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.