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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Through the eyes of a butler

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No matter the president in office, United States constituents always wonder; what is the president really like behind closed doors. One Indiana man found out.

Alonzo Fields was born in 1900, in the all-Black community of Lyles Station, Ind. His father was the leader of the town’s Colored brass band, which further fostered his love for music. Fields left his hometown in 1925 to enroll in the New England Conservatory of Music to pursue a degree in music.

Destiny did not have music in mind when it came to Fields. In 1931 Mrs. Herbert Hoover, remembered a man named “Fields” who had waited on her in the past. She immediately called him to offer him a job as a butler in the White House. Fields would then leave his dreams behind to embark upon two decades and four presidencies as the chief butler and maitre d’hôtel (“master of the hall”).

Fields left White House service in February 1953 and lived to be 94 years old.

Even in his death, Fields’ story lives on, not only in his autobiography My 21 Years in the White House but also through playwright James Still’s “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” showing at the Indiana Repertory Theatre now through May 3.

Using memories and music, Still introduces a parade of characters; presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, and movie stars to audiences.

“As an African-American in the White House, he stood behind four presidents as the country struggled with its complicated history of racism and classism. I remember thinking there was something wonderfully subversive and bold about a one man play whose character hadn’t been allowed to talk on the job. Finally, Alonzo Fields would get to tell his story,” said Still.

As the solo character, actor David Alan Anderson was drawn to do the play because of Fields’ life; the idea of a man from a small town in Indiana who had dreams and aspirations finding himself having to re-route his path to end up working in the White House.

“I thought it was an amazing story and I can identify with it. As an actor and married with kids, we often have to choose odd jobs, go out of town and work. As artists we struggle with always having to make choices about different jobs or hoping and trying to continue to follow our dream despite things that get in the way,” said Anderson.

Although Anderson personifies Fields, audiences are not only promised an enjoyable evening, but a look at history and an inside scoop on U.S. presidents.

For more information, call (317) 635-5252 or visit www.irtlive.com.

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