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Located on Gillis Street, stands the newly constructed Stephens Performing Arts Center, a beautiful space that provides a new home for the arts of San Angelo.  When staring at the center, it is difficult to fathom that the building was once the old Coca-Cola warehouse before a group of performing arts enthusiasts came together with an idea that would change San Angelo for the better.

Several years ago, this group of people wanted to establish a better place for a more consistent environment for the Angelo Civic Theatre.  The theatre was in a bit of disarray. Rather than putting in some money here and there to fix issues, they thought it would be great if there was a venue available for ACT that was brand new. This organization got together to scope out a good facility for that.  Upon further discussion, they thought it would be great if all the arts groups could have a home they could call their own, where all kinds of performances could be available to the community.  This idea for a place with one centralized box office that people could visit to purchase tickets to any of those productions grew in popularity, with several different organizations expressing interest.  

When the old Coca-Cola building was discovered, the location made perfect sense, being right by the city auditorium. They realized the city auditorium needed work as well.  Plans started being discussed for the conversion of the warehouse building into a small theatre, complete with offices for the arts, along with giving the city auditorium a much needed upgrade that would allow it to bring in larger shows.

Image by Ken Grimm

It took a few years and lots of hard work to coordinate and fundraise for the project, with most of the money raised privately, but the goal was accomplished, and the renovations were completed.  Mark Levine was hired as the Executive Director for the Performing Arts Center, with the charge of bringing in touring for the performing arts that had not been available before. 

“Right before I began, the community started getting regular concerts at the coliseum and sort of a burst of touring events and live entertainment in general. Now there are regular tours coming through San Angelo, along with the shows provided by BE Theatre, the San Angelo Symphony, San Angelo Broadway Academy, Angelo Civic Theatre and the San Angelo Civic Ballet and more. There is a plethora of arts and entertainment,” says Levine.

San Angelo Civic Ballet is a tenant in the building and provides regular weekly classes. There are several dance studios, along with a Pilates studio and scene shops. The rest of the complex is made up of storage areas, dressing rooms, a hospitality room, the box office, a 300 seat theatre, and a black box performing space, which is an empty black room designed to put any kind of event into the space.

“You can purchase tickets to any performance located here or in the city auditorium, now the Murphy Performance Hall,” explains Levine.

The first touring presentation at the Murphy Performance Hall will be the Vienna Boys Choir on November 1, 2017.  Over 30 productions are slated for the Performing Art Center’s full season.  Several of those productions will offer multiple performances.

In an effort to involve more of the community, the Stephens Performing Arts Center offers special package deals to many of these shows.  These special deals provide a discounted rate to the shows, as well as allow people to purchase tickets to shows before they are available to the general public. One such package is the Family 4x4 Package.

In regards to the family performances, such as, Call of the Wild, which was the theatre’s very first touring presentation, Levine shares, “Getting kids to see a show, appreciate a performance and want to read the book afterwards, is one of our biggest accomplishments in bringing in these types of performances.”

Other family performances coming up soon include, Alice in Wonderland and The Great Gatsby, both scheduled for March of 2017.

The Elta Joyce Murphey Performance Hall and Stage

Creating a beautiful space for the arts

Photo: Ken Grimm

Elta Joyce Murphey McAfee will forever be praised for her contributions and desire to see the arts continue to hold a place in San Angelo.  All who have the pleasure of experiencing a play, symphony or ballet at the historic City Auditorium, which reopened its doors in early October after being closed for about eight years, will now do so at the Elta Joyce Murphey Performance Hall and Stage at City Auditorium, named in her honor and family’s legacy.

 

WHO? WHAT?

The who is Amy Lindemann.  The what is that she restored, painted, stenciled, plastered, sculpted, carved, caulked, reshaped, molded, bonded, and casted every ornate fixture, cornice, medallion, and trim made out of plaster and paint from ceiling to every wall in the entire auditorium on a 50 ft. lift and scaffolds wearing a harness and a hardhat every day!  That’s quite a job to bring the past back to a vibrant and beautiful status.  Our hats off to you, Amy.

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