San Angelo News: The Opening of the City's Performance Hall

Oct 6, 2017

After years of being out of commission, a renovated performance hall is about to be back online. The opening performance at the Elta Joyce Murphey Performance Hall and Stage at the San Angelo Municipal Auditorium will be the city’s symphony on Saturday night.

A crowned jewel of San Angelo’s performing arts scene is again operational.

The ribbon was cut earlier this week for the Murphey Performance Hall following a multimillion-dollar makeover.

City Auditorium, part of the same building that houses San Angelo’s city offices, opened in 1929 and hosted performers such as Elvis Presley, Will Rogers and Hal Holbrook it their heydays. Vaudeville acts regularly graced the stage.

Inside now one sees the same art-deco influence and décor that harkens back to last century. The 320 or so seats have been re-covered, and paintings on the ceiling and walls have been cleaned and touched up. New acoustic panels hang above the stage and the orchestra pit has been redone.

The San Angelo Symphony will open the restored, renovated and expanded space tomorrow night. Future performances include “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” the Vienna Boys Choir and country music sensation Clint Black.

City Auditorium, which closed in 2009, got improvements that include a 17,000-square-foot expansion of the hall’s back-of-the-house area, expansion of the restroom facilities, state-of-the-art lighting and sound system and a restoration of the original 1929 curtain.

Funding for the $16 million was a joint effort by the City of San Angelo and the San Angelo Performing Arts Coalition, which is made up of all of the cities performing arts entities. The funding included private and public funding.

Elected county and city officials, and many who were part of the fundraising effort, including the woman who donated $3 million to the effort were on hand for the ceremony.

Mayor Brenda Gunter told those attending the ribbon-cutting that cultural events like those that will again perform in the hall help unite the community.

“I believe this city hall will be something that unites our community and our city and citizens,” Gunter says. “I am so proud to be part of today and I want to thank every person who was a part of this—who had a voice in this…I know you’re worn out, but I will tell you it’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

With the hall’s opening, the city now has a performing arts complex. Within walking distance and around the corner from the performance hall is the 44,000-square-foot Stephens Performing Arts Center. The performing arts center used to house a Coca-Cola bottling plant and opened in August. It houses the Brooks & Bates Theatre, a Black Box Performance Space, theatre shops, and several Ballet academy studios.

The official name of the space is the Elta Joyce Murphey Performance Hall and Stage at the San Angelo Municipal Auditorium. A San Angelo native, Elta Joyce Murphey McAfee shared with those at grand opening and ribbon-cutting that she is so happy to see the performance hall operational again.

“I have tears in my eyes, I can’t believe how gorgeous it is and I’m so happy to see all of you here,” she says. “Welcome home.”

Executive director of the performing arts complex, Mark Levine, says make-over work of the performance hall included correcting fundamental problems.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of structure underneath the building and it’s understandable. Ninety years ago, how much did we know about the shifting ground and that sort of thing? So there was a lot of work to put in a foundation that was appropriate,” Levine says.

His hope is that all San Angeloans find something at the performance hall that will satisfy them.

“The performing arts center should not be one thing to everyone or everything to one person, it should be something for everyone,” he says.