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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Sun King Davis

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Sun King Davis
Sun King Davis

Today's subject Sun King Davis is currently living his theatre life onstage in Rorschach Theatre's world premiere play Forgotten Kingdoms by Randy Baker. The production continues through May 21st at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

Sun King's past performance credits demonstrate the versatility of this very talented actor. He's been seen in Trevor, Now Comes the Night, and Take Me Out at 1st Stage; A Man for All Seasons and Richard III at Next Stop Theatre Company; Othello and King John at WSC Avant Bard; Henry V and Richard II at Shakespeare Theatre Company; and Glengarry Glen Ross at Keegan Theatre. He's also appeared in many readings for First Draft.

Sun King Davis also has extensive carpentry skills, which have benefitted various theatre companies around town. This skillset also helps immensely in his regular day gig position as the facilities manager of S and R Foundation.

A world premiere play, an actor that commands the stage every time, and a company that keeps turning out high-end work in a winning combination to be sure. With the DC Streetcar now running down H Street, it's that much easier to get over to Atlas and see this world premiere play. Check out Sun King Davis and company in Rorschach Theatre's Forgotten Kingdoms this week if you can.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Sun King Davis
A very early career picture of Sun King Davis as Salieri in Georgetown Day High School's production of Amadeus.

Was there a specific person that you acquired your love of performing from, or was it something you always knew you would be doing for a profession?

Acting and theatre is something I've always gravitated toward, though I didn't consider it as a profession until looking at colleges. But there have always been people who have led me astray - I mean, towards acting. Mark Jaster taught me the joy of simple movement. Rebecca Rice and Jennifer Nelson taught me to love cooperative effort. Both before I was ten. My high school biology teacher, Bill George, taught me to love learning and cast me as Salieri and Henry VIII. Leslie Kobylinski directed me in my second professional show in DC and is a mentor to me still. Then there is my mom who never scoffed or doubted the idea of wanting to be an actor. All these people and many more fostered my love for the stage. I'm sure most actors would tell you, most artists of any kind, this sort of life takes a great deal of support and nurturing.

What was your first professional acting job in the DC area and what do you remember most about that show's opening night?

The Revenger's Tragedy with Washington Shakespeare Company at the Clark Street Playhouse. I had two lines. The show was a blur, but I vividly recall later at the opening night party, talking to a young lady, not in the cast, but a fellow actor. I introduced her to someone by the wrong name, that she already knew. All in all, it's a painful embarrassing memory... thanks for dredging that up...

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Sun King Davis
L-R Rizal Iwan and Sun King Davis in Rorschach Theatre's production of Forgotten Kingdoms. Photo by Jennifer Knight.

Can you please tell us a little bit about your current show Forgotten Kingdoms and also something about the character you play in the show?

Forgotten Kingdoms takes place on a small island in Indonesia, where David has brought his wife and son on a two-year Christian missionary trip. It's a beautiful ensemble piece, in which David's action centers around his relationship to his wife (played beautifully by Natalie Cutcher) and to Yusef (Rizal Iwan, an amazing talent Rorschach brought from Jakarta to play his part), the skeptical son of the island's Penghulu he is attempting to convert. All this is set on the porch of a ramshackle house on stilts over water at the end of a jetty. At its heart, I believe it's a play about the faith we have in the stories we tell ourselves. David believes very deeply, which brings him a surety in what he is doing there, a surety not entirely shared by his wife. Yusef arrives with questions, he believes in explanations, and wants answers. That is... until, in very Rorschachian fashion, the roles become reversed. Perhaps it's magic. Maybe it's just the story we told ourselves... but what if there's magic in that?

What was it about Randy Baker's script that attracted you to the show?

I've always been drawn to difficult characters. From Kippy in Take Me Out, to Joe in Killer Joe, to David in Forgotten Kingdoms. I find myself often asking of my roles, "Am I the hero or the villain? The protagonist or the antagonist?" And that is true of this role. I also seem to be drawn to new works. But to be totally honest, Rorschach Theatre does incredible work, amazing world building and audience transporting theatre. For years, I've wanted to be a part of one of their shows. When they offered the role, I accepted before I'd even finished reading the play.

You have performed in a fair amount of Shakespeare's plays. What is the one role you have not performed yet, that you would most like to play?

Benedick in Much Ado has always been a dream role of mine. I love his journey from sarcastic bastard to enamored sot to finally a wiser and humbler fellow (in one monologue). And it sure would be nice to play a happy ending for a change. But a very close second is literally any role in Julius Caesar. I can't exactly explain why, but over the past couple years that show has obsessed me more and more. I guess Antony if I got to take my pick.

You have also directed productions in and around town. Some directors like to cast themselves in one of their productions. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Would you ever want to be cast in a show that you were also directing?

No, I feel like the two roles are very different. And I love both acting and directing, but for very different reasons. As an actor, I get to focus on a single character, why he is who he is, wants what he wants, how is he going to get it. As a director, I get to create an entire world, set the rules, define the space, and set actors loose in it. I do feel that both have made me see the other side clearer, its opportunities and its limitations. So at least for now, each is rewarding enough that I wouldn't want to mess up the chemistry. That said... I have found little ways to Hitchcock myself into some plays I directed, like doing one of the voice overs for Kung Fu Movie Maccers segment in 43 ½; tGDoST.

What is next for you after Forgotten Kingdoms?

As I mentioned before, a career in the arts takes a lot of support, often financial in nature. I recently was offered an opportunity, which is allowing me to begin to pay back and perhaps soon pay forward some of the support I've received. After Forgotten Kingdoms, it will preclude me from major projects for... a while. But I shall return, hopefully with new stories to tell. In the meantime, I am still working with Leslie Kobylinski, as narrator for her new play reading series, First Draft. Like I said, drawn to new plays. But for the time being, you'll see me in the theatre, but it will likely be as an audience member.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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