By Joseph Bromfield ’09
Christopher Fitzgerald entertains members of the Rollins community from the stage that launched his career. Photo by Laura J. Cole '04 '08MLS.
“WHAT A JERK! Yeah, him, that guy. I worked with him on Amour.” … “Oh, Carol, you crack me up.” … “This makes me nervous just watching it.”
Thus went the running commentary of Broadway actor Christopher Fitzgerald ’95 as he sat with some 20 Rollins students in the historic Annie Russell Theatre watching the documentary film Moon Over Broadway. Seated right next to Christopher (or “Fitz,” as he was called in his Rollins days), I had the benefit of picking up his verbal and physical reactions to the film over the course of the evening. The two-hour documentary tracked the Broadway production of the new farce Moon Over Buffalo, starring Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco, from the first reading to the out-of-town tryouts and opening night. Though the film was interesting, I found it much more fascinating observing Fitz as he reacted verbally to the real-life people in the documentary (some of whom were his friends or acquaintances) and physically to critical moments in the journey towards production (Critic’s Preview, for example—which he had just experienced with his leading role as Igor in Young Frankenstein).
This late-night movie screening at the Annie came at the end of a jam-packed day and a half of activity reconnecting Fitz to Rollins this past October. His abbreviated Rollins visit included a Q&A session with students in two theater courses, attending one of legendary theater professor Doc Rodgers’ classes, lunch with Rollins’ Cornell Scholars, a WPRK radio interview, dinner with theater students at Park Avenue Pizza, and the highlight: “Puttin’ on the Fitz,” a talkback-style Q&A session with Fitzpatrick that was open to the public. Fitz told stories of his glory days at Rollins (such as the time he fell off of the Annie stage and into the audience during a performance), gave his best Mel Brooks impersonation, and talked about what it was like to originate a major role on Broadway.
Pictured on the Annie Russell Theatre stage are ( l - r) Tim Rerucha, Scottie Campbell '96, Aaron Bean '96, Chris Fitzgerald '95, Rusty Blackmer '94, and Joseph Bromfield '09. Photo by Laura J. Cole '04 '08MLS.
In addition to taking in all of these events, I had the pleasure of catching a few one-on-one moments with Fitz during his visit. In public, he was sharp, humble, and incredibly likeable. In private, he was down to earth and easy to talk to. The successful young actor no doubt imparted many little pieces of wisdom to Rollins students. The most powerful one for me came during a dinner conversation. After discussing the struggles of making a living as an actor in New York City while facing the challenges of raising a family (he is married to fellow actor Jessica and has a baby boy, Charlie), Fitz commented on the rewards of his career. “I live a dynamic life, and I mean that in every way possible. You can absolutely do it, but just know that to be an actor is to live a dynamic life.”
Thanks to Christopher Fitzgerald, I am now more inspired than ever to pursue my artistic dreams and live that dynamic life of my own.