'Shoulder' offers peek at White House life

— Imagine being the chief butler at the White House for 21 years. Imagine the notes on the presidents and their goings-on that you could jot down in a little spiral notebook while no one was looking.

That's the foundation of Kansas University alumnus James Still's "Looking Over the President's Shoulder," playing at American Heartland Theatre.

The one-actor cast stars KU alumnus James Henry Redwood as Alonzo Fields, the grandson of a freed slave who served October 1931 through February 1953 as chief butler and maitre d'hotel at the White House during the presidencies of Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

During the course of the play, we learn about the evening gowns and seven-course dinners that were the nightly fare during the Hoover administration and the overnight adjustments the cooks and waiters had to make for the family-style buffets preferred by the Roosevelts. We learn how Fields attended to the presidents' needs but had to stand at attention in the doorways often ignored, like a piece of furniture, as the presidents and their guests dined.

Redwood successfully delivers Still's script � his deep voice resonating the disappointment that Fields felt when he gave up his dream to become a singer so he could provide for his family, the loneliness of spending holidays away from his family for two decades, and the joy when he was eventually asked to sing at the White House.

"Looking Over the President's Shoulder" will continue through Oct. 20 at the theater, 2450 Grand Blvd.


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