Playing 29 Characters, Fitzsimmions Takes Actors’ Gang Audience On Her Journey
October 7, 2009
Need to know is the phrase used by the government to describe the restriction of data that is considered sensitive. Even if one has the necessary clearance, such information would be given only as one has a ”need to know.”
Winner of the Culver City Artist Award in 2008 and current Culver City resident April Fitzsimmons takes the audience at the Actor’s Gang on an untypical American journey in her one-woman show with that title.
Her performance begins with her upbringing in a large, Irish Catholic family that moved around a lot. She hilariously takes us to her prom where she drank too much and spent the night in jail. The trajectory from a crush on an older, fellow camp counselor to a full-blown love affair with him is painful and profound. A repetition(callback) that occurs at the beginning and ending of the play is the quote from Shakespeare from The Tempest which is “How beauteous mankind is…”.
After high school her father informed her that there was no money for college, so she joined the Air Force. She believed that serving her country would make a difference in the world. She was sent to Italy where she fended off the propositions of a Mafia Don, who promised to buy her a yellow Ferrari. As she landed at each of her assignments, another callback that set the stage for her life there was her announcement of the weather. In Texas the humidity was higher than the temperature.
She was to be sent to the Middle East, but she stood up to the base commandant quoting Fredrich Nietzsche, another callback throughout the performance. With conviction she cited the philosopher, “There is an old illusion called good and evil and once man and the wheel revolved around soothsayers and stargazers and therefore believe all is destiny-you ought to so you must!
And then man mistrusted all soothsayers and stargazers and therefore believed all is freedom-you can so you will” ( Thus Spoke Zarathustra).
As an Air Force Intelligence analyst the phrase “need to know” and the words of Nietzsche took on special significance for April. She realized that the American public is only allowed to know what the military wants them to know and realized how the media is manipulated.
After reporting for duty in the Air Force she met with discrimination, sexual harassment and rape. One of the recurring callbacks in April’s show is getting coffee for her superiors. The rape occurred in her barracks, and she was encouraged not to report it. In conversation with another woman she found that the same airman had raped others. She depicts the rape onstage but does not make the audience uncomfortable—only sympathetic and angry.
April states, “Approximately one in every three women in the Armed Forces reported being sexually assaulted, and 79% have been sexually harassed with 14% being gang raped by members of their own units. This is not acceptable.”
Upon hearing this, one wonders how many such instances were not reported.
There are 29 characters depicted in her show, and it is obvious to the audience when she becomes someone else through her body language and facial expressions. Her body is agile, and she uses it to convey an array of emotions for herself and her characters. Her wardrobe changes are kept in a small trunk from which she puts on a taffeta skirt with lace to emulate her prom dress, a cap and a dress blue jacket for her enlistment and a parka for trips to visit her family in Minnesota. Her basic attire was jeans, a black tee shirt and sneakers.
Upon leaving the military as a sergeant April became one of the founders of SWAN which serves military women and vets to develop the leadership skills of women veterans with the understanding that the voices of women vets must be included at the core of the national discussions on military and veterans affairs. After most performances there is a Veteran’s Forum for ex-members of the military to comment and share their experiences.
On the evening when I saw the performance there was a vet who had been in both the Israeli and U.S. armies who gave his perspective on the current situation.
She became involved in Arlington West, a memorial that places a cross for each military fatality of the Iraq War around the country beginning with the Santa Monica Pier. April says, “I was monitored by the Federal Office of Information Agency(FOIA) while touring the country with Arlington West. This memorial honoring the fallen troops of the Iraq War is perceived as a threat to national security. “
She is a passionate activist who speaks her mind and entertains while informing her audience. Her show will continue on Thursdays and the first two Saturdays in October at The Actors’ Gang.
CAST and CREW: April Fitzsimmons