To support Recovery Month, the TV Hill staffers are teaming up again for a special performance series.
As a religious viewer of Aaron Sorkin’s NBC hit “The West Wing,” I was quickly on board with the Kennedy Center‘s special performance series of “Love Letters,” a two-hander by A.R Gurney, once I learned that President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) himself would be taking part. Making the play even better for fans of the 26 Emmy-winning show, is that Sheen plays opposite Melissa Fitzgerald. She originally co-starred as Cregg’s feisty assistant, Carol Fitzpatrick, throughout the seven-year run.
“Martin and I have been friends for many years, and I had the great honor, pleasure and joy of working with him on ‘The West Wing,’” Fitzgerald says. “He has been a source of inspiration for me, and so many people.”
With direction by Cameron Watson, the show will run from September 28 to October 1 in celebration of Recovery Month. You see, Sheen and Fitzgerald are both long-time advocates of treatment courts for people in the justice system who suffer from substance use and mental health disorders.
In fact, Fitzgerald left Hollywood about a decade ago to take a position with an advocacy group on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The group, All Rise, fights for justice reform.
It was Sheen who first got Fitzgerald involved in the cause, when he invited her to D.C.’s RISE conference in 2011 after she lost someone dear to substance abuse. The annual training conference is for treatment court professionals.
“Martin has been deeply committed to social justice forever and he was one of the first people to advocate for the work I am doing now back in the ’90s,” Fitzgerald says. “I loved the work they did and started supporting the organization, and then a couple of years later, the opportunity to work here came up and I jumped at the chance to move to D.C.”
The two friends originally performed “Love Letters” virtually for Recovery Month in 2020 as a “thank you” to the public health and safety professionals working in treatment courts. With thanks to the Kennedy Center, they finally got an opportunity to perform the piece live.
“The response was so powerful so we committed to doing it again when we could, so when this opportunity came up, we were both excited, especially to do it during Recovery Month,” said Fitzgerald.
Recovery Month is an annual event that takes place every September, and was first coordinated in 1989 by by Faces & Voices of Recovery.
“It’s a powerful reminder that with the right support, every single person is capable of finding and sustaining recovery,” Fitzgerald says. “We can’t forget that there are 22 million Americans living lives of recovery.”
“Love Letters” displays a pair of actors reading a series of letters exchanged over a lifetime. These two people grew up together, went their separate ways, yet still continued to share confidences.
One of the characters in the play struggles with generational addiction, which relates to the show’s themes of connection, vulnerability and personal growth.
“If there’s one message I would like to convey through ‘Love Letters’ and also the work that I do, it’s that for anyone who is struggling, or anyone who loves someone that is struggling, there is hope and there is help,” Fitzgerald says. “My hope is that this performance spurs conversations that lead to an understanding of addiction and our collective role in creating conditions for successful recovery.”
Melissa Fitzgerald’s Local Picks
Now that she’s spent the past decade in the District, Fitzgerald talked about some of her faves around town.
Favorite parts of the city: The restaurants, museums and people. I have made some incredible friends. Neighborhood: Dupont Circle. Favorite place to visit: Kramers. Favorite Museums: African American Museum and National Building Museum.
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