James Lewis is a senior double majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and English. He is performing in TDPS’s upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard and is a TDPS Student Liaison for the 2015/2016 year.
James Lewis has always felt comfortable on stage. From middle school shows to TDPS productions to performances at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, he unfailingly delights in connecting with an audience. “I think in theatre I’ve found a way of reaching out to people that makes sense to me—through story, through language, through embodiment,” James says. “Being onstage is where I am most vulnerable, and yet empowered by the idea that anything is possible. I’ve yet to get tired of that feeling.”
Currently, James is in rehearsals for TDPS’s upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, which opens on October 23 and runs through November 1. As idealistic and intellectual Trofimov, James portrays a perpetual student—“a post post post grad student,” he jokes—in pursuit of truth. Rehearsals are going well, he says, in part because, “This group really clicked. It’s a huge cast and everyone brings so much energy and life [to the stage].” James goes on to say of his castmates, “It’s so much fun to watch everyone work. We’ve been focusing a lot on Act I recently and I only appear in two small moments in Act I, so I’ve been getting to watch everyone else work and it’s really exciting to see.”
James operates best when he is busy, and he has certainly kept himself busy over the past couple years, appearing in TDPS’s Rhinoceros and Kid Simple, as well as BareStage’s In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) and Macbeth. When asked how his theatrical experiences are impacting his time at Cal, James laughs. “They’re defining my time at Cal!” Every performance is a unique experience, and each one creates new connections between his performances, class work and offstage life. “Sometimes with an experience like a play, you don’t always see the way it’s going to connect—until you walk out of the theater or the rehearsal space and you realize it is completely parallel to what you are studying or what you are experiencing in life at that moment.”
With a love of theater and a desire to give back, James is a natural fit for the role of TDPS Student Liaison. Each year TDPS Student Liaisons, who are selected through an application process, serve as a bridge between students and faculty and work to foster increased community and communication within the department, as well as the larger campus. “As liaisons, we occupy an interesting liminal space between leaders and helpers,” James says, “Our goal is to create spaces where we can all come together as a department and be a community.”
This year, the seven 2015/2016 Student Liaisons will coordinate a number of events, including the annual Alumni Panel, the 2nd Annual Senior Picnic, and an informal town hall meeting to discuss topics of interests to the students. They will also host regular office hours to ensure that fellow students’ questions, ideas, concerns and thoughts are heard.
James will graduate in the Spring and plans to pursue an acting career in the Bay Area. While he will be sad to say goodbye to TDPS, he hopes that his work with the Student Liaisons will leave a legacy of knowledge that benefits future students: “I love the ephemeral nature of Theater and how it doesn’t last, but I want to leave something behind too.”
You can see James perform in The Cherry Orchard October 23 through November 1st. More information and tickets here.
Learn more about the TDPS student liaisons and their office hours here.