Founded in 1946, Santa Monica’s Morgan-Wixson Theatre is the oldest theatrical organization in the city. Originally known as the Santa Monica Theatre Guild, its first home was the Miles Playhouse. It was located on Lincoln Blvd, in what was formerly called “Lincoln Park”. The Miles was constructed in 1929 after former City Councilman, J. Euclid Miles and his wife Katherine bequeathed $25,000 upon his death for the construction of a “public recreation hall for the young men and women of the city” and dedicated it to their daughter Mary A. Miles. This facility still exists today.
In 1950 the group moved to an abandoned naval facility at 5th Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, near what is now the Muir/SMASH School site. (See the picture above.) Community members converted the building to the Ranch Playhouse, later renamed the Morgan Theatre in honor of prominent Santa Monican, Geoffrey Morgan, who had helped to secure the site. For many years the Morgan Theatre was the primary source for live theatre entertainment in Santa Monica. Then, in 1962, a fire destroyed the building. Fortunately the organization had been thrifty over the years and in 1965 it could purchase a bit of land on Pico Boulevard. Construction of the new theater began in 1966. And over the next several years, using mostly membership and volunteer labor, the fundamental building that you see today was constructed. The local theatre community could once again have its very own non-profit theatre. In 1979 it was renamed the Morgan-Wixson Theatre (MWT), after the death of dedicated member Mel Wixson, who passed away shortly after performing on the new Morgan stage.
From the theatre’s inception the theatre’s Board of Directors has always managed and personally run all of the facility and programming activities. And over the many decades they have proposed, initiated, and supervised several important improvements and additions to the facility – as well as to the programming. Today the theater facility is a two-building compound with a 200-seat, Proscenium House, complemented with a fully functional Lobby, Concession Area and Gallery. In addition there are several production support areas within the compound, including dressing rooms, prop storage rooms, and costumes and construction shops. The Board is dedicated to doing their utmost best to be a good steward for this valuable legacy that has been handed down from our inspired and dedicated founders!
To see more images of our early history, please click here.
In 1947 our theatre saw a very young James Dean on our stage in, THE ROMANCE OF SCARLET GULCH. In 1955, the popular TV comedian on “The Carol Burnett Show”, Harvey Korman, appeared on our stage in HAMLET. Our revival of the play, GREEN GROW THE LILACS, the basis for the revered American musical, OKLAHOMA, featured music composed by a young Rod McKuen. Joyce DeWitt was “discovered” and cast in Three’s Company when she starred in SWEET CHARITY at the Wixson. More recently, MWT hosted David Mamet, who conducted rehearsals for the world premiere of his new play, DOCTOR FAUSTUS. As well, children’s musician Dan Crow, recorded his live album “Oops!” at our facility.
To see more images of our earlier productions, please click here.
The MWT is a busy enterprise, structured around a diverse annual season of Mainstage plays and musicals for general audiences. Recent Mainstage productions have included August Wilson’s, FENCES; the British farce, CAUGHT IN THE NET, by Ray Coony; the Jewish memory play, CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FATHER, as well as many, many musicals, such as, A CHORUS LINE, URINETOWN, WESTSIDE STORY and THE SECRET GARDEN. Our Youth Education/ Entertainment Series (Y.E.S.), which strives to engage young audiences and train young talent, was selected as Outstanding New Children’s Theatre Company in the nation in 2008 by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education. Y.E.S. productions are based on children’s literature, such as Eleanor Estes’, THE HUNDRED DRESSES, Barbara Parks’, JUNIE B. JONES, James Thurber’s, MANY MOONS, and Madeleine L. Engels, A WRINKLE IN TIME. Y.E.S. partners with many local teachers to support literacy, by offering affordable field trips so that school children, often for the first time and connected to the books which they read in their classrooms, can see a real-life play in a real theatre!
The building is also the home of long-time tenant KIDS ON STAGE, which offers creative dramatics classes for youth in the general community. In testament to our commitment to multi-cultural outreach the Morgan-Wixson is also a favorite rental venue for popular Persian and Flamenco music and dance performances.