Play makes its world debut at ASU

Article Published: Dec. 1, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

It's got intrigue, disguises and the thrill of the chase, and it comes straight from the headlines.

"The Pursuit of Mr. Rockefeller."

The play makes its world debut this week at Appalachian State University and, while the story itself is remarkable, so is its playwright, theater major, recent ASU transfer and Kennedy Center Award winner John Fitts.
This semester, Fitts' production makes its debut, and no one is more excited than the author himself.

"It's about the story of a man named Clark Rockefeller who was arrested back in 2008," he said.

Fitts, like you, first heard about Rockefeller on the news. The difference? To him it wasn't just a headline. It was a story.

"You read about what this man did and then you find out it was a true story," he said. "It's just so compelling, the fact that this man was able to get away with a double homicide. He married a multimillion dollar woman ... all these things, just by pretending to be someone else. It's just an epic story, and I really wanted to explore that and the roots of that."

The play goes beyond water cooler talk and explores human identity itself, Fitts said.
The ensemble piece requires its eight actors to play more than 30 characters, an ambitious challenge, but not one that isn't well thought-out. Despite Fitts' age, this isn't his first play by a long shot. "I'm a professional playwright," he said.

The senior, who hails from Raleigh, said he has always been a writer.

"I discovered theater, gosh, about going on 14, 15 years ago," he said. "As my passion for theater grew, my passion for writing grew, and they just kind of became one."

It's a career path he hopes to continue through graduate studies after he gets his diploma.

The director of the piece, professor Joel Williams, can relate to his passion. Williams' play "Promises" was read at ASU's Front of Curtain Festival this past summer.

"I think I have an affinity and empathy for handling the work so that there's a sense of wanting to make it work on stage, but at the same time wanting to honor what the playwright wants to do," he said. "When it's a new show and the father of the piece is right there ... you sort of feel a certain responsibility to make sure it's the best that it can be."

Williams is up to the challenge.

"So many times directing is about reinterpreting and sort of becoming familiar with what's been done with this play before," he said. "With a new piece, you don't have that ... It feels more creative. It feels more like it's fresh and new ... You feel a little more like you're on the frontier of something."

The play hits I.G. Greer Studio Theatre at ASU Dec. 1, 2, 3 and 4. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for faculty, staff and seniors and $6 for students and K-18.

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