Make way for the Neanderthal Arts Festival, a new, adventurous festival lumbering over to The Cultch this summer. This festival will highlight bold, innovative work from visionary artists and will run from July 21st to August 1st at The Cultch. One of these local visionary artists is The Cultch’s very own Head Front of House Manager, Dave Deveau. Describing theatre as “the ultimate conversation about humanity”, Dave has started two theatre companies in Vancouver and is now working on various projects at home and in Toronto. His play, Tiny Replicas, will be at the Neanderthal Arts Festival (July 21 to 25) and we took this opportunity to pick his brain about the festival, his work, and the secret to his success as an emerging playwright and theatre company creator.
You are behind both Zee Zee Theatre and Thirty Below Theatre. When did you start these companies and what are they all about?
Thirty Below Theatre emerged as a project in the final year of my undergrad at York University with the mandate of producing plays by Canadian playwrights both past and present. There are a multitude of companies in our country who help develop work by young playwrights, but very few who actually see them through to professional productions. The company itself formed in 2005 with the English-Language world premiere of Canadian master playwright Michel Tremblay’s The Train, which I translated and directed. The company has produced a show every year since.
Zee Zee Theatre is my fiancé Cameron Mackenzie’s mastermind project which he formed at the end of 2008. It’s a registered non-profit that focuses on the stories of the marginalized as seen through small moments. It launched with Bryden MacDonald’s Whale Riding Weather in February 2009, followed by my own play Nelly Boy last October, which earned the company its first Jessie nomination.
What made you want to start theatre companies in Vancouver? What challenges have you faced?
As any young artist out of theatre school can attest, it’s hard to get hired, particularly if you’re a director or a playwright in a city that’s not yet familiar with your work. You need to get your name out, and the best way is to do it yourself. One thing Cameron was adamant about with the formation of Zee Zee, was that everyone got paid a professional living wage from the get-go. It’s vital because otherwise you’re dismissed as amateurs and we don’t have the time or patience for that. So despite not receiving any government or foundation funding for Whale Riding Weather, Cameron chased funders and patrons and was able to employ a full roster of Equity actors and professional designers – something I still stand in awe of.
What have you found most rewarding about your experience?