Bill Bossman and Ross Mumford make up the entire cast of a show called Visiting Mr. Green, opening at the Lofte Community Theatre, Friday, May 6. The characters in Visiting Mr. Green start an unlikely friendship after a near car accident, and their differences and similarities help them work through their pasts, confront the present, and look to the future. Bill Bossman of Omaha plays the titular Mr. Green, and Ross Mumford, also of Omaha, plays Ross Gardiner. Both men have been in the theatre since their teenage years and took some time during rehearsal to sit down and talk about their theatre background, what it’s like being in a show with only 1 other castmate, and what they have in common with their characters, and each other.
Ross got into theatre thanks to his sister, who started doing shows at the Lofte when she was 13, so, when Ross turned 13, he did too, and his first show was Damn Yankees. From there, he continued doing shows throughout high school and college, post-college, and now!
Bill started in high school with one-act plays. He continued doing theatre through college at Midland College (now Midland University) and for decades since. As Bill has moved around the country he has done community theatre in Texas, South Dakota, and of course, Nebraska.
While both have extensive theatre experience, this is the first time that either actor has done an entire full-length show with a cast of two. Ross had done duet acting in high school, and was in half of the first act of “I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!” last summer at the Lofte, but even that was about 45 minutes. The smallest cast Bill has worked with consisted of four people until now. When asked what they thought of doing an entire show with only 1 other castmate, Bill says, “It’s not so hard really. It just is what it is.”
Ross agrees, and while it might not be hard, it’s still unique. “It has to be conversational,” Ross says. “We really have to say the right thing or else the conversation is just going to stop, we are constantly going back and forth. We queue each other a lot and drive the conversation forward, both of us, working together. But it does mean that the green room is totally empty and there is no noise in the wings!”
“We could just go back behind the door [off stage], and change clothes,” says Bill.
“And I’m in a new outfit every time I come on stage!” exclaims Ross. There’s no need to go back to the dressing room, there’s no one else around! So he’ll save time changing clothes in the wings. “But I’ll pull costumes from my own closet - my suits and casual clothes so I can put myself together”
Bill jokes and says, “I’m just going to wear old man clothes. I’ll raid my closet and get a little scruffy on my beard and hair.”
However, the lack of additional cast members doesn’t just mean an abundance of changing areas - it also means an abundance of lines to learn. “We received our scripts way early in advance,” Ross mentions,” which was nice.”
“We were able to meet a couple of times while Harvey was in progress,” Bill adds. “We met at my house and ran through the script. That’s something you couldn’t do if you had 14 people - that was helpful. And we’ve been driving to Manley together most nights so we’ve had time to talk things over, sometimes run lines, and get comfortable with each other. That’s something you couldn’t do with a large cast.”
Ross agrees, “It’s something we couldn’t even really do during the show since we’ll both be on stage the entire time. It won’t leave a lot of downtime to connect, so that’s nice too.”
“Yeah… I’m getting rather fond of this guy,” Bill says, putting a hand on Ross’s shoulder. “But, in the show, there are moments when [the characters] are just so angry with each other and we yell. But then there are times when we just really connect. Even though I tell you to go to hell a few times.”
“So I guess we treat each other a lot more aggressively on stage than off!” Ross says as the two of them chuckle at this. “But it’s really nice getting to know each other. There are some similarities between us and our characters, but a lot of the rougher parts of our characters - I’m glad they don’t resonate with us as people!”
“My wife would say I’m just like Mr. Green,” Bill comments. “Just an old curmudgeon that yells at everybody and doesn’t understand stuff and you gotta tell him things six times… but, I’m kind of that way. I’m stuck in my ways, slow to change, so I can relate to him. I’m not Jewish though [and Mr. Green is], so that’s been a little foreign to me. I’ve had to do some research and learn and understand some of the stuff that’s going on. But you know, you do that with any role, you research the background.”
“I have also found a lot of things that are similar between me and my character too,” Ross mentions. “We share the same name, obviously, we are also about the same age, and we’ve shared a lot of similar life experiences when it comes to interactions with others. Also, my character always tries to do the right thing, he cares. However, one major difference is that he’s a bit of a hothead, which is not me. Kevin has said ‘More! Anger! Yelling!’ but that’s not who I am. I’m not a yell-y kind of person. Oh and another thing I don’t resonate with, I am not punctual!” Bill nods in full agreement leaning forward and widening his eyes. “He can attest that,” Ross says, pointing at Bill, “I am not punctual.” Bill just chuckles.
The similarities and differences don’t stop with the actors and the characters however, Ross and Bill have things in common as well, for example, both love to travel. Bill and his wife plan to go to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in September of this year. Ross’s plans include a trip around Nebraska with his mother, and a solo road trip to the Grand Canyon this summer. And both are very excited to see the reception of the show.
“Be prepared to think and to feel and understand, and to experience something. It’s really funny but it’s not a comedy, it’s funny because people are funny. This old man is funny! But it’s a very serious and important story that we’re going to tell,” says Bill.
Ross nods in agreement and adds, “I think people can come to this production, and, if they are open and willing to see the human lived experience, they can find a connection to their own lives. Hopefully, the audience can leave with a sense of love and connection, finding kinship where it’s not expected, being able to overcome differences, and seeing the benefits of being open to different people. And maybe start some really good conversations.”
“Well said,” Bill concludes with a smile.
The two characters in Visiting Mr. Green are ultimately looking for someone to connect with because they’re both lonely. And they find someone opposite of themselves. But, they learn tolerance. That willingness to hear someone else’s story, how it’s different from yours, and make a connection that way is important. If you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you might end up learning an awful lot. We hope you’ll join us for Visiting Mr. Green. The show runs May 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, and 15 and starts at 7:00 pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 2:00 Sundays. Tickets are available at lofte.org/tickets