Jeff caught up with Jim Fitzler, faculty at Hastings College, to see how the Plays for Presidents Festival fits into Nebraska.
Jeff M: You’re reaching the end of the academic year. How are you?
Jim Fitzler: Three weeks from the end of the year so I’ve been better. I like strike. Just getting ready to open Exit the King. It’s kinda metaphoric for the staff who are leaving.
JM: What drew you to this festival?
JF: Somehow Wendy Weinhold (Plays for President Festival Media Consultant) told us to email you guys. I think that’s it! I have no memory!
JM: What tipped the scale to say this show is right up Hastings College’s alley?
JF: We had worked on the Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Plays/365 Days, and we were the only place that did all the plays in the cycle. We did them all as audio plays by telephone. We tracked everyone down and did them from pay phones if we had to.
Anytime we can get connected to other places is big for us. We’re not big on competitions so this is right up or our alley.
JM: So this isn’t the first time you’ve done something nationally recognized. How does this show fit into the Hasting’s theatrical experience?
Fitzler's Production of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
JF: It’s totally different than anything else we do! The whole point of teaching is to give as many experiences as possible. There isn’t a “thing we do” per se. It’s like a commedia style without commedia. It’s rare that a script can combine politics and farce. My background is performance art and minimalist — so anything you can do with just a coat is a blast! We call it a play so why is it so painful. Just let them do that.
JM: Since your production is in the fall semester do your students know about it yet?
JF: Not many students have been involved yet. They know we’re talking about it. We want to get the film together before the spring so we can mess with it. We did Assassins in January which has some personalities from your show. They’re going to be an inside joke on our end.
JM: What brought you to selecting Gerald Ford for your film?
JF: Well, the Nebraska connection really, but personally, and this wasn’t a factor by any means, my dad was a lobbyist for cattle feeders growing up. I met Ford many times! He wasn’t the most memorable guy, but as a kid he was really tall and clumsy looking. But he was very nice.
Jim works professionally as a Director, Musician, Designer and Writer working in theatre and film. He was founding member of Open Channels, the producing wing for DIXON PLACE, the Obie Award winning theatre in New York; was founding member and Artistic Director for the nationally recognized theatre company Big State Productions in Austin, Texas; and has worked as a free-lance artist in theatre across the United States.