Anna Kessler interview
Wednesday, October 27, 2021 – 11:20 p.m.
Anna Kessler is the Yoknapatawpha Players' Artistic Director and the director of the immersive theatre play.
She was transported from the scene to the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department, where Detectives Magee and Beckwith talked to her.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Anna Kessler
Detective Magee: I'm Detective Magee, and this is Detective Beckwith. We have a few questions for you.
Anna Kessler: Hello. I'm not sure what information I can add, but I'll do my best.
Detective Magee: Thank you. Before we get started, would you state your name and address for the record, please?
Anna Kessler: Sure. Anna Kessler. 906 Cleveland Avenue, Oxford.
Detective Beckwith: Thank you. Ms. Kessler, what was your role in the performance today?
Anna Kessler: In the play? I was an actor in Group A. I'm also the director of the play and the Artistic Director of the theatre.
Detective Beckwith: So let's take each of those one at a time. What is Group A, and who else was in it? And please include both first and last names.
Anna Kessler: Group A is the medical team. Janet Weber and I were the rehearsed actor members. We were joined by unrehearsed members of the audience, who for this rehearsal were board members Neal Caine and Heath Rushing.
Detective Beckwith: What was Group A supposed to do according to the plotline?
Anna Kessler: The plot is that a soldier played by Weston Naboa divides the actors into the Medical Team and the Defense Team. He then dies a spectacularly choreographed, violent, bloody death. Group A then moves to the morgue to collect a zombie blood sample using a syringe. Once collected, Group A moves to the mobile lab to create an anti-zombie serum.
Detective Magee: Did something happen outside the plotline?
Anna Kessler: Well, Erv Cyr was supposed to be in Group A, not Neal. They switched teams, so this was the first issue.
Detective Magee: Why?
Anna Kessler: I wasn't consulted, and it's my vision and my responsibility. I had some reservations about Heath, and I wanted him teamed up with Erv. Turns out I was right, which led to the second and third issues.
Detective Magee: What were your reservations?
Anna Kessler: You know, I don't want to make trouble for anyone here, but … Heath, I think, likes to … uh … imbibe. I've noticed that sometimes Heath over-imbibes, and in case he was in a party mood for rehearsal, I wanted Erv nearby. He has a calming influence on Heath, and also, he's a doctor. So, you know … just in case.
Detective Beckwith: You said you were right about Heath, and it led to the second and third issues. Expand on that, please?
Anna Kessler: Heath had trouble focusing and thought everything was hilariously funny. When we got to the morgue, he went a little overboard with the prop body parts, grabbed an arm, and started playing with it. He brought it with him to the mobile lab. That was the second issue.
Detective Magee: And the third?
Anna Kessler: Well, for the plot, he was supposed to get infected and be quarantined, and Janet was supposed to put him in the Quarantine Room. Unfortunately, he was so out of control, Janet flipped out, locked him in there, and then didn't release him when the humans exited the back of the lab. That was the third issue.
Detective Beckwith: Why was that an issue?
Anna Kessler: Janet screwed up. Either she forgot, which during an actual show would leave a paying audience member trapped in a room, or she was pissed and did it on purpose. Oh, my God. Heath said he pounded on the walls. One of those walls gave way, and … Scott …
Detective Beckwith: Did Heath tell you he pounded on the walls?
Anna Kessler: No. Someone on the crew told me afterward that Heath was found wandering backstage, and he was rambling on about being locked in the Quarantine Room and pounding his way out. After the show, I tried to talk to Heath, but he was in no condition to recall anything.
Detective Beckwith: What's the name of that crew member?
Anna Kessler: I don't remember who it was. I'm sorry. It was a little chaotic, and several people were talking to me at the time.
Detective Beckwith: Okay. We can move on, and if you remember, just let us know.
Detective Magee: When was the last time you saw Scott alive? Do you recall?
Anna Kessler: Yes. Just before the show started. The actors were at places, and he was about to call the first light cue. He rushed by, and I said to him, "Break a leg!" and he smiled and waved. I thought about how I'm really looking forward to our dinner date next week. His smile looked so goofy and endearing in all that zombie makeup.
Detective Magee: When did you find out what happened to Scott?
Anna Kessler: Right after the show. At the end, everyone was herded into the east lobby. We all were talking and sharing experiences. I was so proud and happy. It was a huge success. Then I heard Woody yelling for help, and Erv, Neal, and … maybe Cherie? They went running. I don't remember who else left the room. I stayed there with the rest of the cast and crew.
Detective Beckwith: You weren't concerned?
Anna Kessler: Of course, I was concerned, but we have a protocol in place, and the stage management team handles those things and writes up any necessary reports. My crew was on top of it, and it was my job as director and Artistic Director to remain with the others.
Detective Beckwith: What about your role as director of the play? Did it have any bearing on the way rehearsal went?
Anna Kessler: Not really, no. I took mental notes of the issues and things I thought worked well, so it only affects my personal performance when I'm distracted by my director brain.
Detective Magee: And what about your role as Artistic Director?
Anna Kessler: I really have to put that on the back burner for performances. It's not easy since I feel the fiscal responsibility of the productions. This one was such a huge risk both for me professionally and for the theatre. There's a lot on the line, and not all board members are happy with the direction I'm taking the company.
Detective Beckwith: Thank you for your time, Ms. Kessler. I think that's all we need for now, but we'll want to talk to you again later. Would you be willing to speak with us again?
Anna Kessler: Absolutely. No problem at all. Thank you, detectives.
Interview ended – 11:41 p.m.