Stage & Dance

Full-time theater pros moonlight at Studio Players

In Elvis Has Left the Building, the Colonel (Tim X. Davis), center, in need of someone to impersonate the King, demonstrates how it should be done. The comedy opens the season for Studio Players.
In Elvis Has Left the Building, the Colonel (Tim X. Davis), center, in need of someone to impersonate the King, demonstrates how it should be done. The comedy opens the season for Studio Players. Herald-Leader

One of the most admirable qualities of theater professionals is their ability to play multiple roles with ease — and not just the ones onstage.

From directing one show to acting in another to designing sets for a third, many local theater artists routinely wear different hats in different productions.

Eric Seale and Tim X. Davis are two such artists. By day, Seale is artistic director of Actors Guild of Lexington and Davis is the theater coordinator at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

For the next few weeks, they will be moonlighting at Studio Players in the troupe's season opener, Elvis Has Left the Building, a farcical romp about what happens when Elvis Presley goes missing just when his manager needs him most.

Seale directs Davis, who plays the Colonel, a beefy, comedic role that is a f ictional depiction of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis' famous manager.

The duo have worked together several times during the past few years, in creative and administrative capacities. Davis served as AGL board president for 2010-11, a critical period in which Seale retooled and revitalized AGL after it endured a financial crisis and lost its management team.

Since then, AGL has rebounded, moved to a new location and is regularly producing full seasons of programming. And Davis has successfully helped to launch an associate of fine arts program in theater at BCTC, which regularly produces shows, such as next month's world premiere of Beth Kander's Scrambled, winner of the 2012 Southeastern Theatre Conference Getchell award for best new play

For now though, the play really is the thing, and the pair can briefly escape their respective administrative duties and embrace the creative collaboration of a director and actor.

Davis has his work cut out for him as the Colonel, a high-octane, physically demanding role that has him onstage for 90 percent of the production and required him to shave his head to imitate male pattern baldness.

Even though the Studio Players production isn't officially related to his role as teacher, he had his students in mind when he auditioned.

"It had a lot to do with the program and my job as an instructor of theater and an acting teacher in particular," Davis says.

While Davis has become known as primarily a director and teacher, he always considers himself an actor first. Keeping his performance skills fresh is an important part of being an effective acting teacher, but it's hard to make time for that.

"With the full-time duties of being a teacher, directing as much as I have been — and throw in two kids to boot — it's difficult for me to get out and do any acting work," he says.

"I felt like I needed to remind folks that, 'Hey, I'm an actor.' It makes me better able to teach what I'm teaching if I'm out there acting. Plus I jumped at the chance to be in a play about Elvis."

While the play might have Elvis in the title, the King doesn't appear onstage. He is missing, after all. The Colonel is the driving force of the play.

"The Colonel is both the protagonist and antagonist of the show," Seale says.

Davis describes him as "a big, loud-mouth, arrogant Southern male," the kind of larger-than-life character Davis might've encountered growing up in Murfreesboro, Tenn., or at college in Mississippi, where a group of friends regularly hosted Elvis-themed parties.

"I've had a blast," Davis says of his return to acting.

What's more, he can cross one more accomplishment off of his professional to-do list.

"I've never acted on the Studio stage before," he says. "I wanted a chance to do that."