Lawrence Hamilton stars.


“LOOKING OVER THE PRESIDENT’S SHOULDER”
8 p.m., the Rep. $20-$35.

In what’s surely the most anticipated theater debut of the season, “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” opens Friday at the Rep. The one-man show, starring one of Arkansas’s favorite sons, Lawrence Hamilton, and directed by Rep vet Gilbert McCauley (“Fences,” “The Piano Lesson,” both starring Hamilton), tells a story that’s especially appropriate in this new era, in which a black man occupies the White House. It’s the true story of Alonzo Fields, an educated African-American who had dreams of becoming a concert vocalist, but instead became a manservant in the White House for two decades and four presidencies, from 1931 to 1953.

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It’s a story not just of the tension between aspiration (to sing) and expectation (to be virtually mute on the job), but also of a man who, McCauley says, “radiated a real grace” amidst the drama of the White House — the politics, the crises, the racism — and a man who had a surfeit of self-respect and found worth in his work.

The play, written by James Still, begins on Fields’ last day of work as he waits for a bus across the street from the White House. Fields kept a diary — it was the basis for a memoir, “My 21 Years in the White House” — and the play is framed around him flipping through it, recalling his experiences.

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