Prof. brings professional experience to Theatre Dept.

IUS Horizon

Jim Hesselman
Jim Hesselman

It is a Sunday afternoon and there are only a few cars in the IU Southeast parking lot. Most of the lights are off in the Ogle Center, but Jim Hesselman, assistant professor of theater, is still at work in his office.

“The police don’t usually like me being here on Sundays,” Hesselman said.

He had just finished a rehearsal for “The Shadow Box,” an IUS Theatre production dealing with three terminally ill patients.
“We have a great cast for ‘The Shadow Box’ and rehearsals are going very well,” Hesselman said.

This is Hesselman’s first year as assistant professor of theater at IU Southeast, but he’s been in the acting business for many years.

Hesselman, a native of Milwaukee, Wis., arrived in Kentuckiana 22 years ago, eventually receiving his MFA from the University of Louisville which led to 20 years of work at the Derby Dinner Playhouse. Here Hesselman acted, directed and/or wrote nearly 200 plays.

“I’m a control freak. When I started acting I found myself wanting to tell everyone what to do, which is why I started directing,” he said. “For me, it’s all about balance.”

It didn’t take long before Hesselman began writing his own plays.

“Writing is something I don’t need anyone else to do. I can sit by myself, in my own time and write,” he said. “Writing is my relaxation.”

Hesselman began his teaching career with a job at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. and eventually taught a directing course at the University of Louisville. With teaching, Hesselman said, he is able to use all of his skills.

“Teaching takes everything,” he said. “I like the same thing about IUS as the students do. I like walking into a class of 18 people because I can give each student the attention they need.”

Rebekkah Meixner, IUS Theatre Department coordinator, said she is happy with what Hesselman contributes to the theater department.

“Jim has brought the theater program a wealth of professional experiences that our students constantly learn from, a renewed sense of energy and creative direction,” Meixner said. “Jim is a wonderful director, professor and mentor to our students here at IUS and we are so very happy to have him.”

Hesselman’s experience includes several acting tours around the country, including a two year tour playing Billy Crocker in the production “Anything Goes,” where he worked with Gloria Loring from the show “Days of Our Lives.”

Hesselman said one of his most amusing acting memories includes Loring during a performance of “Anything Goes.”

“During the show, Loring and I were performing and one of my sleeve buttons got caught on her wig,” Hesselman said, while swinging his arm in an upward motion. “I threw my arm up, the wig lifted from her head and to the audience. It looked like she was bald. Gloria ran off the stage screaming and I told her that I’d be there when she got back. The audience loved it.”

Hesselman’s last tour was the production, “Nunsense,” in which he acted with veterans Kaye Ballard, Lee Meriwether, Georgia Engel, Mimi Hines and Darlene Love.

Hesselman has also authored a memoir, “How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years” with Kaye Ballard, and is currently finishing a biography of Lee Meriwether. A manuscript with “I Love Lucy” and “Bewitched” director, William Asher, is also in production.

During his off-time Hesselman said he is often acting or writing, but acknowledges these past-times can involve a lot of travel.

“I guess I like to travel. I travel a lot with my career, but that becomes tiring after a while. It’s like college dorm life on the road,” he said.

Somewhere between acting, directing, authoring and teaching, Hesselman has found time to start his own production company, Theatre Island Productions. To see Hesselman’s and the IUS Theatre Department’s work, check out “The Shadow Box,” opening Oct. 24.

Staff Writer