The Daily Tar Heel
Monday. February 12, 1973
'Indians9 director as artist, conductor, performer
by Bruce Mann
It was Rachmaninoff day at the Coffee Shop, the lush
music ("violins dipped in syrup," said the interviewee)
en sloping an informal interview with Jon Mezz, new
drama faculty member and director of the Carolina
Playmakers new production of Arthur Kopit's
"Second piano concerto," Jon quipped, momentarily
interrupting the steady flow of theatre talk.
A pianist himself, Mezz, who resembles King Nyle in
miniature, continuously punctuated the afternoon's
conversation with reactions to the background music.
"Oh God," he murmured when the familiar strains of
the Prelude in C sharp minor echoed through the place.
Mezz is very sensitive to musical rhythm, dynamics
and flow in all the arts, and especially in drama. Earlier
this year he directed two of the UNC Opera Theater
productions. Once as a rehearsal technique he conducted
an entire rehearsal of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"
with imaginary baton in hand. "Indians," his latest
interest, is of the same mettle a choreographed
performance, "a mosaic with no intermission,
"It's brilliantly constructed-one of the most exciting
pieces of theatre to come out of the '60's," he added,
sounding a bit much like an overimpressed critic. But
Mezz was speaking like a proud father; "Indians" had
just survived its first run-through or "wallow-through,"
in Mezz's vocabulary, and to his mind, it will be a "good
The theatre lobby this week will be set up as a
museum with a display of various Indian relics. Look for
movies of the original Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. A
Playmaker first hawkers will sell popcorn, which "may
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be freely consumed during the shows."
"The experience of the play will start as soon as the
audience enters Graham Memorial," comments Mezz.
"The lobby is a visual counterpart to the spirit of the
Mezz describes the play as a "raucous, tunny and
moving look at Buffalo Bill," and his "schizo" conflict:
William F. Cody, who wants to help the Indians, and
Buffalo Bill, "Whose Wild West Show is the perpetuation
of an image of the American West which ultimately
destroys the Indian."
Highlights of the show will include sharpshootingacts,
trick riding and Indians' dances performed by such
familiar characters as Sitting Bull, Wild Bill Hickock,
Geronimo and Annie Oakley.
"A monster of a play"-the cast numbers
37-"Indians" promises to be the biggest production in
years and certainly the largest to be mounted in the
Leading the cast will be the Buffalo Bill of William M.
Hardy, local drama critic and professor of Radio,
Television, and Motion Pictures. Sitting Bull will be
played by Stephen Henderson, former Julliard actor and
a recent graduate of the North Carolina School of the
Masterminding the operation is Mezz, an eternal
performer he never turns off a spoken word
mezz-merrier who literally lives his profession.
He refused to talk until almost four years old, but
"once I started talking, they couldn't make me shut up."
His theatrical career began with King Midas at age 6
or 7. And Mezz soon matured to the second romantic
lead in "Seventeen," in which he had a "beautiful love
duet with a girl I happened to be going with at the
time." Another memorable role was Jonathan Brewster
in "Arsenic and Old Lace," the original Boris Karloff
part. "Karloff was my real hero," Mezz admitted. When
lie died last February, it "was like losing a real friend."
Mezz was headed to medical school, but constantly
doing many plays and musical comedies ("I just adore
musical comedy. I get very upset with people who
consider it a bastardized form of theatre").
One day in his junior year at the University of
Rochester, Mezz awoke to the realization that his
interests were theatrical and not medical, and he began
to concentrate his efforts in theatre. There was a readers'
theatre production of "Alice in Wonderland," a big
success with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," and then
followed roles as the girl's father in "The Fantasticks,"
Andrew Aguecheek in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night,"
and numerous others. All during this time, Mezz was
moving into directing "it's a 'power' trip; 1 won't deny
His master's degree came in 1968 and his doctorate
four years later, both from the University of Minnesota.
There were roles in "Romeo and Juliet" and Chekhov's
"Three Sisters," performed one summer on the
Minnesota Centennial Showboat, docked on the
Mezz and his wife, Brenda, were married on the boat.
And now the two are in Chapel Hill, both working in
theatre-Brenda Mezz is a member of the professional
Carolina Readers ensemble.
Mezz feels that "the essence of theatre is
production." He loves to teach, but considers play
production one of his important responsibilities. Vitally
interested in local theatre, Mezz wants to build a new,
loyal, interested theatre audience.
"Indians" runs nightly at 8 through Sunday. Tickets
may be purchased at the Carolina Playmakers Business
Office at 102 Graham Memorial or at Ledbetter-Pickard
in downtown Chapel Hill. Admission is $2.50.
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We're helping the children of the inner-city. And we're
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More than a business.
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