Young Victoria playwright brings hit production 'The Hot Comb' back to town
June 24, 2011 at 1:24 a.m.
Updated June 25, 2011 at 1:25 a.m.
The name Robert King Jr. has long been synonymous with audience-captivating productions.
As children, King along with friends and cousins spent much of their free time putting on neighborhood plays, complete with backdrops provided by nature, wardrobes courtesy of their parents' closets and vocal talents honed at children's choir rehearsals at Bloomington's Morning Star Baptist Church.
Even though admission to the plays were free and seating was BYOC - bring your own chair - King's plays were nonetheless, a big hit among audience members, which admittedly, mostly consisted of friends and relatives.
"They were shows we would throw together in the backyard," King, a Victoria native, said between laughs. "There was no general story line on any of the stuff we did."
Unbeknownst to him, those low-budget shows were the predecessors of bigger productions to come.
Founder of Robert King Jr. Entertainment, King, 23, considers himself a jack of all trades, specializing in play writing, directing, acting and producing.
King's plays, which are still receiving rave reviews, are now seen by larger audiences in conspicuous venues including Austin's Gemini Playhouse and Victoria College's Johnson Symposium Center, and soon to be added to his repertoire, The Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive.
Robert King Jr. Entertainment will debut its revamped version of King's hit production, "The Hot Comb," at the Fine Arts Center on Saturday.
"It's a ministry to women. The whole show takes place in the storms that women go through and their struggles with different situations," said King. "I feel like Victoria is going to like it because for one, I rewrote it so it takes place in Victoria and talks about some of the local landmarks such as The Shady O and Mumphord's."
The play centers on character Michelle Mitchell, a single African-American mother, who is going through trials and tribulations in her personal life.
However, Mitchell finds solace in the Hot Comb Salon, where the gossip is always hot and customers can get their life and hair straightened in one place.
Other staple characters in the play include the flamboyant nail tech, the ghetto girl and the desirable air conditioning repair man who everybody is trying to hook up with.
"When you step into the Hot Comb, be ready for laughs, drama and anything else you would feel when you walk into a beauty shop," said King.
"The Hot Comb" features notable actors Aaron Spivey-Sorrells, of the TV series "Friday Night Lights"; Bunny Washington, of VH1's realty show "Fantasia For Real"; and Judy R. Arnold, star of Zach Scott's production of Rockin' Christmas Party.
"They just came to me," King said about his cast members. "It was all God."
King, a 2006 Memorial High School graduate, was heavily involved with the local acting scene while in Victoria, often performing in middle school plays and University Interscholastic League one-act play competitions.
He also performed backstage and acted in several Victoria Community Theatre plays starting at age 11.
Hoping to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry in 2005, King founded his first production company Rising Star Entertainment, which is now defunct.
From 2005 to 2008, his company, which consisted of a group of 20 local actors and actresses, performed several plays in Victoria including "Is that yo mama", "How I got over", "A Hallelujah Christmas", "Eviction" and an earlier version of "The Hot Comb."
"All the shows didn't sell out, but I continued on," said King.
The young playwright left Victoria in 2008 for Austin so he could hone his acting skills and improve his networking opportunities.
King's acting credits have included "Big Rover" and the role of Hoke in the Austin stage performance of "Driving Miss Daisy," for which he received the Hill Country Community Theatre's Best Leading male award in 2008.
Dr. Pepper and Snapple salesman by day and director by night, King founded his current production company in April, with a focus on performing what he described as "inspirational comedies."
"I think it's more beneficial to inspire someone. You can turn on your TV and see a romantic comedy, but to inspire someone is to change the path that they might be going down," said King. "If you can't get 1,000 people to go into church, but you can get them to go into a theater, that's still ministry."
King's talents have not gone unnoticed.
"He has grown tremendously from the time he started out," said Kevin Gaskin, a mentor to King who has known him for 12 years." He was not your normal teenager who would go home play on the computer, watch TV or go outside and do nothing."
He continued, "To watch him grow, I know that has been because of life experiences."
Additionally, his production company members are thankful for the opportunity to work with him.
"I just think he's very talented. I've seen doors open for him," said Brandon Edwards, 29, who plays the character of Buster in "The Hot Comb." "I'm excited for him. It's like a father watching his son."
Other Victorians associated with the play include Kimberly Washington, production manager for King's entertainment company, and local actor Raymond Yancey, who will assist backstage.
King's future plans include going to college, turning "The Hot Comb" into a film, making a bigger name for himself in the entertainment industry and most importantly, continuing to inspire others.
"I hope to get to the same caliber as David Talbert, Tyler Perry and Shelley Garrett," said King.