Rival Armed Gangs at Odds Again in Tombstone
Arizona, OK Corral, Reenactors, Regulation, Tombstone
This time it’s reenactors battling over turf.
[T]hree years ago, a stranger rode in and vowed to shake up what he considered a moribund tourist trap. A showdown ensued between Tombstone residents who wanted to keep the streets as calm as possible and thespians with higher aspirations.
Stephen Keith, a onetime regular at Renaissance fairs who can hold forth on the similarities between the 1993 movie “Tombstone” and Wagner’s “Ring” cycle of operas, founded the Tombstone Huckleberry Players. They were not content to simply re-create the shootout under a tented space inside the O.K. Corral. Instead, hoping to build a crowd for a new late afternoon show, the actors would walk down Allen Street, performing skits in character and leading tourists to the performance space.
Keith acknowledged there was resistance. Locals, he said, with no theater experience didn’t like seasoned actors taking their favorite roles.
“Every old guy who retires and ties his white ponytail back and puts his name on his pickup truck comes here to be Wyatt Earp,” said Keith, 49, who plays Doc Holliday. “I know how to work a crowd. I’ve been in theater for 32 years. This is what I do.”
For more than a year, this town of 1,500 allowed the Huckleberry Players to do their act. But in November, a new mayor was elected, and he appointed Talvy to enforce the letter of the law.
Mayor Dusty Escapule said complaints were coming in from merchants at one end of Allen Street whose customers were being swept up by Keith’s troupe, and from rival gunfighter groups, who said the Huckleberry actors were pulling customers away from their shows.
So the City Council invoked a 1973 law that required a permit for streetperformances, and promptly turned down Keith’s application. In January, Talvy issued his first citation. Four of the players faced misdemeanor charges that could lead to a maximum $600 fine and two years in jail. …
“You know, small-town politics,” one local woman finally said apologetically before reverting to character as a 19th century showgirl. Many cite the curse an Indian is said to have placed on the settlement more than 100 years ago — that there will never be two white men who live together here in peace. “It looks,” Escapule said, “like the curse is still in effect.”