Ever since I interviewed Ben Rimalower for "Call Me Adam," he has gone ahead and referred several of his friends my way! Each one has been a joy to talk to and get to know. That brings me to Wyatt Fenner. Ben suggested Wyatt call and I answered!
Wyatt stars in Naomi Wallace's The War Boys, about three vigilantes, childhood friends, enjoy patrolling the U.S./Mexican border. But these youths soon learn that even the most guarded borders are permeable. When the lines between fantasy and reality become dangerously blurred, these young men are forced to decide what it means to be an American, and who has the right to belong.
The timeliness of this play couldn't be more perfect. I'm thrilled to get to chat with Wyatt as this early stage in his career. It will be great to watch what he does next!
The War Boys plays at The Access Theater in NYC (380 Broadway, 4th Floor) through April 16! Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Stories inspired me to become a performer. When I was little reading with Dad before bed was my favorite part of my day, so I always had a really active imagination. At recess in school I'd lead pretend games; Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, anything to get the whole group running around pretending to be seagulls or trolls or whatever - but around third grade, for all of my classmates except for me, recess shifted from being about time for playing pretend to being about everyone playing kickball, and it was like something died for me. When my classmates were so unceremoniously over it with the pretend games I remember being like "Well...what the fuck am I supposed to do with life now.." there was no purpose anymore in my little seven year old existence.
Then shortly thereafter I was at the local library with Mom and we saw a poster for a Children's Theatre production of The Velveteen Rabbit and I realized there was this almost secret society of other kids who liked to play pretend as well and I could go and audition and maybe I'd get to put on some fairytale stories with them. So I went to try out for the company and I got cast as one of the fairies in Sleeping Beauty - then in the next production which was Jack and the Beanstalk I was cast as the cow's bottom, and I just never stopped doing plays because it gave me an opportunity to express what using my imagination to share any kind of stories has always meant to me.
2. You are currently making your NY stage debut in Naomi Wallace's The War Boys. What made you want to be part of this show? When I read the script I realized how timely this play is and I also saw how challenging an opportunity it would be to work on this project so that was really exciting to me. This is a play about three men who are each questioning what it means to be men, to be seen, and to have responsibility in a world where maybe those feelings are eroding for them - and that seems relevant right now.
3. Does the reality of your NY stage debut live up to the fantasy you had in your head? Working on a challenging play like this in my underpants in a tiny theatre four stories above a knock off sneaker factory is as downtown theatre as you can get - and I'm into it.
When I first moved to NY last year I got work right away that took me back out of town. Those jobs were incredible projects with wonderful directors and companies, which I'm really proud of, and grateful to have done, but I knew that to get a foothold here in the city I'd need to begin to turn down opportunities that would take me out of the city and as soon as I made that decision for myself this opportunity came up, so that is exciting, to get to continue to work towards that goal, specifically to get to make cool theatre that people will see and have conversations with one another about in this incredible city. This play is hard work, but everything worth having in life takes hard work and I'm really proud of all that this experience has helped me discover so far. Plus nothing nothing nothing beats riding the train home after a good show. I never knew that specific joy of being an actor in NY before and now I do.
4. What do you relate to most about your character "David"? What is one quality of his you are glad you, yourself don't possess? I relate to "David's" need for friendship and some level of acceptance. I am glad that I resolved my feelings about my own sexuality in a healthy way when I was growing up. "David" had a very different experience regarding his self acceptance - so I'm glad I don't share that with him.
5. Your character literally gets stripped down in this show, all the way to his underwear. When you found out you were going to have to perform in your underwear, what are some thoughts that went through your head? What is it like to be so exposed to an audience like this night after night? As a person there is a lot that scares me but as an actor there isn't much that I'm afraid of doing. I've been entirely naked on stage several times before and as long as it makes sense for the story I believe in going there. It takes a lot to expose yourself night after night like we do in the play - clothes on or off, but I commit to it and go there every night. Otherwise, what's the point?
6. Part of the shows description is "Even the most guarded borders are permeable." What is something that you have kept guarded, but realize it's time to let the world in on it? That is a tough one, because I am really open as a person. I can understand people who have the inclination to hold things back because we all do that to different degrees day to day but what this play celebrates is allowing oneself to really strip down and be exposed - literally in my case - which is a rare and worthwhile experience for everyone to have, even if it's just for one night in the theatre.
7. The show also asks what it means to be an American. What does it mean to you, to be an American? I have such a hard time with how "us" and "them" the world is right now. We are all people. Countries, genders, religions, I suppose all of these labels can be useful but we've created them ourselves and in a lot of cases they do more harm than good. What matters so much more than what team you root for or where you go to the bathroom is what is in your heart. As a person what is most important to me is that other people feel some sense of happiness or brightness when they've encountered me and that somehow I can make even a simple difference for others in that regard. Smiling, helping the lady with the stroller up the stairs, being kind is what matters most because, no matter how bad your day is, if you lead with kindness you will feel better for it - and so will the people around you - even if you never see them again.
8. The timeliness of the show couldn't be more perfect with that wall that man wants to build. What are some stories you've heard from audience members about the show? Everyone's experience of the play is completely different! It is so cool because this type of theatre really operates like a dreamscape. The play is relentless and bizarre and irreverent and it doesn't allow for a lazy audience. People who come to see what we are doing down here have to make several of their own connections as far as why certain turns occur in the play, what that means to them individually - but everything we do has integrity - so if the audience sticks with us they get a good full meal of ideas, images, and questions to take home with them.
9. The story blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. When has there been a time in your life when you walked that fine line between what was real and what you had imagined? I don't think I've ever confused the two things.
10. Let's play with the show's title a bit, The War Boys. What is one war you feel you are fighting right now? I think we are all always looking for kindness and connection with one another. Right now people seem much less willing to connect outside of our screens and little hand held internets and I think I'm always looking for opportunities to actually connect - eye to eye and face to face - with other people. Being new to the city and discovering who is going to be a part of my tribe is exciting and challenging. The efforts continue to pay off so I'm happy to keep on that road.
More on Wyatt:
NY Debut. Recent Regional Theatre: Michael Kahn's production of Cloud 9 (Studio Theatre), Darko Tresnjak's production of Romeo and Juliet (Hartford Stage), Moisés Kaufman's production of Bent (Mark Taper Forum), as well as the West Coast Premiers of Dog Sees God, The Whale, Next Fall, Rest, and Slipping. Television: Bones, Veronica Mars.