Carmel Community Players’ production centers on USS Indianapolis

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This role fits into Tim Latimer’s background quite nicely.

Latimer, a retired Hamilton Southeastern Junior High history teacher, is playing Captain Charles McVay III in the Carmel Community Players’ production of “Failure to Zig Zag: The Story of the USS Indianapolis.” He taught eighth-grade history for 32 years.

“Rarely does a play come along where it’s based on fact,” said Latimer, an Indianapolis resident. “As a history teacher, this is right up my alley.”

McVay’s ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine after delivering components for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

“There aren’t many roles for a guy in my age group,” Latimer said. “I’m supposed to be a guy that is like 48, so I’m past that.”

Carmel Community Players will present the play July 19 to 28 at The Cat, 254 Veterans Way.

Latimer said he knew a little about the history of the USS Indianapolis, which was sunk July, 30, 1945 in the Philippine Sea. Of the 1,195 men on the ship, 300 died in the attack. The remaining 890 survived the initial sinking, but only 316 survived the four-day ordeal in shark-infested water. The other fatalities were the result of shark attacks, dehydration and saltwater poisoning. The 879 fatalities were the single-greatest loss of live in U.S. Navy history.

McVay was court-martialed and found responsible for his failure to zig zag to avoid torpedoes, but the punishment was put aside. McVay, who committed suicide in 1968, was later exonerated after support by USS Indianapolis survivors.

Latimer had assumed he was best suited for the prosecutor’s role.

“I bought the play beforehand and underlined all his lines and started memorizing them,” Latimer said. “I thought I might look too old for McVay.”

However, Latimer said he was honored when director Susan Rardin offered him the part of McVay.

“This play has been the most challenging because I want to do it right,” Latimer said. “I want to do it the way Charles McVay would want me to do it.”

Dr. Ron Gotanco, a Carmel resident, is playing Japanese Imperial Navy Lt. Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, who commanded the submarine and ordered the attack. He later testified on McVay’s behalf, arguing that visibility was only fair and zig zagging likely wouldn’t have prevented the attack.

Gotanco, an anesthesiologist, is acting for the first time since he was in college. His parents are from the Philippines.

“A friend of mine, who is an established actor and a Filipino, wasn’t able to do the role and he contacted me a couple days before the audition,” Gotanco said.

Latimer said Gotanco is a natural.

“He came in the audition and blew us all away,” Latimer said.

Gotanco said he got his acting experience primarily from classes because he never had time to participate in plays.

Gotanco said he researched his character to find his motivation.

“Hashimoto was the son of a Shinto priest,” Gotanco said. “I think he was drawn between the two worlds of being a pacifist and wanting to serve his country.”

Hashimoto continued to help all efforts to exonerate McVay.

Five days after Hashimoto died at age 90 in 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a congressional resolution, which exonerated McVay.

Robert Fimreite, a Noblesville resident with works at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, is portraying Rear Admiral David Wall.

“It’s my biggest role and I’ve had to learn a lot of lines and they are technical lines. That’s been my biggest challenge,” said Fimreite, who worked for the Navy and has met a lot of USS Indianapolis survivors.

Ron May, a Carmel resident who is chaplain of Hoosier Village, a senior living community in Zionsville, has not acted in community theater. May, who is cast as the prosecutor, did perform a one-man drama based on war correspondent Ernie Pyle.

“The challenge is while I’m a public speaker by vocation but not in terms of lines and cues,” said May, who spent 22 years in the Naval Reserve as a chaplain. “There are a lot of lines but it’s been a challenge and a joy.”

May has spoken at USS Indianapolis reunions before and has written books on veterans.

“It’s a great story of inspiration and perseverance by the survivors,” May said.

For more, visit carmelplayers.org.

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