Our newest special newsletter edition for subscribers is out today, featuring a fascinating artifact that’s tucked away in a non-public area of the Morgan, Walls and Clements’ 1927 Mayan Theatre on Hill Street downtown. (We also have a free newsletter packed with local historic preservation news and musings.)
Starting on opening night, August 15, 1927, and running into the 1930s, stage managers inscribed the name of each show, its stars, whether it was a musical, comedy or drama, and how long it ran, in pencil on a concrete wall. This priceless relic from the golden age of entertainment is protected behind a plexiglass shield. Here are a few of the entries, including actor-director Crane Wilbur’s flop sex comedy Molly Magdalene and Sid Grauman’s smash presentation of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s Hollywood satire Once in a Lifetime.
Happily, the Mayan’s owners love the theater’s history and take great care of the penciled wall and other artifacts. But we worry over how many other cool bits of cultural history have been briefly exposed, and just as quickly destroyed, in the ignorant rush to redevelop old buildings downtown. Not every building has enlightened owners, or sculpted snake gods standing guard!
I have a family connection to the Mayan Theater and was a hired dancer there myself in 1990-91. It was my favorite place to work and hang out in during the 1980’s and 1990’s. One of my relatives performed there and I have a photograph of him with my grandparents, mom, aunt and uncle taken backstage in the 1950’s.
I’ve seen many performances there over the years and it never disappoints.