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Witness Interview: Dale King, Oxtales assistant director

Wednesday, January 23, 2002 - 10:15 a.m.

The witness, identified as the assistant director of Oxtales Theatre, was interviewed at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department. The interview was conducted by Det. Sam Murphy and Det. Ted Armstrong, and was recorded on a portable tape recorder with the witness's knowledge and consent.

TA = Detective T. Armstrong
SM = Detective S. Murphy
DK = Dale King

TA: Thank you for coming in, Mr. King.

DK: That's okay. I'm glad to help in whatever way I can.

SM: Would you please state your name and address for the record?

DK: Dale King, 2162 South Lamar.

SM: We're trying to piece together what happened the day of Ms. Stover's murder. Can you tell us the last time you saw her and where that was?

DK: That would have been Sunday night when the rehearsal broke up about 9:30, 10:00. I left with some of the cast and Andrea was still there locking up.

SM: Is that the time your rehearsals usually end?

DK: Not necessarily. It depends on how it's going.

TA: And how did it go that Sunday?

DK: It went fine until about 9:30 when people began getting cranky. Andrea just finally said, "That's it, let's give it a rest and start fresh next rehearsal." I think she could see that everyone was getting tired. We'd been at it most of the day. It was getting to the point where it wasn't productive anymore.

SM: Did any one person seem to be causing the problem? That is, was someone acting strangely or out-of-character or angry with Andrea or anything like that?

DK: I don't think anyone acted any worse than usual, but there seemed to be some tension between Frank and Andrea. They used to date you know? I think he's asked her out again since she got out of prison. I don't know how that's been going. I haven't seen them together socially, but that doesn't mean there wasn't something going on between them, if you know what I mean.

SM: That's Frank Tuttle, I gather. Did he date anyone else while she was incarcerated? She was in jail for 18 months, wasn't she?

DK: Oh, absolutely! He's not a monk. In fact, Sheila -- that's Sheila Love -- was pretty hot for him even when he was dating Andrea. I think they had something going when Andrea was out of the picture.

TA: And how about since Ms. Stover was back in the picture?

DK: Well, Sheila doesn't act too happy, but I really don't know.

SM: Could we get back to Sunday, please? Tell us about the theatre company's schedule for the day.

DK: Well, rehearsal started about 1:00 p.m. at the studio. We can use it on Sunday pretty much as long as we want it. It's the best time for everyone to get together since we all have jobs during the week. We stayed at it until the dinner break about 5:30. We'd decided to stay in and have a potluck to save time, so we arranged the food tables, and then sat around and enjoyed the food. By the time we ate and cleaned up it must have been about 6:30 when we got back at it. Then it went on until about 9:30 when tempers began to get short and Andrea called it a day.

TA: Did you see Ms. Stover leave?

DK: No, Detective. As I said Frank, Sheila, and I left at the same time. In fact, we decided to go Murf's. Andrea was still getting her stuff together when we left.

SM: Was anyone else still here with her?

DK: Let's see. Henry Jackson was still around and Owen Norris had come in right at the end to see how we were doing. He was talking to her when I left. I don't remember if anyone else was around then.

TA: So you don't know if she left alone, or if someone left with her?

DK: No, sorry.

TA: Did you know she planned to go to the Oxford Centre that night?

DK: No, Andrea was not apt to confide her comings and goings to me, but she had mentioned recently that the Oxford Centre might be a good venue for our next production. You know, we perform guerrilla theatre style, so we work on the fly. We like to take over public spaces with our productions. Anyway, she said she wanted to check it out some time. I was sort of surprised to hear she'd gone there that night. She wasn't crazy about high places, you know.

SM: You mean she was afraid of heights?

DK: Well, it was funny. She had told us stories of going to high buildings and not being able to look down and having to stay near the building or holding on to the balcony, but she didn't seem to have as much trouble with the first two or three stories.

SM: So do you think she decided to go there on the spur of the moment?

DK: I gave up trying to figure out how she thought or what she was going to do. It's no secret she and I had different visions on the direction we wanted Oxtales to go. I thought she was going off on a tangent with "Snopes" and this new production, "The Trees." But she seemed to think she was doing a great thing for freedom of expression. I argued with her that she could be just as free without being so controversial and outright shocking, but she didn't see if that way. I had argued with her about staging "Snopes," too. A lot of good it did me.

SM: So you think this new production was as shocking and provoking as "Snopes?"

DK: The way she was staging it, yes.

TA: How did Mr. Norris feel about those productions? Wasn't he your main backer?

DK: Oh, he thought Andrea could do no wrong.

SM: But he gave you the directorship when she was sent to prison didn't he?

DK: Yes, and the productions I did were well received. In fact, "Black Boy in the Closet" was critically acclaimed, as the papers say. We did pretty well in the box office too.

SM: How did you feel when she returned and Mr. Norris made her the director again?

DK: I was disappointed, but I can't say I was really surprised. Andrea always was ole Owen's fair-haired girl. He admired what she had done and why she had done it. He paid her $10,000 fine, you know.

TA: You pled out I understand.

DK: I wasn't going to jail for Andrea's ideals. I had my future to consider and I wasn't going to sacrifice it for somebody else's vision. I had my own vision. I got a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. I paid my own fine, incidentally. I wasn't offered any help.

SM: Your own vision. And what was that, Mr. King?

DK: To stage productions of significant social or political importance without the blatant sexuality, nudity and shock value that Andrea embraced.

SM: If your ideals were so different, why did you stay with Oxtales when Ms.Stover returned from jail?

DK: Because I hoped things might turn around soon. I figured with all the hoopla going on with the press, COP and other community groups, that Owen and the other backers would get tired of all the adverse publicity and change Oxtales' direction. Anyway, I like it in Oxford and didn't want to have to go looking for a new job. I have a couple of neat jobs and my garden here so I don't want to move unless I absolutely have to.

SM: Your garden? Is it that important to you?

DK: Don't knock it until you've tried it, Detective. On my income, it's one of the reasons I eat well – and feed my friends too. I'm a pretty good cook, you know. At Your Service Catering thinks enough of my culinary skills to ask me to create dishes for some of their special events. And my friends get me to cook for their parties and such – if I have time.

TA: You do get paid through Oxtales, don't you?

DK: Sure, but not enough to live on. I work at the Garden Center and At Your Service Catering to supplement my Oxtales income. Everybody in the company has at least one outside job. We all have outside jobs.

SM: Where does Oxtales hold their rehearsals, Mr. King?

DK: We have them at the Cotton Exchange building in Taylor. We share the space with a sculptor, but he doesn't use the space on Sunday.

SM: Who is the sculptor you share the space with?

DK: It's Zane Shelnutt. Maybe you've heard of him? He's pretty well known locally.

SM: How did you come to be sharing the space with him?

DK: I'm not sure how or why that arrangement happened. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a cost sharing thing. It doesn't make sense for Oxtales to pay to keep a rehearsal space available 24/7, since our schedules don't allow us to use it nearly that often. From a financial perspective, it makes more sense to share the space with someone else who can make use of it when we can't.

TA: Tell us more about Oxtales, Mr. King, please.

DK: What do you want to know?

TA: Well, how long it has been in existence? Who started it, how long have you been involved? That sort of thing.

DK: From what I understand, it was started by I don't have clue who and when it was started – or why. I think it all started with a grant from the state. I learned about it through Andrea when we were in graduate school at the same time. She became fully involved after her graduation and I came on probably in 1999.

SM: So you and Andrea were friends?

DK: I think the operative word here is were. She was so strong-willed and single minded about her work, it was hard to stay friends when we disagreed about the direction Oxtales was going, especially after the "Snopes" fiasco. She had her ideas and I had mine and never the twain shall meet, as they say.

SM: Then you and Andrea had a history, I take it.

DK: Oh, come on! You know you can work with someone but not be friends. That doesn't mean we had a history. We had healthy disagreements. That's a given in this business.

SM: Do you know of others who had healthy disagreements with Ms. Stover?

DK: Sure, everyone in the company had an opinion. Andrea had the final word, but she wasn't above letting us express our ideas. Then she'd do whatever she damn pleased. That's what the director is supposed to do: direct. Once she made up her mind, I just shut up.

TA: You said something earlier about the press and COP causing some concern. Was there anything specific you can tell us about?

DK: Well, you might look into where Ben Morgan and Claire Windham were the night Andrea died. Morgan's president of COP since their fearless leader, Claire Windham, was elected mayor. She was elected on her campaign to punish so-called unprincipled people like Andrea who Windham said were a danger to the moral values of the youth of Oxford, you know. I'm sure she wasn't happy when Andrea came back into her community. Morgan either for that matter. On the other hand, maybe they were glad she came back so they'd get to harass her and advance their cause.

SM: Speaking of youth, do you know anything about the boys who were involved in the case against Oxtales?

DK: Some teacher friend of Andrea's from the high school sent those kids over to sort of intern around the theatre to get experience. They thought all the fuss was silly. They were exposed to worse than our play in other media. I understand Mark Gable tried to get his parents to lay off. He artistically appreciated what Andrea was trying to do. I don't think the other two really cared one way or another – they just sort of tagged along with Mark. Although one of them, Kurt, I got the impression he was kind of stuck on Andrea back then, but I think that's faded away. Haven't heard anything about him in a while now. Mark's still around though, you know. He goes to the University and is apparently really interested in drama. Frank let him work on a couple of the productions we did while Andrea was gone. And he's still here for "The Trees" too. Fortunately he's an adult now, but I bet his parents still aren't overjoyed that he's involved with Oxtales.

TA: Let's go back to the night of Ms. Stover's death. You say you and Frank and Sheila went out for a beer after the rehearsal?

DK: Yes, that's right.

TA: What time did that break up?

DK: We were there until at least midnight.

TA: And after that where were you?

DK: I went home to bed, Detective. It had been a very long day – and night. I was beat.

SM: Did you see anyone on the way home or at home who can verify that, Mr. King?

DK: You mean I'm a suspect? If I'd had something to do with her death, don't you think I'd plan a better alibi? But to answer your question, no, I don't think anybody saw me, and I was home alone, so I don't have anybody who can verify it. Is that about it, Detectives? I have a job to go to.

SM: That's all for now, Mr. King, but we may want to talk to you again. In the meantime, if you think of anything else, please feel free to call us. Thank you for coming in today.

DK: Sure, any time. Just let me know when so I can coordinate my work schedule.

End interview 10:54 a.m.

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