Anna Kessler interview #2
Friday, October 29, 2021 – 11:15 a.m.
Anna Kessler is the Yoknapatawpha Players' Artistic Director and the director of the immersive theatre play.
Detectives Magee and Beckwith spoke with her again at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Anna Kessler
Detective Beckwith: Thank you for your time today, Ms. Kessler. Would you state your name and address for the record, please?
Anna Kessler: Anna Kessler. 906 Cleveland Avenue, Oxford.
Detective Beckwith: Thank you. The last time we spoke, you discussed issues that caused certain aspects of the performance not to go as planned. Is that right?
Anna Kessler: That's putting it mildly.
Detective Beckwith: How would you put it?
Anna Kessler: Certain aspects blew way past "as planned" and failed to go as rehearsed. So now, Scott's dead, which is horrid, and the whole immersive project is in jeopardy because of some careless decisions made by people who think they know better.
Detective Magee: Know better how?
Anna Kessler: Well, I suppose just thinking that it's immersive, so the play structure is negotiable. It's not. If anything, it needs to be strictly adhered to.
Detective Magee: Is that even possible with the audience participation?
Anna Kessler: Yes, of course. When unexpected things happen with the unrehearsed audience members, the cast maintains the integrity of the show. That clearly did not happen with my team.
Detective Magee: Your team, meaning Janet, Heath, and Neal?
Anna Kessler: Yes.
Detective Magee: What wasn't an oversight?
Anna Kessler: First off, I'm really miffed that Erv and Neal switched. The more I think about it, the more it pisses me off. And second, Janet behaved as if— like— I mean, like a rookie.
Detective Beckwith: And your concern with switching Erv and Neal was because of Heath, correct?
Anna Kessler: Yes, but also, I think Neal maybe strongly suggested the team switch.
Detective Magee: Why?
Anna Kessler: Because I've been brushing him off.
Detective Beckwith: In what sense?
Anna Kessler: Last year, we were in a relationship. He dumped me. Recently, he began trying to un-dump me, but I had moved on. Nothing against Neal, but this on-again, off-again routine is not my jam. I don't have time for people who can't figure out what they want. Been there, done that.
Detective Magee: Was it serious with Neal?
Anna Kessler: Truthfully, I've only had one long-term relationship. After eight years, the love of my life came out as gay. So now, I don't have much patience. Or trust. So, no hard feelings with Neal, but figure it out, then call me. Don't string me along. And with that attitude, a girl gets a reputation as a hard-ass, so I don't date much.
Detective Beckwith: The last time we spoke, you mentioned a date with Scott.
Anna Kessler: Yeah, Scott finally mustered the nerve to ask if we could, as he put it, hang out sometime. So, you know. Casual. No big deal. Which surprised me.
Detective Magee: Why?
Anna Kessler: I guess because I'd thought he had a crush on me for a while, but then when he asked, he was like, "So, I checked the seal on the toilet at the warehouse, and it's not leaking, so you can tick that off the punch list. Hey, do you maybe want to hang out with me sometime?" I almost missed it, it was so casual.
Detective Beckwith: Let's circle back to Janet's rookie behavior during the play.
Anna Kessler: I purposely put Heath on my team, expecting him to go a little rogue. I also purposely put Janet on my team, expecting her to keep her act together, but when Heath went rogue, Janet lost her mind.
Detective Magee: Was it an oversight due to all the chaos?
Anna Kessler: It was a simple task, and she just … blew it. I mean, I know her work. She's not easily flustered on stage. She blew it to the point that it's hard for me to believe it was an oversight.
Detective Magee: Do you think it was intentional?
Anna Kessler: I can't see why it would be, but her mistake was huge and avoidable, and so unlike her. I mean, Janet is never going to wow the pants off of an audience, but she's always, always solid.
Detective Magee: Her mistake, meaning what?
Anna Kessler: Leaving Heath locked in the— well, shoot, that's two mistakes. First of all, she locked the door with him in there. Second, she left him locked in there instead of releasing him to leave with the rest of us. Damn. Not good.
Detective Magee: How divided was the board on the issue of the immersive project?
Anna Kessler: I had the majority votes, but the "nay" votes were passionately against. Well, Cherie was passionately against. The other was Heath, and he voted nay because he wants to be passionately up against Cherie.
Detective Beckwith: Meaning what? He wants a relationship with her?
Anna Kessler: He wants to sleep with her. I don't know if Heath thinks any further than that as relationships go. Heath likes to party like a rock star.
Detective Beckwith: Do you get along with him?
Anna Kessler: We get along fine. I don't mention his bad behavior, and he keeps donating his daddy's money. Putting him in the show was a mistake, but I had to involve the board. It was a deal-breaker otherwise.
Detective Beckwith: How so?
Anna Kessler: The board was willing to take the risk of the immersive project, but—and I don't disagree with this—the members wanted to experience it first-hand before deciding just how long it might run.
Detective Beckwith: But the board's involvement was late in the game. What was the point of having members be the audience for the final dress rehearsal?
Anna Kessler: If the project was slow to get an audience, the board would agree to financially support it until ticket sales took off.
Detective Beckwith: So if the rehearsal didn't go well, the board would close the show earlier?
Anna Kessler: Yes.
Detective Magee: How does it stand now?
Anna Kessler: With Scott's death, I'm not sure how the board will proceed. However, the show was a huge success, and the board members enjoyed the immersive experience. I think even Cherie could see the potential once she was in there and surrounded by all that excitement.
Detective Magee: Then isn't it odd that she told the press the project was canceled?
Anna Kessler: For Cherie? No, not at all. She's not going to back down. But if you've read the whole article, then you know that I'm not going to back down either. And, as I said, I've got the majority votes on my side. It'll take some work, but I'm confident we'll move forward with it.
Detective Beckwith: All right, Ms. Kessler, thank you for your time. If you think of anything else that might help with the investigation, please call.
Anna Kessler: Of course. Thank you, detectives.
Interview ended – 11:36 a.m.