BACKSTORY: The Bird Cage Theatre was a long time dream of Ghost Town designer Paul von Klieben, but he didn’t live to see it come to fruition. The façade is a replica of the original Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona, with a canvas-covered theatre behind. It opened on June 21, 1954 and presented melodramas for more than 40 years. It is still used today for Christmas shows and other special events.
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These 3 rare photos are from June 1965 and show a young Steve Martin doing some of his first live theater work. As Martin recalls:
"Our American Cousin" ran for a year, and was significant because it’s the play President Abraham Lincoln was watching at Ford's Theater when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. In the middle of our production – supposedly on the correct line – the play was halted and a silhouette of Lincoln appeared with a spoken homage. I’m not sure our play had anything to do with the original by Tom Taylor…for one thing it was 25 minutes long". In the two shot on the left, that's me and Melody Westmoreland, sister to Kathy Westmoreland, a singer for Elvis Presley who wrote a book about her relationship with him.
Although there wasn’t any adlibbing during this comedic melodrama, pratfalls or fateful accidents that garnered a guffaw were often kept in the play for future performances. Martin did two other shows at this theater, including "The Confounded Counterfeiter." In the 1965 exterior shot of the theatre below, Steve pointed out that the calliope on the left was the one that Mae Mennes played to help drum up business before the show. He also noted the misspelled line on the billboard, “Live Entertaiment.” The last shot below at right shows the co-owner of the Bird Cage, Woody Wilson, posing with guest. He’s dressed in his stage costume, which looks like it could have been the inspiration for Dr. Dolittle.
For more Steve Martin photos, see my Steve Martin page.