SUMMERWORKS: Interview with Dave Deveau by Chris Dupuis

Chris: This show is based on true events. Why was it personally important for you to tell this story in a theatrical form?

Dave: When I first encountered the details of the Larry King murder I was floored. Unable to even think or more or speak. It affected me in such an unexpectedly profound way that I spent all of 2008 constantly wanting to grapple with it in my writing, but unable to because it was so raw and emotional. Ultimately I think my biggest frustration as I continued to look into the case was that no one knew about it. Though it's been called the biggest act of gay-bias hatred since Matthew Shepard's murder in 1998, people gave me blank stares when I talk about it. That reason alone was fuel for a theatrical piece. I've never been an overtly political writer, but this because different - something I simply had to acknowledge and delve into.

Chris: Though there are obviously some imagined details in the script as well, much of it (at least from my cursory Googling) is true to what happened in real life. What do you think are the responsibilities of a writer taking on a subject in this way?

Dave: I've been very cognisant about looking at the realities of the case and have based it all in real time-lines and, people who are directly related to the case, who are referred to, if not ever publicly acknowledged within the press. It's a complicated balance - these are peoples' lives and I really have no business putting words in their mouth, and for the most part have avoided in in the angles I've chosen to examine, but at the same time, when something becomes part of the public discourse, people are going to examine it and dissect it. I think as artists we are responsible to delve into these stories, and be as truthful as we can.

Chris: In addition to the various characters in the piece, you play the central character named “Dave”. How literally is this character you? If it is you, how have you theatricalised yourself in the version you present on stage?

There's a level of theatricality, but only in the sense that it's a heightened version of myself. My own fascination and obsession with Larry King becomes manifest in a more physical way on stage. But every thought and frustration that the character Dave goes through is an absolute reflection of my own in researching this material. Thankfully we don't dive into the often unbearable process of trying to actually shape this piece - no audience needs to see that.

Chris: You play two female characters in this piece: Helen--a school teacher, and Rhonda, a teen-aged girl. Can you talk about performing gender in this piece? How did you approach it? What is the relationship between that and the performance of gender that Larry engaged in at school?

Dave: One thing my director Cameron Mackenzie has been very clear about from the get go is that in the context of the frame of the piece, Dave, the narrator for lack of a better term, is conjuring these characters - we're well aware that Dave is playing all of them, but we're overlaying a shade of each of these people. As far as performing gender, it wasn't much of a consideration, but rather finding the humanity of each character. The difference between Rhonda or Helen and Larry is that Larry's performativity stemmed from a hostile environment that he was responding to. There can be that natural instinct, in an atmosphere that feels unwelcoming, to heighten our "otherness" in order to challenge peoples' discomfort. Helen, too, has a performavity: she's addressing a group of parents/educators, and thus she needs to breathe a lot of her emotion down in order to keep a certain professional demeanour. So to really get to the crux of the question, gender and performance correlate within many of the characters in the piece, but haven't been the overall focus.

Chris: Let’s talk about the form of one-person shows with multiple characters. There’s been so much work produced in this genre. Besides the relative ease and cheapness of producing a show with only one actor, why make this kind of show today? What are you doing with the form that’s new?

Dave: When I first applied to the SummerWorks festival with this show, it wasn't written. I had a few samples and an idea - I, as playwright, wanted to have a conversation with an audience - to talk to them about something I'm passionate about and that I think they will be moved, incensed, provoked by. Though, yes, I do perform a few characters, it's a stark piece that's ultimately about shared experience as human beings. I specifically wanted to be the Passe Muraille backspace, a cupboard of a space, where sixty audience members can breathe and sweat with me. It's an intimate, confined space, which reflects the nature of the show. I've written a solo show before, a number of years ago, and never thought I'd come back to the genre. And in a way, I haven't. Rather, this is me, as an artist, sharing my own experience with something I'm grappling with, and theatricalizing it a bit.

Chris: As I was reading the script I kept thinking about the show travelling to high schools across the country. And plans for a national TYA tour?

Dave: Late last year I spoke with Greenthumb Theatre here in Vancouver about the possibility of writing a show about Larry King. That was long before this piece actually emerged, but I'll probably knock on their door with this to see what they think. Short of that, who knows? Tell your producer friends.


My Funny Valentine
Written by Dave Deveau

Directed by Cameron Mackenzie
Presented by Thirty Below Theatre

Featuring: Dave Deveau

Presented at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue


August 6th 6:00pm
August 8th 6:00pm
August 9th 10:00pm
August 12th 8:00pm
August 13th 10:00pm
August 15th 6:00pm
August 16th 12:00pm

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