Best known in recent years for his close association with Arizona Theatre Company and periodic newspaper articles about his financial interest in the long-running off-Broadway hit, The Fantasticks, Everett King also was an actor.
On television, he appeared in Naked City, the US Steel Hour, Circle Theatre and others. He was a member of Arizona Repertory Theatre and appeared in the company’s productions of Sweet Bird of Youth and The Rehearsal. He played King Henry in The Lion in Winter at Phoenix Little Theatre and Mosca in Volpone at Arizona Repertory Theatre.
Arts philanthropist Everett King, who was instrumental in expanding the Arizona Theatre Company from Tucson to Phoenix, died Saturday of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.
“He saw the value of the work that everyone did in the theater, whether it was the sound-board operator or the director or the guy who cleaned up after the show,” said David Ira Goldstein, artistic director of the theater. “They were all equally treasured.”
When King moved to the Valley in the ’60s to pursue a career in real estate, he had already enjoyed success as an actor and a theater producer in New York. Most notably, he invested $165 in the musical “The Fantasticks,” a huge hit that returned well over $100,000 to him during its 42-year run.
“He claimed it was the last time he ever made money in the theater,” Goldstein said.
Arizona Theatre Company board member Bob Begam said that wasn’t quite true, but agreed that King’s success as a producer didn’t quite match his prowess in real estate.
“We produced a show together with John Houseman called ‘Curse of the Aching Heart,’ starring Faye Dunaway, which we ever after referred to as ‘Curse of the Aching Pocketbook,’ ” Begam recalled.
After moving the Valley, King supported a number of local theater troupes and joined in a series of campaigns to establish a professional company in town. In the ’70s, he joined the effort to expand Arizona Theatre Company into a two-city operation, raising money and donating his own.
“Everett was key,” said David Hawkanson, artistic director from 1974 (when the Tucson company was called Arizona Civic Theatre) to 1985.
“He knew the people in the greater Valley area who had been interested in past attempts to build a professional company. Everyone knew he was passionate about it, and he pulled everybody out of the woodwork.”
King served on the board of directors ever since and supported other local organizations, including the Herberger Theater Center. He also served on the board of the Acting Company, the New York troupe founded by Houseman, the legendary acting coach.
Goldstein said King’s passion for the theater went beyond cheerleading.
“He was the warmest, most outgoing person you could imagine, but also very opinionated,” Goldstein said. “He had great taste, and he’d hold my feet to the fire when he didn’t like something onstage.”
Hawkanson, who is now executive director of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, recalled a story of King loudly “discussing” a production with a director outside a theater.
“Everett was an actor, so when he screamed, it was larger than life,” Hawkanson said. “Everett was almost always bigger than life.”
King is survived by his daughter, Laura King; his son, Everett L. King III; and his former wife, Susan T. King.