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Who was David Swing?

One of the most striking aspects of the Orpheum are the two monumental murals on the inside walls of the auditorium. The murals depict majestic outdoor scenes, what you might see if you were standing on the veranda of a Spanish nobleman’s villa. At some point during the time the Nederlander Corporation owned the Theatre, both of the murals were painted over in black. Fortunately, the paint proved to be “non-toxic”. During the restoration the murals, painted on canvas, were taken down and sent to the Conrad Schmitt Studios in Wisconsin, where the black paint was removed and the murals were cleaned. They were then mounted on acoustic board and reinstalled in the Theatre. These murals are a wonderful example of the work of David Swing. So, who was David Swing?

David Swing (1864-1945) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in an artistic family; his father was a professor of Greek and the arts at Batavia College in Ohio. Swing was interested in the arts from an early age; in addition to studying painting and interior design, he was also an accomplished musician, playing in orchestras in Cincinnati, and later on in Pasadena and Phoenix.

In the early 1890’s he moved to California, where he owned and operated his own interior design and landscaping firm. He later became President of the Los Angeles Engraving Co.

In 1917 he moved his family to Phoenix. Over the years he secured a number of commissions, painting large murals at Phoenix College, the State Capitol, the Shrine Temple, as well as the Orpheum Theatre. He participated in a number of WPA projects in the 1930’s, including helping design 23 sculptured reliefs for the grandstand at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

In 1939 Swing received a commission (at $3,750) from the state legislature to paint fourteen large (5’ by 10’) murals for Arizona’s exhibit at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. The murals depicted various Arizona attractions, including the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and the San Francisco Peaks.

Swing suffered from diabetes toward the end of his life, and he died in Phoenix in June 1945.


What's Coming Up at the Orpheum - Now & Then


June 2 & 3 - Eddie Izzard

June 4 - Bianca Del Rio’s Rolodex of Hate (Comedy Special)

June 9 - Free Public Tours 12Noon & 1pm

June 20 - Phoenix Metropolitan Chorus “True Colors”

June 23 - Free Public Tours 12Noon and 1pm

July 7 - Rob Bell: Everything is Spiritual Tour

July 14 - Free Public Tours 12Noon and 1pm

July 28 - Free Public Tours 12Noon and 1pm


June 17, 1964

Live on stage: “Wallace & Ladmo (and Gerald)”

Begun in 1954, the Wallace & Ladmo Show ran on Phoenix TV for an amazing 35 years. The antics of Wallace (Bill Thompson), Ladmo (Ladmir Kwiatkowski), and Gerald (Pat McMahon) entertained kids (and their parents) every weekday afternoon. At 9:30pm every Wednesday evening from June 17 to September 2 the trio would appear on stage at the Paramount (it was called the Paramount from 1951-1967) and entertain their many fans.


Support the Friends

Attention Fry’s Shoppers – Donate to the Friends every time you shop at Fry’s, and it’s free. Fry’s is donating $2 million a year ($500,000/quarter) to Arizona non-profits. To participate, go to and register your Fry’s VIP card, and select Friends of the Orpheum Theatre as your non-profit of choice. Remember: your donation is free, and this program is separate from the gas program. Last year, the Friends received nearly $700 from Fry’s. Also: if you are already a member of the Program you have to re-register in August. Just go to the e-mail location shown above and follow the directions to re-enroll.

Give Kids a Boost – It’s often difficult for young children to see what’s happening on stage because they are “vertically challenged.” Now you can help the Friends solve this problem by purchasing a booster seat. The purchase price is $25, and each seat purchased will be labelled with the name of the purchaser. Visit our website, for more information.

Become a Member of the Friends – Join us as we preserve and illuminate the heritage of the glorious Orpheum Theatre. Visit our website to learn more.


Friends of the Orpheum Theatre

A 501c3 nonprofit whose Mission is:

To support the art, culture, and history of the Orpheum Theatre through outreach, education, and volunteerism.

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