In Tombstone, gunfights usually evoke scenes of corrals, men falling from rooftops and a lonesome dusty road with gunslingers standing under the beating sun.
But that’s not what Jim Ferguson and Terry Najarian had in mind when they created the new Wyatt Earp Theatre, the only indoor gunfight show in Tombstone.
Wooden benches line the rear of the theater, which opened over Labor Day weekend.
A poker table and old bar create a historically accurate scene, and they’re only a few feet away from where the audience sits.
“The theater aspect is what we were going for,” Najarian said. “It’s more of an intimate seating area so that the people who come in can feel like they are almost part of the show because everything is so close.”
The indoor setting makes sense because traditionally many gunfights happened inside saloons.
The two business owners gambled when they decided to lease the property on Fourth Street for the production. Najarian and Ferguson used their own money for the renovations and furnishings.
So far, business is going “very well,” the owners said.
Najarian attributes the success to his co-workers, an experienced group of gunfighters whom he has worked with for many years. Seven actors make up the theater cast and have been working together for more than eight years through various gunfighting shows in Tombstone.
Larry Toto, one of the actors, said the cast is a close-knit family. “Doc (Najarian) really saved our necks by making sure we all got employed,” he said.
Another actor, Bruce Bliss, said he’s earning more money now than he has in his prior jobs.
The theater offers the only air-conditioned gunfight in Tombstone – perfect to escape the heat. In addition, history buffs seem to enjoy the fully narrated performance because it is strictly historical and without comedy like other shows in town.
“We are easily going to make our money back, and we haven’t even hit the busy season yet,” Najarian said.
The actors said they might increase their now three-a-day show schedule to accommodate guests during the fall tourism peak.
Besides acting at the theater, Ferguson and Najarian partnered about eight months ago to create Tombstone Territorial Productions, a live-entertainment, commercial and filmmaking company. They have used the theater to film two commercials for the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce.
“We expect to be here for awhile,” Najarian said.
Another version of this story appeared in the Tombstone Epitaph.