One of Michigan's most prominent actor-directors, Arthur Beer, saw a little bit of his life on stage March 30-April 2, when The King Korn Trio, his play drawing on his first adolescent brush with show business, opened in a staging by The Theatre Company in Detroit.
Beer, a director, actor and professor with the University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Company, a semi-professional troupe highly regarded by critics, plumbed his memories from 40 years ago, when he was a teenager seeking show business fame with his high school pals.
"The King Korn Trio is the story of how myself and two of my high school buddies broke into show business when we were completely innocent of any theatrical know-how or even life skills," Beer told Playbill On-Line. "In 1951, we started doing a record pantomime routine using Spike Jones records, auditioned for the Ted Mack [amateur] show, which was in Detroit for a benefit, were chosen, were asked to New York and, suddenly, in the busiest month of my life -- band festival, senior play, spring concert, operetta -- appeared on television and became very famous...in Warren, MI."
He explained, "We lost in the voting and thought it was all over, and then were asked to be in a USO tour of Europe that summer -- being paid, belonging to the union. A bizarre turn of events for three kids with no experience or discernible talent."
King Korn, which Beer directs, tells of family life and teenage showbiz fantasies. Entertainers Ted Mack and Dennis James are characters. Beer's wife, actress-director Mary Bremer, plays his mother. "I began writing The King Korn Trio last spring at Mary's request," Beer said. His father is played by David Jeffries. A cast of 22 juggles 35 roles and six songs. Beer said local audiences will get all the references, but wonders if it has a life beyond Michigan.
Beer did not end up becoming a showbiz specialty-act clown, but a respected director, playwright and actor whose work has been seen at the Attic Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre and elsewhere throughout Southeastern Michigan.
Performances continue to April 16 at McAuley Auditorium on the U-D Mercy's Outer Drive campus. Call (313) 993-1130 for information.
-- By Kenneth Jones