.
The music, dancing, choreography, and direction of the production came from various departments of nearby West Texas State College (now West Texas A&M University). Many — perhaps most — of the early performers were students at the college, and its director for many years, William Moore, was director of its Branding Iron Theatre.
The Pioneer Amphitheater opened in 1962 performing the western show Fandangle. Texas first came to the theater in 1966, and a version of the show has been performed virtually every year since.
Starting in 2001, the show was edited for greater historical accuracy and to revitalize decreasing attendance. In 2003, a new script, titled Texas Legacies, premiered in 2003 and ran through the show's fortieth anniversary in 2005. In 2006, however, the original Texas returned to the Pioneer Amphitheater by popular demand.
Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation
The show is produced by Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors who give of their time, energy, money, and expertise to preserve Texas Panhandle history through theatre. Families and individuals across the Panhandle and the nation give generously to help make this educational and historical project a reality each season. As well as being an evening of entertainment, Texas serves as an ongoing theater laboratory, educating young performers and technicians from across the United States.
Five members of the Texas cast died in an automobile accident north of Amarillo shortly before midnight on August 12, 2013, while returning from a cast party held south of Dumas. The August 13 performance was cancelled in light of the deaths. Killed were Clinton Diaz, the 20-year-old driver, who was from Amarillo; Andrew Duncan, of Wichita Falls; Amanda Starz, of Timonium, Maryland; Julian Arredondo, of Haltom City, Texas, and Eric Harrison, of Fort Worth. Surviving but injured were their fellow passenger, Timothy Johnson of Portland, Oregon; and another driver, Theron Arthur McSay of Fort Collins, Colorado. Diaz's vehicle struck McSay's tractor-trailer rig as Diaz was turning from FM 119 onto U.S. Highway 287. The Texas Department of Public Safety said that alcohol was a factor in the crash.
- Green, Paul. Texas. New York: Samuel French, Inc., publisher, 1966. ISBN 978-0-573-61641-9. At Samuel French (catalog of plays): "Texas | Samuel French". Retrieved September 27, 2015.
- The Texas Observer; Austin, Texas; July 13, 2015. "Reinventing Texas: History Takes the Stage in Palo Duro Canyon", by Robyn Ross. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
- "DPS releases names of 'Texas' cast, crew killed in Dumas wreck: Troopers say alcohol was a factor in crash". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2015.