Wyatt Earp: Live in Kingman

Namesake and great-grandnephew of famed Old West lawman performs a free, one-man play Friday

Wyatt Earp in 1925.

Courtesy/Arizona Historical Society

Wyatt Earp in 1925.

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Wyatt Earp, taken not long before his death.

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Wyatt Earp

A descendant of famous lawman Wyatt Earp will unleash the real stories that Hollywood skipped over in its films as part of the Sounds of Kingman series of historical presentations.

“Wyatt Earp: Life on the Frontier,” featuring Earp’s great-grandnephew, Wyatt Earp, will be presented at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday at Lee Williams High School auditorium. Admission is free; donations are suggested.

Set in the mid-1920s, the bio-drama theatrical show recounts Earp’s adventures on the American frontier, from Arizona to Alaska, as told by an elderly Earp played by his great-grandnephew.

The two-act play is written by the modern-day Wyatt Earp’s wife, Terry.

“People will experience the man instead of the myth,” Earp said in a telephone interview from his Tucson home. “It’s the story Hollywood never told. His life covered a lot more than 30 bloody seconds at Tombstone.”

Earp is best known as the fearless 19th-century lawman from Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas, and principal survivor of the Gunfight at OK Corral in Tombstone, where lawmen killed three outlaws. He was friends with Doc Holliday.

Born in 1848, Earp was an Old West gambler, deputy sheriff of Pima County and deputy town marshal in Tombstone in the Arizona Territory.

He had no children, six brothers and four sisters.

Earp made a fortune in Alaska, raced horses in California and refereed more than 30 professional boxing matches. At age 16, he was part of a wagon train that came to California. These aspects of his life were never portrayed in the movies, Wyatt Earp said.

“You’ll have an opportunity to hear the real story of a man that was very much a mystery and experience the man instead of the myth,” he said. “Wyatt made several fortunes and his wife was a compulsive gambler and helped him spend it.”

True to history

The play was commissioned by Hugh O’Brian, an actor who played Wyatt Earp in a TV series from 1956-63. It was first performed in 1996, and has since been staged across the Southwest and in Europe.

The first act is 44 minutes, and the second act is 28 minutes and 30 seconds. Thirty seconds are needed for the shootout at the OK Corral.

The play begins with Earp coming into a room and finding a reporter who’s jabbing him with questions and low blows about the infamous shootout. Those 30 seconds “plague him for the rest of his life,” Earp said.

He relents in the second act, realizing the ghosts of Tombstone won’t let him rest, and tells how it really went down

“For example, the battle of OK Corral didn’t even happen at the OK Corral. It was in an empty lot nearby. It’s jinglism that Hollywood picked up,” Earp said. “Everything I say is documented to the penny.”

Sounds of Kingman

“Wyatt Earp: Life on the Frontier” is being presented for free at Lee Williams High School thanks to a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and cooperation from Kingman Unified School District.

Karen Lynne, vice chairman of publicity for Sounds of Kingman, said the organization has always strived to grow to the point of bringing in talent from outside the area.

“The time has come to give that a try,” she said. “This is just a step or two above what we provide now.”

Sounds of Kingman was formed in the late 1990s by a group of citizens who were working on Heritage Crossroads, focused on preserving historic downtown.

The organization sponsors a popular series of free concerts in Metcalfe Park are well attended.

In January, Sounds of Kingman brought in Arizona “hipstorian” Marshall Shore to give a presentation on the history of neon lights and their significance to Route 66 at Mohave Museum of History and Arts.

“Lee Williams (High School) is a partner in this,” Lynne said. “They did an amazing job arranging for the auditorium with no cost, which is humungous. That allows us to put it on for free. People can come for free, and that’s one of our main goals.”

It’s also good practice for the drama students at Lee Williams, she said. They’re running the lights and sound system and handling backstage duties. The school’s arts and graphics students are printing posters and programs for the show.

Martha Prumers, in charge of program development for Sounds of Kingman, has been scouring for talent to perform and play here, and was able to secure Wyatt Earp for $1,200, which is covered by the arts grant.