Merrimack Rep Mounts James Still’s
"Looking Over The President’s Shoulder"

In 1931, Alonzo Fields took a break from his studies at the New England Conservatory of Music to work as a Butler in The White House. He thought the job would last one winter. Instead, it lasted 21 years.

From 1931-1953, Alonzo Fields served as Chief Butler under four presidents, witnessing momentous events in history, both public and private. Before there was "The West Wing" there was Alonzo Fields, whose story is told with warmth and humor in “Looking Over the President's Shoulder” by James Still. MRT will present the Regional Premiere of this one-man tour de force through December 21, 2003.

Bringing the life story of this elegant and dignified man to the stage are nationally renowned director Seret Scott and the highly regarded American stage actor Keith Randolph Smith as Fields.

Alonzo Fields was born in Lyles Station, Indiana, a small, tight-knit community founded by freed slaves. Fields' grandfather had been a slave; his father owned the General Store and directed the only military-trained Black brass band in Southern Indiana. His mother ran a boarding house for railroad workers.

Fields himself held many different jobs as a young man in Indianapolis, working in a packing house, pitching in the Negro Baseball League, running a grocery store and even trying his hand at boxing. But music was his first love and his dream of becoming a great singer never faded - not even through his more than two decades of service under Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower.

Merrimack Rep points out that it was music that brought Fields to this area. After directing the Bethel A.M.E. church choir in his native Indiana, Fields came to Massachusetts to study at the New England Conservatory of Music. To earn money, he took a job in the household of Dr. Samuel W. Stratton, then president of M.I.T. It was through his service there that he first met Mrs. Hoover, who later offered him the White House job. His work brought him into contact with monarchs, Prime Ministers, and labor, race, financial and religious leaders - as well as "Rabble Rousers" and movie stars - many of whom are recalled by Mr. Smith in this entertaining family show.

Keith Randolph Smith returns to MRT, having performed in “Open Window” as the Universal Father. Mr. Smith was seen on Broadway in “King Hedley II” (Kennedy Center), “The Piano Lesson” (Walter Kerr Theatre), and “Salome” (Circle in the Square). His Off-Broadway credits include “Before It Hits Home” and “Jitney” (both at Second Stage); “Holiday Heart” (Manhattan Theatre Club); and “A Soldiers Play” (Valiant Theatre Company).

Seret Scott is making her directorial MRT debut with this production. An Associate Artist at the Globe Theatres in San Diego, she has directed numerous productions including “Crumbs from the Table of Joy”, “The Trojan Women,” “Blues for an Alabama Sky,” “Faith Healer, “Madame Mao's Memories” and “From the Mississippi Delta.” In New York, she has staged productions at the New Victory Theatre, Second Stage and the Young Playwright's Festival. As an actress, Ms. Scott appeared in the original Broadway company of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide” and received a Drama Desk Award for her performance in “My Sister, My Sister.”

James Still has been recognized as one of the nation's leading writers for family audiences and is a recipient of the Charlotte B. Chorpenning Playwright Award for Distinguished Body of Work. Among his plays published by Dramatic Publishing are “And Then They Came for Me;” “Hush: An Interview With America;” “Just Before Sleep;” “Jack Frost;” and his solo piece “The Velocity of Gary (Not His Real Name).”

MRT is located in Liberty Hall, adjacent to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, at 50 East Merrimack Street in downtown Lowell. The theater is wheelchair-accessible and provides state-of-the-art listening devices upon request. For information and tickets, call 978-454-3926.

-- OnStage Boston



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