Community Arts Association to present All the King’s Women

Carol Rolf Originally Published February 3, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 1, 2013 at 8:04 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Appearing as White House secretaries in the upcoming Conway Community Arts Association’s production of All the King’s Women are, from the left, Wendy Shirar as Alice; Arlene Biebesheimer as Beth; and Haley Martin as Cathy. These women also have other roles in the play, which opens Friday at the Lantern Theatre, 1021 Van Ronkle St. in downtown Conway.

— Did you know Elvis Presley wanted to buy a BB gun from a hardware store in Tupelo, Miss., when he was 11, but he came home with a guitar instead?

Did you know the King of Rock ’n’ Roll actually visited President Richard Nixon in the White House?

Theater patrons will see these factual situations, as well as others, play out on stage as the Lantern Theatre and the Conway Community Arts Association present All the King’s Women by Luigi Jannuzzi. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again Feb. 15 and 16; and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 10 and 17 at The Lantern Theatre, 1021 Van Ronkle St. in downtown Conway.

The play is a series of scenes and monologues from the 1940s to present day as seen through the eyes of several women who meet Elvis in person. A radio announcer speaks between the scenes, giving the audience a historic glimpse of the past.

“Elvis is not in the show at all,” said Catherine Marhenke, who is making her directorial debut with the local community theater group. “There’s not even any Elvis music in the show.”

Marhenke moved to Conway in 2006 when her husband, Tom, took a position with the University of Central Arkansas Department of Mass Communication and Theatre. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in stage management from the University of South Carolina and is associate director of development for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in Little Rock.

“I interviewed with the [CCAA] Board and pitched some shows that I might be interested in directing,” she said. “They didn’t like the shows I pitched, but they liked me, called me back and suggested this show. I read it a few times and decided I could do it.

“It’s a challenge, but I am having a good time with it. I hope the community enjoys it. It’s got so many pieces and parts to it, and it refers to so many things in history that you’re sure to remember. And the characters are great; you really get to know these women.”

Cast members include Wendy Shirar, Arlene Biebesheimer and Shua Miller, all of Conway; Haley Martin of Russellville; and Christy Thompson of Morrilton.

In one scene, Shirar, Biebesheimer and Martin play three secretaries — Alice, Beth and Cathy, respectively — at the White House, who telephone each other and gossip about Elvis’ visit.

Shirar is also in two other scenes and presents one monologue in the show. She said it’s the monologue that is her favorite.

“It’s a four-page monologue,” Shirar said. “It’s quite a challenge for me. It’s about a young woman, Eve, who meets Elvis in a grocery store and how the meeting changes her life.”

Shirar also plays Allie, an assistant to Andy Warhol, who does a painting of Elvis, and Abbie, who works for Steve Allen, who has Elvis as a guest on his TV show.

“It’s been a year since I’ve been on stage,” said Shirar, who is no stranger to community theater. “The bug bit me again, and I auditioned for this play and got cast.

“I’m very excited about it. It’s a great show. We have new talent. I think the community will like it a lot.”

Shirar works in the human resource department of Acxiom Corp.

Biebesheimer is making her debut with CCAA.

“I’ve been a patron for a while but never an actor,” she said. “I’ve been an enthusiastic audience member until now.”

She has done theater before, in Chicago, South Carolina and Jonesboro. She is also a professional opera singer with 20 years of experience, including performances in Europe.

She and her husband, Jerry Biebesheimer, director of the University of Central Arkansas Public Appearances, moved to Conway four years ago.

Biebesheimer also plays Bonny, an assistant to Warhol, and Barbara, an assistant to Allen. She presents one monologue as the guard at Graceland.

Martin is making her first appearance with Conway Community Arts. In addition to one of the three secretaries, she appears as Cindy, one of Warhol’s assistants, and Leslie, who works in the gift shop at Graceland.

The daughter of Tim Martin and Sheila Jacobs of Russellville, Martin is a 2011 graduate of Russellville High School and a sophomore at Arkansas Tech University, where she is majoring in English with a minor in theater.

Thompson, who has been in several productions with the Rialto Players in Morrilton, appears twice in All the King’s Women. In the opening monologue, she plays the saleswoman who sells Elvis the guitar when he came into the hardware store with his mother to buy a BB gun. Thompson also plays Cynthia, Col. Tom Parker’s assistant in the Steve Allen scene.

“I heard about the open auditions on Facebook,” Thompson said. “I auditioned and was selected. I’m pretty excited about it. This is a great bunch of people to work with.

“I work as a receptionist at Hagans Dodge in Morrilton. I’m just a regular person who loves community theater. I always have.”

Miller has the only male role in All the King’s Women.

“I play Eddie, an Elvis impersonator and Leslie’s boyfriend,” he said. “Leslie works at Graceland, and she is leaving her job. She makes it clear that I have to choose between Elvis and her.

“This scene is the romantic interest in the play. And it’s the only scene that isn’t about a woman who has met Elvis. It’s a short scene, a very neat little scene, set in present-day time.”

Miller, a graduate of UCA and an administrative specialist in the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication, also provides the voice of the radio announcer in the production.

Tickets to All the King’s Women are $12 each. For reservations, which are encouraged, call (501) 733-6220 or email ConwayLanternTheatre@gmail.com.

More information is also available at www.conwayarts.org.

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