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Happy Mess

New Play Explores the Pursuit of Happiness

“Happy Mess” is a dark comedy about the collision of new and old family secrets. When the truth’s revealed there’s a mess to clean up. And this family is one big Happy Mess.

Written by Ian Paul Messersmith, Master of Fine Arts candidate at University of Idaho’s Department of Theatre Arts, “Happy Mess” will have virtual readings at 6 p.m., Oct. 9-10 and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 11. A talk-back will follow each performance.

New Play Development Series

"Happy Mess" is the first in a new play development series called First Bite. As part of the First Bite initiative, plays written by students receive development support in the form of staged readings, workshops, and premiere productions. The script is in development with the U of I Theatre Arts company meeting virtually under the direction of faculty member Sarah Alice Campbell, Ph.D.

“‘Happy Mess’ asks how do we pursue happiness?” Campbell said.

“What will we sacrifice for it? Or what have we sacrificed to make others happy? And was that really the best thing to do? I think we can always use a play about happiness,” she said.

MFA Distance Program Brings Together Students From Across the US

The playwright, Ian Paul Messersmith, holds an undergraduate degree in directing and has worked around the country as a stage manager. He’s always had an interest in playwriting and was the assistant production manager at the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee when he met U of I theatre chair Robert Caisley. Through Caisley’s encouragement, Messersmith applied and was accepted into Idaho’s distance-delivered MFA dramatic writing program.

The “Happy Mess” cast includes students from the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences: Bethany Paulsen, Norfolk, Virginia, as Bella; Victoria Zenner, Meridian, as Young Bella; Jennifer Arbogast Wilson, Chattanooga, Tennessee, as Devon; Teresa Daily, Hagerman, as Emily; Zach Haas, Lewiston, as Tommy; Emily Romanowski, Coeur d’Alene, as Ms. Harvey; Kari Wilsey, Lewiston, as Emily; graduate student Jeanna Vickery, Meridian, as Mama; guest artist and U of I alumnus David Harlan as Daddy/Mr. Johnson and understudy Eli Baker.

The creative team consists of stage manager Angel Kalasz, Pullman, Washington; assistant director Lauren Moon, Coeur d’Alene, scenic artist Megan Inmon, Maryville, Tennessee and dramaturg Ariana Burns, Moscow.

Article by Ariana Burns

Published September 2020

See a video conversation with the Happy Mess team.

Campus Locations

Physical Address:
Bruce M. Pitman Center
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119