When Kim came home sometime last year and announced he was going to perform Tuna Does Vegas (written by Jason Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard) with his buddy, Jim, at the New Year’s Eve celebration, I sighed. Still reeling from the summer of ’09 and the agonizing task of helping Kim learn a multitude of English verbiage for My Fair Lady, I was not looking forward to that process again. Although, Henry Higgins did survive community theater and Kim lived to play another role on the American stage. In 2012 he was cast in our son Ryan’s directorial debut of Twelfth Night at the Baytown Little Theater (BLT). However, muddling through that swamp of Shakespearean language, Kim once again emerged triumphantly from the pages of old English he recited on stage. After Twelfth Night it was my hope that my talented husband would take a breather and let the younger actors tackle the pages and pages of memorization that one endures in a leading role. What was I thinking? Have I not learned a thing from the 42 years I have known that man?! “Here we go again,” I thought as a cloud of angst seemed to slowly drift overhead.
The one redeeming factor about the Tuna Does Vegas script is that the English spoken is more of the American sort with a southern kick to the accent as opposed to the King’s English. I was confident that Kim could handle the characters’ different speech patterns. Our theater patrons would love watching he and Jim come out in the 18 different costumes and characters they would depict. Having a person like Jim on stage with you can work to your advantage when you are stuck for a line. Kim can ad lib pretty well until that magic word or phrase is delivered in character by Jim. Then, the line pops into his head and the scene moves on. Kim and Jim took on the many parts of Tuna and the play took shape.
By the end of the run, everyone was having fun. During one performance Kim, also known as Inita, was in a playful mood and began to dance around in character during a scene with Jim, aka Helen. Jim began to break character, Carol Burnett style and laugh. As Jim attempted to mask his urge to laugh at Kim’s antics, the audience responded with uproarious laughter. When actors are comfortable in their role well enough to truly be that character onstage, it transmits to the audience and a whole aura of theatrical magic is cast. It was at that moment I thought, “this is great!”
Although, I approached this show with some dread, I have to admit working on Tuna was a lot of fun. Not long into Act One audience members began to forget it was Kim and Jim and enjoyed getting to know the citizens of fictional Tuna, TX. I was one of the seven dressers backstage stripping and redressing Kim pushing him back out on stage throughout the course of the play. Quick backstage changes can really get the adrenaline pumping be exciting fun. Our number one question as we prepared for the next costume change was, “boobs or no boobs?” When my team had fully dressed Kim as Bertha, Joe Bob, Inita, Shot, Elvis, Leonard, or Pearl and sent him back out on stage, we smiled at each other as we felt the thrill of theater. From radio announcers to waitresses, old women to Vegas showgirls, Kim and Jim hilariously brought down the house as they strutted their stuff across the BLT stage at every performance.
In the end I was glad that Kim chose to perform with Jim in this funny, silly play. They brought a lot of laughter and joy to our patrons. The men were great and I had a good time dressing and undressing my husband even if it was with two other women. Kim is a real artist. Learning lines may not come as easily for him as it once did, but he perseveres through the hard work and worry. Seeing it all come together on opening night makes all the labor worth it.
After Tuna closed, Kim alluded to finally stepping back from leading roles, passing those to younger actors with sharper memories. It has been my privilege and delight to assist my husband on several productions he has directed, as well as performing beside him onstage. Whether it be on or off stage, I will look forward to working with him again on another production. I’m proud of Kim’s ability to portray a wide range of characters over the last 40+ years. He is a talented person who can pass his theater knowledge on to the next generation of actors. Now, don’t misread my words here, he is not giving up the stage to observe from the wings. No, he will be on stage again, you can highlight my words. He has not given up the lights, greasepaint, and applause of live theater. Kim is merely taking fewer lines in future plays enjoying his part amongst the leading characters and perhaps directing more plays than performing in them.
As a Drama-wife I may not always play the part of the doting wife, but I hope Kim knows that I am a loyal admirer of what he does and for doing it so well. Good show, Kim!