Mitzi Sinnott has a big story to tell. Mitzi Sinnott has the kind of story that a writer would kill for, a story that makes most other personal journey tell-alls seem somewhat trivial. But like all big stories one lives through, the price paid for doing just that — and coming out on the other side — makes the gift of the story that much more deserving (even to those envious writers among us).
In her one-woman show, Snapshot: A True Story of Love Interrupted by Invasion, Mitzi Sinnott tells the story of growing up in the South as the daughter of a white mother and black father. There’s enough story right there for a novel and sequel, but Mitzi’s father was sent to Vietnam, and the man that returned was not the vital, artistic, loving man she knew, but a haunted shell who was ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia. Mitzi’s attempts to get to know her father led her to Hawaii where he was living and to coping with the death of the man as she knew him.
She tells this story through re-enacting moments of her childhood: of facing schoolmates who taunt her for being the product of a mixed marriage, of a mother who does her best to keep it together in those challenging circumstances. She gives us a glimpse into her father’s days in the all-black barracks as he sends letters — and love — to his family back home. She deftly moves between the roles of unsure enlisted, worried mother, bullying schoolmate, scared little girl and confident storyteller. And she does it with humor and levity.
That’s the thing: despite the weighty subject matter, Mitzi never asks for our sympathy or pity. Rather, using various tools to tell the story (projected images, the re-enacting of key moments, even dance), Mitzi shares this rocky journey as opposed to dumping it mercilessly. It helps that the woman we see in front of us is a sheer delight, brimming with confidence, glowing with the desire to let us in, because we know she made it through to the other side, a better person — not to mention, storyteller — for it.
The gift of her burden will pay her, and her audience, back many times over.
Snapshot: The True Story of Love Interrupted By Invasion plays Thursdays through Sundays through April 21 at the Greenway Court Theatre.
— Jessica Abrams