Love Sacrifices All

Jayme (Mester '01) Reichanadter, who uses Mest as a stage name, as Kay Swift dancing with Bart Mather as Jimmy Warburg, Swift's husband and lyricist, in the play "Kay Swift: Genius Loves Company."

When J.P., a regular at the Starbucks where Jayme (Mester ’01) worked, came into the coffee shop in 2007 with tears in his eyes, Mester never thought his burden that fall day would impact her graduate career. Billie Holliday was playing on the radio when Mester inquired about J.P.’s tears.

“You know why I love this place?” J.P. rhetorically asked Mester regarding the coffee shop. “It’s because you guys always play the music of my grandma.”

It turns out J.P.’s grandma was Kay Swift, the first woman to write a Broadway musical titled “Fine and Dandy” in 1930;  he was also a close colleague of the famous composer George Gershwin. Swift soon became the topic of Mester’s master’s thesis from The Boston Conservatory.

Mester’s assignment: to write, cast, direct, produce and act the lead role in a 60-75-minute show. So, for roughly two  years after discovering J.P.’s relation to Swift, Mester put together her show, “Kay Swift: Genius Loves Company,” which debuted last year at The Boston Conservatory. The show revolves around the universal theme Mester picked out — Love Sacrifices All — as it centers around the love affair between Swift and Gershwin (who’s music is featured in the show), Swift’s divorce, her poor parenting, her willingness to give up a successful career for Gershwin, and her tragic loss of Gershwin.

“Part of my research included a trip to Yale University’s Music Library, which houses the Kay Swift Papers in their archives,” Mester says. She also was put in touch with Kay’s granddaughter, Katharine Weber, the co-trustee of the Kay Swift Memorial Trust, who provided her with unpublished music and photos.

Although Mester graduated from Bethel a decade ago with degrees in music education and choral and music performance, she says Bethel prepared her for her show, which she hopes to perform again. “Not only did [Bethel] give me a standard of excellence and the experience and knowledge to succeed in any job or classroom, it actually taught me to long for more of everything — more performing, more creating, more learning and, perhaps most importantly, to not give up until I got it.”

 

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