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‘Outside Mullingar’ star Debra Messing ’90 visits alumni

Andy Zeitlin '90, Rachel Reiner '97, President Lawrence, Debra Messing '90, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement Nancy K. Winship, P'10, P'13, and Susan Loeb-Zeitlin '90.

Emmy Award-winning actress Debra Messing ’90 welcomed more than 125 of her fellow Brandeis alumni to a talk-back in New York City this week after a performance of the Broadway hit “Outside Mullingar,” written by John Patrick Shanley. See Slideshow.

Best known for her role as Grace Adler in the NBC hit series “Will & Grace,” Messing stars as Rosemary, a farm girl in rural Ireland who has been pining for her neighbor, Anthony, played by Tony Award winner Brian F. O’Byrne. Her performance has been hailed as “enchanting” and “irresistible.”  

Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence, who moderated the talk-back, asked Messing whether the character that she plays on stage bears any similarities to her real self. “Rosemary had unequivocal faith that, no matter how long it might take, things would work out for the best. I remember having that same faith in my abilities as a naive young woman at Brandeis,” she replied.

Attributing her success to the late Brandeis theater arts professor Ted Kazanoff, Messing said, “I would not be an actress were it not for him. He was a miraculous teacher.”

Her professional accomplishments include her eight-year run on “Will & Grace,” for which she won an Emmy Award in 2003, seven Golden Globe nominations, seven Screen Actors Guild nominations, an ensemble award in 2001, five additional Emmy nominations, two American Comedy Award nominations and a People’s Choice Award nomination. Her most recent television work includes two seasons on NBC’s “Smash,” created by playwright, and fellow Brandeisian, Theresa Rebeck MA ’83, MFA ’86, PhD ’89.

Messing joked that graduating summa cum laude from Brandeis “was what my father was most proud of.”

The alumni event was chaired by Rachel Reiner ’97, vice president of the Alumni Club of New York City, and Andrea Soloway ’89. Classmates Sue Loeb- Zeitlin ’90 and Andy Zeitlin ’90, president of the Alumni Club of Westchester/Southern Connecticut, tweeted about their fun visit with Messing and other Brandeis alumni at the talk-back.

When shown a photo of herself and Valerie David Barrish ’90 as sophomores at Brandeis, Messing said, “We felt at the time that we were adults doing serious things and were going to take over the world. Now we look like kids at an amusement park.”

Messing said that at Brandeis she was made to feel that if she worked hard, her career would eventually work out. “At heart, nothing has changed,” she said. “I am still optimistic and insecure. I knew I would work and not give up. I am a proud Brandeisian.”

Date: February 7, 2014