Walker Delivers with Shoot the Messenger

  Jeffry Walker as letter carrier Charlie Pace.
Jeffry Walker as letter carrier Charlie Pace. (photo Nick Lacy)

Tired of being treated like a “pack mule for Madison Avenue,” letter carrier Charlie Pace has had enough—so the fictional Marine Corps veteran and 25-year employee of the United States Postal Service takes it upon himself to stop delivering junk mail. Now that he’s been holed up for more than a month inside a barn in rural northeastern Connecticut, the philosophical postman wants nothing more than to explain his point of view to a group of “citizen volunteers.” That is the premise behind Shoot the Messenger, Jeffry Walker’s wonderfully sardonic, non-traditional performance that takes on the pervasive power of the advertising industry and American consumerism.

Walker, longtime director of the Austin Arts Center, wrote and performed the one-hour play, which ran on consecutive Friday and Saturday evenings from September 24 through October 9. With the lion’s share of the action taking place in the barn at historic Church Farm in Ashford, the production began when theatergoers boarded a bus that took them to the “scene of the crime.” The farm, consisting of over 200 acres, was donated to the College in 1999 by Joe and Dorothy Zaring; it currently serves as a field station for environmental studies and there are plans to create a modest artists community to support new works of art in a variety of disciplines. Shoot the Messenger was the first Trinity-produced theater piece to be developed and performed at the farm, although, Walker hopes, not the last.

“Church Farm was crucial to the development of Shoot the Messenger,” he says. “It was the perfect venue for it. During the latter stages of development, I had the barn in mind as a setting. The Zarings are lovers and patrons of the arts, and their generous gift to the College supports both the arts and the sciences parts of Trinity’s mission. The farm offers a lot of possibilities.”

During the bus trip, the “citizen volunteers” were given instructions by “the authorities” and watched a brief video featuring a local newscaster and a representative of state government describing the standoff at the barn. Upon arrival, the attendees were ushered into the barn where they sat on hay bales and benches to watch Walker’s engaging solo performance.

“I wanted to explore the idea of a postal worker going over the edge, but not in a violent way,” Walker explains. “This is a guy who is deeply affected by poetry, by music, by philosophy—and he expresses his rage in an intellectual way. He’s not violent, he’s just mad as hell. I wanted the audience to listen to what this guy has to say, to understand why he’s angry, and to realize that he has chosen to take civilly disobedient action.”

Supplemental financial support for Shoot the Messenger was provided through a grant from the general fund of the LEF Foundation, a private foundation that encourages the presentation of contemporary works of “creative merit, cultural resonance, and timeliness.”

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