“TEXAS” was born in 1960 when Margaret Harper read an article in Reader’s Digest about a playwright and author named Paul Green. Mr. Green had recreated the history of several regions about the nation in tremendous dramas with pageantry and music. Mrs. Harper wrote to Paul Green at his home in North Carolina and began corresponding with him about the land, people, and beauty of Palo Duro Canyon. As she 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 Paul Green to come to the Panhandle later that year. According to those in attendance that first meeting, Mr. Green immediately dedicated himself to the project of bringing the history of the High Plains to the stage. The support organization expanded to include Amarillo and all the surrounding area. The initial fundraising effort in 1961 was followed quickly by a more aggressive campaign in 1962; these early efforts to raise capital and generate resources were chaired by Mrs. Mary Miles Batson, herself a descendant of a pioneer Panhandle cattle and ranching family. Together these energetic and visionary people of the plains organized the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation.
The show benefited in the early years from the support of people like Pete and Wanda Gilvin. Known throughout the state, Mr. Gilvin served on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. His stature in the halls of government, alongside his commitment to the show, provided a clear path to the initial construction of the theater. As Paul Green continued to travel to the Panhandle and conduct his research, the volunteers of the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation expanded their reach to extend to a large number of folks in the area. Not content to sit and wait, the Foundation staged a sound and light show in the theater in the summer of 1965. Bill Rhew and Joe Batson designed a technical installation and produced a show to demonstrate dynamics provided within the setting of the Palo Duro Canyon. Interest and momentum increased as “TEXAS” opened on the stage of the Pioneer Amphitheater in the summer of 1966.
The Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation is organized as a nonprofit organization and is governed by an all volunteer Board of Directors who give of their time, energy, money and expertise for the benefit of this effort. Second and third generations of supporters are committed to the preservation of the panhandle history through theatre. Families and individuals across the Panhandle and the nation give generously to help make this great educational and historical project a reality each season.
Significant opportunities exist to support the goals of the foundation. As well as an evening of fine entertainment, “TEXAS” is an ongoing theater laboratory educating fine young performers and technicians from across America.
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