David Fetzer, whose acting talent ranged from recent roles as desert recluse Everett Ruess to the tortured New England Puritan Dimmesdale, died Wednesday, Dec. 19, of unknown causes while visiting friends and family in Salt Lake City.
Fetzer, 30, had lived on and off in Los Angeles for the past three years, but came home to Salt Lake City whenever work called.
“He was the light of the room, every room he entered, every time he entered it,” said Jerry Rapier, producing director of Plan-B Theatre Company, which produced the world-premiere production of “The End of the Horizon” in 2008, with Fetzer originating the role of Ruess. “The loss of David is unfathomable and indescribable.”
“Salt Lake Acting Company will deeply miss David Fetzer,” said Cynthia Fleming and Keven Myhre, executive producers of the company. “It’s very rare to experience an actor so natural and filled with unassuming grace; he was born to be on the stage.”
Fetzer cultivated a love for acting early, at age 10, with roles in various Pioneer Theatre Company productions, including “To Kill a Mockingbird.” After graduating in 2001 from Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Mich., Fetzer became increasingly well-known on Salt Lake City stages for his immersion into roles and complete involvement in productions.
Before moving to Michigan to refine his theater skills as a teenager, Fetzer attended East High School, Clayton Middle School and Bonneville Elementary School in Salt Lake City.
Fetzer met best friend Patrick Fugit, later to become an established film actor with his role in the 2000 film “Almost Famous,” when both were children at Bonneville Elementary School.
“I was walking through the school soccer field when I saw this kid pretending to slip on a banana peel,” Fugit said in a phone from Los Angeles. “Our closest circle of friends know what an influence he was on my acting. I wouldn’t be half the actor I am today without his influence, and mind, for presenting an experience or emotion through acting, theater or music.”
The two spent endless hours recreating skits from Monty Python, Laurel and Hardy, and Buster Keaton, Fugit said, often to the annoyance of their parents and friends.
Fetzer traveled wherever acting, theater and film work took him. In 2010, in the depths of the Great Recession, he took out a personal loan of $5,500 to found his own New Works Theatre Machine in attempts to attract 18-35 theatergoers demographic set to attend theater.
“I’ve always seen theater as something I was glad to have seen or done but that was also something of a chore,” Fetzer told the Tribune in December 2010. “Lots of theater nowadays forgets the first and foremost you need to be engaging.”
His company produced two plays, with the first closed by fire marshall decree before the end of its run. The second, a stage adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses, titled “Ride Me,” opened at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in June 2011.
Fugit said Fetzer was always looking for new opportunities to share his love of theater with others. “From a very young age, both of us were fascinated by being immersed in something,” Fugit said. “If we could immerse people in something we thought was cool, funny or whatever, we got off on that. He wanted to take it [New Works Theatre Machine] as far as it could go.”
Jason Bowcutt, community and performing arts coordinator at the Utah Arts Council, acted with Fetzer as part of the cast in “The Lost Horizon.” “I spent years living in New York City, but I was completely blown away by his talent,” Bowcutt said. “I was always waiting for that moment when the rest of the world realized, like me, just how great his talent was.”
Fetzer is survived by his mother, Betsy Ross, father Robert, brother Scott and two sisters, Jessica and Carly. “We’re reeling, but reading all the tributes on Facebook has helped keep me afloat,” Ross said. “We’re just so happy for all the light David left behind.”
A gathering in memory of David Fetzer will be held Dec. 26 at 6 p.m. service at Starks Funeral Parlor, 3651 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City.