Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Jinx Junkin

Jinx Junkin

Honored May, 2000






Marion Allworth 'Jinx' Junkin

In high school in Illinois, Jinx Junkin was serving as assistant stage manager for a student play. Despite the impressive title, her job consisted of little more than turning the stage lights up and down on cue. Then she had a revelation: “I suddenly realized, ‘Gee, the actors couldn’t perform if I wasn’t doing this.’ ” It was the start of something big.

Jinx was hooked on theater. Although her surgeon father wanted her to become a doctor, she studied instead at the Goodman Memorial Theater school in Chicago. During World War II she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps, and because of her training she was assigned the “cushy” duty of directing “soldier shows” with 30 or 40 cast members. Many of the productions were large Broadway musicals. That also started something big.

After the war, Jinx moved to New York City, where she wrote for a newspaper during the day and worked in the theater at night. The relentless pace gave her bleeding ulcers, and her doctor told her to go west for a while and take things easy. With a six-months’ leave from her paper, she arrived in Santa Fe in 1954. When time came to return, she did not want to. She decided to do “anything and everything” in order to stay.


In familiar local fashion, Jinx sat galleries, decorated windows, groomed and bred dogs, served as a poll-watcher, wrote pamphlets for a state agency, painted signs, worked as a landscaper, and taught ballroom dancing to local children, who sometimes checked their pistols when they came for lessons. But inexorably she was drawn always to theater.

Now and then she was an extra in movies, and she soon was involved with Santa Fe’s only two theater companies, both amateur. She was a long-serving board member at the Community Theater (now the Santa Fe Playhouse), was its president, and directed numerous productions, including ambitious musicals, such as “Oklahoma!” and “The King and I.” In 1968 she formed “Jinx’s Magic Theater,” to teach children the rudiments of acting. She said she needed more male actors, and “I thought I’d grow some up.”

Continuing to support herself with odd jobs, Jinx proceeded with one of the most remarkable theatrical careers Santa Fe had ever seen. Through the years she instructed more than 2,500 children, not only to develop their acting skills, but also to give them poise, self-confidence and an appreciation of things artistic. Several went on into acting careers, and many more did not--but never forgot the care and support Jinx gave them.

In 1980 she founded her “Theater of Music,” devoted entirely to the shows she loved so well. One by one she ticked off the most famous works from the musical stage: “My Fair Lady,” “The Music Man,” “Oliver!” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gypsy,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Little Mary Sunshine,” “Mame,” “South Pacific,” “Nunsense,” a major encore production of “King and I.” Jinx considered it a challenge to see how many performers she could crowd onto a stage, and always she was sure to include lots of children. In times both tight and flush, she never failed to raise enough money to finance her plays.

While scrounging to make her own living, Jinx became known as a big-hearted, generous friend to people who were down and out, an “angel of mercy” to people with terminal illnesses, a mentor who remembered almost every child she ever taught. When encroaching blindness caused her to withdraw from the active stage, Jinx’s admirers were too numerous to count. A brass inscription in the Armory for the Arts says: “Jinx Junkin--Theater Legend.” “Jinx is (to put it mildly) one of a kind,” said one of a flood of nominations for her to be a Living Treasure. “Loved and cherished by so many,” said another. Another: “What a woman!” And in summation: “Jinx IS theater in Santa Fe.”


Story by Richard McCord

Photo © 2000 Steve Northup