Jeff Messer is a well-rounded talent: he directed the opening show of the season On Golden Pond which our audiences loved, he’s acted in musicals at Parkway Playhouse, and several plays he’s written have been performed on the Parkway Playhouse stage (Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and Dracula). With such a breadth of theatre ability, it’s always worth our time to check in with Jeff and see what’s special about his latest show.
Jeff: My real life wife, Kelli Mullinix, and I did the show two years ago at HART in Waynesville. A few weeks before we started rehearsals, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and went into treatments at roughly the same time as the rehearsals started. Stubbornly, she refused to let cancer rob her of doing our first show together onstage. There was an understudy, but she played Pamela for most of the run, scheduling her treatments early in the week so she would have the strength to perform on weekends. When we had the chance to do the roles again, a year out from the last surgeries and being cancer free, we jumped at it. The show two years ago was under such a cloud of anxiety, we wanted to get another crack at it, without all that hanging over us.
PP: Tell us a little bit about the character you’re playing. And which love-triangle is he in?
Bingham is a middle-aged, unhappy man who let life pass him by. He’s successful, but always the underdog. He is unhappily married to Muriel, but longs to be with Pamela, who he has had crush on since they were young. I liken Henry Bingham to the character Henry Blake from MASH. He’s a good guy, but just a bit of a screw up, and is not all that bright about many things. There’s a point near the end of Act One, where he has to play-act in order to calm things down, and it is tremendous fun to intentionally show him as being a horrible liar and an even worse actor.
I worked with Graham when he was 17, directing him in a show. He and I worked on many shows together in the years that followed, helped run a small theatre company in Asheville, and worked in Improv together. Not to mention spending huge amounts of time for a couple of years watching football together when we both first moved to Asheville. To say that there’s a natural and fun chemistry with Graham is an understatement. At one point a few years ago, our wives were talking seriously about arranging playdates for us.
Pun absolutely intended—> You are all encouraged to arrange a play-date at our place! We’ll even provide snacks on opening night.