Playwright Patrick Devon finds his inspiration for his witty dialogue as a dresser backstage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. An invitation from Libby Appel brought Devon to Ashland five years ago.
A graduate of the University of London in art history and theater, Devon workshops his plays with OSF actors at the Black Swan. As we sat in the empty Elizabethan Stage one afternoon, we chatted about his experience of coming to Ashland and writing for theater.
PD: The lure of taking that writing and being able to see it with this quality of actors was just overwhelming. It’s such a good thing to see the whole show go up. Everyone is very kind. The less you put your ego in it, the more those actors will save you. If you have actors on your side, your stuff will go.
I’m usually most comfortable writing backstage at a show. The creative forces are happening all around. I get my ideas when I’m here, and then I go home and sort them out. Actors are so overdeveloped as far as their literary senses that any sort of premise that you might be thinking about — I’ve never once set down one of my premises for a play, where someone has said, “Oh, that’s weird, or that’s dumb.” They’d say, “Hmmm, “I think it needs work.” That’s very kind. Or they say, “What happens? Good premise, it’s not going very far.” And we always have Mr. Shakespeare to say, “Hey, the twin thing. How far can that go?” He certainly stretches it. You can too. He takes unbelievable situations, and we buy it. It’s fascinating.
Claudia Alick has found the key to success with her eclectic selection of performers for the Green Shows, the early-evening performances on the Courtyard Stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As we lunched at Dragonfly, Claudia told me how she goes about it.
CA: We love for the audience members to write us notes. It’s the only way we know if we are on the right track. We also have an open submission policy. It’s a democratic way to curate a show. It opens me up to acts that I would never get to find out about. Just go online, write us a note, tell us what your act is and you’re in the running. I also encourage people to go to the Green Show group on Facebook. That’s just another way to become part of the conversation.
Claudia Alick is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s community associate producer. She organizes the Green Shows, the free performances that take place every evening on the Courtyard Stage before the regularly scheduled OSF plays.
Under Alick’s direction, the Green Shows have become an eclectic series of performances. She selects artists from the local community and from around the country. We met over lunch at Dragonfly Restaurant.
EH: Is your background in theater?
CA: Yes. I got my undergraduate degree at George Washington University; I was a theater major there. I got my graduate degree at New York University in performance studies, which is an interdisciplinary program that not only looks at the performances that happen on stages, you also study performances that happen everywhere — the performance of tourism or ritual as performance. I found it extremely helpful information for my job.
John Stadelman’s hilarious performance as the obsequious yet self-important Vice Principal Douglas Panch in the “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is truly unique. I was curious as to how he prepared for the role.
John sings with the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers. He performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for six seasons. He has directed theater up and down the West Coast, at Ashland High School and the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.
A Stanford graduate, John graduated from law school at the University of Southern California before pursuing a career in film and theater. John is also a landscape designer; the name of his company is Green Man Gardens.
We met in the Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s elegant restaurant section on a weekday afternoon.
At 29, DaRon Lamar Williams has found success in show business. He’s played in theater Off Broadway, toured nationally with “Jesus Christ Superstar” and performed with Michael Jackson on video.
In Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s “The 25th Anniversary of the Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Williams plays Comfort Counselor Mitch Mahoney, who delivers hugs and juice boxes to the losers. We got together at Starbucks on Main Street one afternoon.
EH: Were you always interested in theater?
DW: I grew up watching “The Wiz.” As a little 4-year-old, I learned all the choreography and all the dialogue. I would cast kids from my grandma’s day care, and we would do it in the garage. I would make my grandma and her friends come to watch. Everyday it was a different scene from “The Wiz” or a dance number or something. I knew even then that, in some shape or form, I’d be doing this the rest of my life. I used community theater and community bands as my creative outlet. Then I decided to move to New York.