The Indivisual

By Eric Allen, News staff

James Wetzel isn’t an actor. If you ask him about it, he’ll say he acted a little in high school, but he doesn’t do it anymore.

‘I’m a worker ‘- that’s all I do,’ he said, sitting, one leg tucked under the other, next to a long navy curtain. ‘I work six days out of the week.’

Wetzel, a junior history major, is on co-op at the American Repertory Theatre where he helps coordinate events. Better known as A.R.T., it’s the only not-for-profit theatre in the country with resident actors and an international training conservatory. It also has a reputation for resurrecting old, forgotten plays and nurturing new actors.

The theatre’s latest production was an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s 1896 play, The Seagull. The original play follows the romantic conflicts of four characters and includes references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Wetzel was tight-lipped about the details of A.R.T.’s version, since the show was still running at the time of his interview.

‘There has not been one like this before,’ he said. ‘Anyone that’s familiar with Chekhov ‘- they’re either fans [of the play] or they roll their eyes.’

The Seagull was the first show produced under A.R.T.’s new artistic director, Diane Paulus.
‘She has a very bold vision,’ Wetzel said. ‘She’s changing the direction the American theatre is taking.’

Paulus is on a mission to revamp A.R.T.’s interaction with the younger crowd, Wetzel said.

That’s where he comes in.

He’s been an intern in the development department of A.R.T. for a month now. Lately, he’s been helping to plan the theatre’s production of Hair:’ The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Written by actors James Rado and Gerome Ragni in 1964, the show made history with it’s songs about ’60s hippie culture and sexual revolution ‘- it became known as the first ever rock-musical.

Besides the play, Wetzel said he’s been doing a lot more.

‘It’s different everyday ‘- we outline what needs to be done daily,’ he said. ‘I’ve been trying to get sponsors and doing a lot of tasks for a gala in April. Just a lot of technical stuff that can go by the wayside.’

He also helps plan OUT@A.R.T. Night, an event for the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender community as part of the theatre’s new initiative to attract a younger, more diverse crowd.

Wetzel said he spends a lot of time at A.R.T., but has another job, too. He works at TOMB, a Boston-based interactive walking adventure through ancient Egypt. TOMB visitors solve physical and mental challenges, with the help of a guide, and the adventure can last up to 45 minutes.

Back in his apartment, Wetzel seems relaxed. He’s wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and sitting in a wooden chair.

He painted his living room walls navy blue with his roommate, except for one wall ‘- it’s painted with chalkboard paint, and bears a large map of the US, colored blue and red, indicating the results of the 2008 presidential election.

A song by Fleet Foxes is playing, along with a medley of other songs, and a bike he hasn’t bothered to sell is leaning against the election map.

When he is working at A.R.T., he doesn’t do much for the actual performances, he said.
‘I’m not on the stage crew making sure the show happens, but I’m behind the scenes,’ he said.

He described the stage as bare and massive ‘- larger than most theatres in Boston. His office is in back of the theatre, so he doesn’t see the stage much, or get to experience any rehearsals while he works, he said.

‘As I’m sitting in my office, I hear people singing,’ he said. ‘And every once in a while a rock song will blare.’

But he doesn’t work at the theatre just for glimpses of performances, he said.

‘The interns are there to make sure the theatre can put on plays,’ he said. ‘I see myself more as support for the theatre ‘- the institution.’

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