September 3, 2013

Spotlight on Alumni: Dave Deveau

Dave Deveau Dave Deveau

Dave Deveau (BA Creative Ensemble/Playwriting 2005) catches up with us to tell us about his his busy theatrical life in Vancouver, and how York helped him get there.

I live in Vancouver, BC where I work full time as a playwright, playwriting teacher, dramaturg and producer. My husband and I run a company called Zee Zee Theatre which is heading into its sixth season, which includes my new play Lowest Common Denominator and I have five other productions going up this season. I'm the Playwright in Residence with Green Thumb Theatre, an amazing theatre for young audiences company, that will be touring two of my new plays this year, including tagged, a commissioned play about online bullying/accountability inspired by the recent suicides of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, which will tour Ontario this year. I work closely with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and teach at Douglas College. I also run a hugely successful series of late night dance parties/drag shows/cabaret-style shows which help fund local non-profits like Zee Zee. Oh, and did I mention I'm also a drag queen? Peach Cobblah, the queen of Vancouver's hip hop scene.

Dave Deveau as Dave Deveau as “Peach Cobblah”

I'm most proud of my play My Funny Valentine, based on the 2008 murder of Lawrence King. The play had a workshop production at SummerWorks in 2009, then premiered through Zee Zee in 2011. It won me the Sydney Risk Prize for Oustanding Original Play by an Emerging Playwright and was also nominated for the Jessie Richardson Award for Oustanding New Play opposite major contenders like Kevin Kerr, Peter Anderson & Hiro Kanagawa. The play has subsequently been remounted here in Vancouver and received a production in Dublin, Ireland.

<em>My Funny Valentine</em> My Funny Valentine

What was the most valuable thing you learned at York?

My introduction to New Play Dramaturgy from Judith Rudakoff has definitely permanently stamped my theatre practice—I use so much of Judith's language and many of her exercises in what I teach. And I absolutely have to give Peter McKinnon credit for forcing us all to learn how to write a decent Canada Council grant—I've received five to date!

For students about to graduate…

Theatre is not a business for wallflowers. See as much theatre as you can and chat with people in lobbies. Some of my commissions have stemmed from meeting people at shows that developed into important relationships. For the playwrights reading this: submit submit submit. Introduce people to your work, because I assure you, they will remember you. The people who develop theatre in this country like being introduced to young and exciting voices and to follow their development. I spent most of my time at York submitting my writing to anyone and anywhere that would accept it, and was able to get my first commission (from Theatre Direct) before I'd even graduated!

My favourite place at York…

Winter's Residence. I lived there for all four years of my program and was a Don for the final two. There's such a magic in that building that really made the university experience for me. That and the top floor of Vanier Residence, where most of my theatre school friends lived in first year. I don't think I've ever laughed as much in my life as I did in the various rooms of that floor. In fact, it was probably that laughter that fueled my love of the work we were doing.

And for those just entering the program…

Take full advantage of what this program is offering you, because there's a lot and if you have fun while doing it, you'll be cut out for a career in theatre. Because a career in theatre involves a lot of hard work, often thankless work, and often unpaid work, but eventually the “unpaid” part falls away, the “hard” label gets replaced by “exciting”, and “thankless” simply becomes “worthwhile”. So sink your teeth into grant writing assignments, scribble in the margins of plays and workbooks, see as much theatre as possible (I saw at least one play a week every single week of my degree) – it will all add up and serve you in the longrun.

Well, all that, and give yourself the freedom to massively fail at something. Honestly. I'm not good at a heck of a lot of things (don't get me started on costume crew, and whatever you do, don't let me direct anything, ever), but I've discovered I'm really good at some things (writing, dramaturgy, drag). And I focus on those.

Dave Deveau as Dave Deveau as “Peach Cobblah”