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King University News :: King Professor to Participate in Panel for Barter Theatre’s "Looking Over the President’s Shoulder"

Associate Professor of History Dr. Shannon Harris will serve as an expert for Barter Theatre’s special series, the Barter Insider 360° panel, for the play “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder.” 

The panels will begin at 7:45 p.m., 30 minutes before the show and there will be an additional panel for 30 minutes after the show, on Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19 (sold out).  Also attending the 360° panel will be the playwright for “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” James Still.  360° panel discussions add insight and enrich the experience of the play. 

“I am delighted to be part of the 360° panel at the esteemed Barter Theatre and am honored to represent King College,” said Dr. Harris. 

“Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” written by James Still, is based upon a book by Alonzo Fields, “My 21 Years in the White House.”  Fields, the grandson of freed slaves, served as a butler, and then head butler, at the White House for 21 years.  He began his career towards the end of President Hoover’s administration in 1931 and left at the beginning of Eisenhower’s presidency.  He served under four American Presidents (and their wives):  Hoover, FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower. 

“Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” is a one-man play and chronicles Mr. Fields’ experiences in the White House from his point of view.  Fields’ position brought him into contact with powerful personalities such as Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Errol Flynn, and Princess Elizabeth of England.  

As chief butler in the White House, Fields was required to be silent, to stare straight ahead, not to smile or acknowledge in any way the conversations taking place around him – even if they were about Supreme Court justices who used to be members of the Ku Klux Klan. 

The play gives us all a unique view into the inner workings of the White House, and a glimpse into the family lives of the presidents during pivotal years in American history.  

During the 360° panel, Dr. Harris will sketch out what it was like in Depression America, outline unexpected surprises about history the play might hold, and will answer questions from the audience and the moderator about the history of the period. 

Dr. Harris received her undergraduate degree in History from East Tennessee State University and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in African History from Michigan State University.  Dr. Harris has been teaching various aspects of American history at King College for nine years.    

For additional information on the Barter Theatre and the play “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” visit www.bartertheatre.com