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A story of power and corruption

With "All the King's Men," Camelot Theatre tackles the huge and highly engaging issue of how power corrupts even the most well-intentioned of people. The play comes from the 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren. It was made into a movie with Sean Penn in 2006 and fictionalizes the frenzied and tragic life of Louisiana Gov. and Sen. Huey Long, a populist who was swept into the political elite and assassinated as he tried to leave it, says Director Livia Genise.

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," Genise says. "I chose the play because it's a presidential election year and we seem to be living in a time of absolute power."

"All the King's Men" previews at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 1-2, opens Friday, Feb. 3, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 26, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave, Talent. Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets for the Feb. 1 show cost $22, and proceeds will benefit the Medford Rogue Rotary. Tickets for the Feb. 2 preview cost $10. All other tickets cost $22, $20 for seniors and students (except Sunday matinees). A pay-what-you-can performance will be offered at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The play also examines the issues raised by the Occupy movement, Genise says.

"One percent of the nation controls most of the wealth. Like Huey Long, the president today seeks to create jobs and income for the 99 percent through public works projects."

Like many politicians getting into public life, the main character, Willie Stark — based on Long — starts out trying to help people by opposing corrupt insiders who give public projects to cronies, with disastrous results for public safety.

"Over time, Willie gets so disgusted," Genise says. "He is naive, a sucker, but learns how he's been used. He becomes convinced no one is going to do the right things to resolve widespread poverty and despair in the Depression-era South."

In the book and play (but not the movie), the story is seen from the point of view of newspaper reporter Jack Burden (Dayvin Turchiano), an honest journalist with a girlfriend, Cat (Sadie Burke), who gets stolen by Stark, played by Roy Rains Jr.

"Stark is a really juicy character who approaches his goal with a lot of passion," Rains says. "It's not just political power he's after, though that's very seductive. He wants to use political means to help the common people out of their desperate poverty.

"Stark's radical, populist goals — which Long called the 'Share Our Wealth' program — are commendable, given the Great Depression," Rains says. "But I'm not sure about his political maneuvering and Machiavellian approach.

"The play shows that even a person with the best intentions can be corrupted by power. The lesson is: How do we get where we need to be but with the right methods?"

"All the King's Men" is one in a politically minded set — including "1776," "The Best Man" and "Woody Guthrie's American Song" — that Camelot will stage this year.

Box office hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances. Call 541-535-5250 or see www.camelottheatre.org to purchase tickets. Reserved seating is available for an additional $2 per seat.

Left to right: Dayvin Turchiano, Roy Rains Jr. and Cat Gould appear in Camelot Theatre's 'All the King's Men.' - Photo by Steve Sutfin