by Rosemary Ponnekanti for OLY ARTS
One doesn’t have to be an Elvis Presley fan to like All the King’s Women — Director Toni Holm is proof of that. More of a “Beatles person,” as she puts it, Holm is a convert to Luigi Jannuzzi’s 17-actor, seven-scene play that looks at the King through a unique angle: the women whose lives intersected with his. “It’s a really different kind of play,” says Holm, who took on the project after longtime friend and former OLT manager Kathryn Beall, who picked out the play, died in March. “The subject is Elvis, but there’s no Elvis whatsoever (on stage).” Instead we’re presented with scenes and monologues from women in the King’s life, mostly based on true stories. There’s the saleswoman who persuaded an 11-year-old Presley to get a guitar for a birthday present rather than a gun. There are three White House secretaries reacting to their idol as he offers to be an undercover federal agent for President Nixon (yep, it happened). They’re contrasted with the rather-snootier assistants to Andy Warhol, who try to explain modern art to the rock star in a letter. The timeline goes from the 1940s to the present day, right up to a woman who works at the Graceland gift shop.
It’s an opportunity, adds Holm, to offer a lot of good parts — so much so, in fact, that auditions drew around 30 people for the cast, which can be as few as six women and one man (with actors taking multiple roles) or as many as 17. Holm chose the latter. “They were all so good,” she said of her auditioners. “I was really blown away by the talent.” Integrating all those actors, and their separate scenes and very different takes on Presley, is one of the challenges of directing All the King’s Women. “It’s like seven plays in one,” Holm says. She’ll use a minimal set and different platforms to highlight each group of women.
Some reviews have called All the King’s Women a play, not so much about Presley, but about American culture of the time. For Holm, though, it’s about celebrity. “I think it’s a snapshot about how Americans deal with famous people,” she says. “It’s about our reaction.” Whether you’re a Presley fan or not, it offers a whole new perspective on him. “It makes you look at the phenomenon of Elvis in a completely different way,” says Holm, “than all the photos of screaming girls.”
What: All the King’s Women
Where: Olympia Little Theatre,
1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia
When: 7:25 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays;
1:55 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 12-22
How much: $9-$15
Learn more: 360-786-9484 | OLT