Entertainment

Jeff Kingsbury takes first local role in 7 years — and it requires him to hit the road

Lou Perkins (Sara Geiger) avoids a kiss from the Fabulous Harold Ash (Jeff Kingsbury) while her faithful assistant Wednesday (Jordan Richards) looks on, in Bryan Willis’s “Bicycle Noir,” a film noir parody.
Lou Perkins (Sara Geiger) avoids a kiss from the Fabulous Harold Ash (Jeff Kingsbury) while her faithful assistant Wednesday (Jordan Richards) looks on, in Bryan Willis’s “Bicycle Noir,” a film noir parody. Courtesy photo

Seven years after he last appeared on stage in Olympia, Jeff Kingsbury is back.

Kingsbury — longtime artistic director of the now-defunct Capital Playhouse and an Olympia city councilman from 2006 to 2009 — will play the Fabulous Harold Ash, a seductive nightclub singer, in Bryan Willis’s “Bicycle Noir,” a play that will roll across the Capitol Campus for the next two weekends.

Cast, crew and audience will ride their bikes from location to location, checking out some of the campus’s art and architecture as the film noir parody unfolds. (The 6 p.m. Oct. 1 performance will be geared for walkers.)

Kingsbury’s last local role was the narrator in Capital Playhouse’s “Into the Woods” in October 2010, the same month he told the board that the theater he’d founded was in serious financial trouble. Not long after, he and the playhouse parted ways, and the theater closed its doors in 2013.

He continues to make his home in Olympia, but travels often, making his living as an auctioneer for charity galas around the country and using his theatrical gifts doing summer stock at the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer, South Dakota, where he first worked in 1983.

The closest thing he’s had to a hometown gig in recent years has been serving as auctioneer for Wolf Haven International’s annual Wolves & Wine, set for Sept. 30.

His role at Wolves & Wine and other such events includes joking, entertaining and sometimes even breaking into song, but it doesn’t involve the super-fast patter one might imagine. That’s not the stuff of black-tie charity auctions, he said, adding, “I can’t imitate it either.”

Kingsbury will be acting, singing and cycling in “Noir,” but not out of a desire to re-enter the world of South Sound theater. Rather, he’s known and worked with playwright Willis for many years. The two knew one another in high school: Willis went to Capital and Kingsbury to Olympia, and both graduated in 1978.

“Jeff was already a theatrical legend,” Willis said.

They began working together about a decade later, teaming up for projects including “The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy.”

Willis saw Kingsbury as a great fit for the role of Ash. “Jeff is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile, talented actors ever produced by our hometown,” the playwright said.

“He sent me the script, and I read it, and I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it,’ ” Kingsbury said in a recent phone interview. “He writes so cleverly.

“Harold is kind of a cheesy lounge singer,” he added. “It just seemed like a lot of fun.”

Ash is the male version of the classic film-noir femme fatale, Willis said, adding, “All the traditional roles are reversed.” The tough-talking investigator, Lou (Sara Geiger), is a woman, and her attractive assistant Wednesday (Jordan Richards) is a man.

“Noir” made its debut along Olympia’s waterfront in 2015, then was restyled by Open Road Productions for a dinner theater production in 2016 at Pellegrino’s Events Center in Tumwater. Last summer, there was a production in Bellingham.

Because it’s packed with topical references, the show changes each time it’s produced.

The current production, directed by Deane Shellman and supported in part by an Artists Trust grant, adds two scenes with students from the Academy of International Education, which helps college students from Japan improve their English-language skills through theater.

The script leaves room for improvisation and updating, and passersby can become part of the action.

“It’s fun to see what talented people do with the script,” Willis said.

‘Bicycle Noir: A Love Story on Wheels’

What: Bryan Willis’s film noir parody is produced at various spots on the Capitol Campus, so the cast, crew and audience ride bikes from location to location, except for the 6 p.m. Oct. 1 performance, designed for pedestrians.

When: Noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 24 and Oct. 1.

Where: Legislative Building, Capitol Campus, 416 Sid Snyder Ave. SW, Olympia. Meet on the steps on the north side of the building.

Admission: Pay what you can.

More information: willis@olynet.com

Also: Jeff Kingsbury, one of the stars of “Bicycle Noir,” serves as auctioneer for Wolf Haven International’s Wolves and Wine, set for 5-8 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Saint Martin’s University’s Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey. Tickets are $75. Details at wolfhaven.org/wolves-wine/.

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