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March 28, 2012

Lake Erie College welcomes “West Wing” star Melissa Fitzgerald

(Painesville, OH) – As part of the worldwide effort to bring attention to human rights violations and the desperate situations occurring in Uganda, Lake Erie College Department of Theatre will present Voices of Uganda, a poignant production by actress, producer and activist Melissa Fitzgerald. The event, free and open to the public, will be held March 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the C.K. Rickel Theatre in Royce Hall for the Fine and Performing Arts.

Voices of Uganda brings to the forefront the humanitarian issues surrounding the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel movement which has terrorized the people of northern Uganda for years, abducting children to fill its ranks. The Ugandan government's strategy of moving northerners into "protected villages" has turned into a displacement nightmare for 1.7 million people - over 80% of the region who, at the height of the insurgency, lived in squalid camps and lacked access to basic resources. During this time, approximately 1,000 people died each week as a result of camp conditions. Children have been the primary victims.

In the summer of 2007, a team of actors and playwrights, who make up Voices of Uganda, traveled to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in northern Uganda to work with 14 Ugandan youth on a theater program. Many of the teens had escaped from the rebel army after being abducted as child soldiers or sex slaves. The drama program was led by American actors Melissa Fitzgerald and David Ackert. During the first week in the camp, Fitzgerald visited each of the 14 children in their homes, meeting their guardians and learning more about the topics each youth wanted to share through the dramas. The father of one of the youth said, "I pray that this drama will help Francis in his future life and that it will give him courage to teach others the skills he learns.”

Voices of Uganda has just begun working with high schools and universities to educate students about the situation in northern Uganda, coaching the students to perform a collection of plays and monologues for their community.

To organize work with Lake Erie, Fitzgerald prepared the monologues several weeks ago and began collaborating with Jerry Jaffe, the College’s Department of Theatre director. Jaffe then recruited actors from both the campus and the community to fill character roles. Jaffe is still accepting volunteers for the monologue parts, which are read, not memorized.

"I am thrilled the College and the Department of Theatre have the opportunity to bring a professional, working actress and activist to the community. Melissa will spend extended time on campus, visiting with students and leading two theatre classes,  in addition to the feature event on the 28th.”

On March 26 at 10:30 a.m., as part of the College’s Introduction to Theatre class, Fitzgerald will talk about her life as an actress, the auditioning process, what her small parts were like and how she has made a career out of a very demanding and cut-throat industry. On March 27, beginning at 1:40 p.m., she’ll run the interactive on-stage acting class. Both classes are free and open to the community. Advanced registration is not required.

To learn more about the Voices of Uganda project, visit Lake Erie College’s Royce Hall for the Fine and Performing Arts and the C.K. Rickel Theatre are located on the eastern side of campus with free parking and a handicap accessible entrance from Gillett Street. To participate in the event or for more information, contact

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