Mike James ’07

Someone had to leave Yuri Kordonsky’s production of Peer Gynt my senior year, and I got the part. We had just a couple weeks left until opening.

One of Yuri’s directorial choices was to have the actors visible on the edges of the stage at all times, watching. I remember sitting off to the side one day during rehearsal in the main theater at the CFA. I didn’t have any lines in the scene, so I sat on the floor, finishing my thesis or some other homework. Yuri came over to me and said something about trying to be present for everyone else. I pretended to understand. Mostly out of guilt, I put my notebook away. I watched for a little bit, and remembered getting in trouble with Cláudia Nascimento the previous year. She had given me a similar scolding. I spent the ends of rehearsals for her production of The Deceased Woman staring at my watch, and Cláudia suggested I might learn to be grateful for every second of rehearsal. I guess I had to learn it twice. I’m still learning it. But when I put my notebook away in Yuri’s rehearsal, I was bored, at first. But then I started to notice my castmates were coming up with brilliant storytelling ideas. My castmates were arguing about different translations of the play. My castmates were acting really, really well. Suddenly I saw why I was earning university credit hours. And, I got a taste of what presence and generosity felt like. (Just tastes. I’m sure I’m still a monster to some degree.)

The classes and programs at Wesleyan’s CFA aren’t for hobbyists. They aren’t supplemental. The seriousness, rigor, and passion for education found in this mini-campus match or beat any other department.

http://www.mikejames.co/ (Photo by Kristin Hoebermann)

[This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary season at Wesleyan's Center for the Arts. Learn more.]