Zee Zee Theatre’s Dead People’s Things is on now and runs through May 5 at Studio 16. Theatre Wire chatted with playwright Dave Deveau to learn more about the show and Dave’s seven-year process to get it on stage.
What’s the gist of the story?
Phyllis inherits a house from an aunt she didn’t really know existed and has to sort through all of the things that made up her aunt’s life in order to get to know who she really was. She’s helped in the process by her aunt’s neighbour Beatrice, who was named Executrix of the estate.
What inspired you to write it?
I’m so curious about the relationship between people and their belongings, and in particular, what narrative we can deduce after people pass from the things they leave behind. This is a hugely personal piece that takes inspiration from the actual death of my aunt and the subsequent process I went through with my husband and others of sorting through her house (and let me tell you, there was a lot of stuff).
What did you need to do to reshape it into the guise of a play?
This has probably been the hardest part of developing this play: figuring out when to let go and let the play be a play and release myself from the confines of what really happened and who was really involved. This isn’t, ultimately, my aunt’s story, but a riff on what happened in the wake of her death. This play took me seven years to finish because I was really concerned about preserving her memory.
Do you read the script aloud while editing to ensure that it sounds like people talking?
Constantly. Sometimes I do voices. Thank god most of the time there’s nobody else in my office. I also rely on my tremendous network of actor-friend-inspirations who help me when I get stuck. I don’t think you can really rewrite a script without hearing it. But generally, when I hear a draft read once, I know exactly where my work needs to happen.
What’s the best thing about being a playwright?
I get to have conversations with audiences—I get to inspire the conversations they have in the car or on the bus on the way home. That feels profound to me. And also, it feels like a responsibility. I want to be having conversations about things that matter, and that trouble me, or confuse me, or inspire me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about the show?
Don’t let the title fool you—you’ll still laugh. I think levity is a vital part of telling stories. And I think it’s important for an audience to know that my job as playwright is ask questions I don’t have answers to, for all of us to consider. And if you feel like you want to answer those questions, or ask your own, you can always get in contact with me through my website at davedeveau.com. I encourage it.