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What did Oxtales' assistant director think about their controversial productions?

Thursday, January 5, 2017 – 11:00 a.m.

Dale King was the assistant director of Oxtales Theatre when Andrea Stover was alive.

Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.

Participants:

  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Dale King

Detective Armstrong: Thank you for coming in, Mr. King.

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

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

Dale King: Dale King, 2162 South Lamar.

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

Dale King: 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.

Detective Murphy: Is that the time your rehearsals usually end?

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

Detective Armstrong: And how did it go on Sunday?

Dale King: It went fine until about 9:30 when people started 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.

Detective Murphy: Did any one person seem to be causing the problem? That is, was someone acting strangely or angry with Andrea or anything like that?

Dale King: 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.

Detective Murphy: Frank?

Dale King: Frank Tuttle, her ex.

Detective Armstrong: Did he date anyone else while she was incarcerated? She was in jail for 18 months, after all.

Dale King: 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.

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

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

Detective Murphy: If we could get back to Sunday, tell us about the theatre company's schedule for the day.

Dale King: 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 had a potluck to save time, and by the time we ate and cleaned up, it must have been about 6:30 when we got back at it. We went on until about 9:30 when tempers began to get short, and Andrea called it a day.

Detective Armstrong: Did you see Ms. Stover leave?

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

Detective Murphy: Was anyone else still here with her?

Dale King: 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.

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

Dale King: No, sorry.

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

Dale King: 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 sometime. I was sort of surprised to hear she'd gone there that night. She wasn't crazy about high places, you know.

Detective Murphy: You mean she was afraid of heights?

Dale King: 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.

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

Dale King: I gave up long ago 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.

Detective Murphy: You didn't agree?

Dale King: I argued with her that she could be just as free without being so controversial and outright shocking, but she didn't see it that way. I had argued with her about staging "Snopes," too. A lot of good it did me.

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

Dale King: The way she was staging it, yes.

Detective Armstrong: How did Mr. Norris feel about those productions? Isn't he your main backer?

Dale King: Oh, he thought Andrea could do no wrong.

Detective Murphy: But he made you the director when she was sent to prison, didn't he?

Dale King: 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 at the box office too.

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

Dale King: I was disappointed, but I can't say I was really surprised. Andrea always was ol' 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.

Detective Armstrong: You pled out I understand.

Dale King: 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.

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

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

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

Dale King: Because I hoped things might turn around soon. I figured with all the hoopla going on with the press, and COP and the 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.

Detective Murphy: Your garden? Is it that important to you?

Dale King: 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.

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

Dale King: 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.

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

Dale King: 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.

Detective Murphy: Who is the sculptor you share the space with?

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

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

Dale King: 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.

Detective Armstrong: Tell us more about Oxtales, Mr. King, please.

Dale King: What do you want to know?

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

Dale King: 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 2014.

Detective Murphy: So you and Andrea were friends?

Dale King: I think the operative word here is "were." She was so 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.

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

Dale King: 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.

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

Dale King: 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.

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

Dale King: 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 could use her again to advance their cause.

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

Dale King: 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.

Detective Murphy: What about the other two?

Dale King: 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, Benny, I got the impression he kind of had a crush 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.

Detective Murphy: Around Oxtales?

Dale King: Yeah, 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 us.

Detective Armstrong: 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?

Dale King: Yes, that's right.

Detective Armstrong: What time did that break up?

Dale King: We were there until at least midnight.

Detective Armstrong: And after that where were you?

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

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

Dale King: 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.

Detective Murphy: 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.

Dale King: Sure, anytime. Just let me know when, so I can coordinate my work schedule.

End interview 11:39 a.m.

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