Co-recipient of The Essential Theatre Playwright Award and the mind behind That Uganda Play, Theroun Patterson has cultivated a meditation on social injustices and the dynamics of cultural gradients across the world. Bang! got to pick Patterson’s mind on the atmosphere available for theatre in Georgia, his process, and his hopes for That Uganda Play.
BANG! When having a play produced, how much of your vision do you hold steady to and how much is lenient? What parts?
Theroun Patterson Well, it depends. If at all possible, I take the play through a pre-production workshop period. This allows me to hear the actors actually playing the roles read their parts. Feedback from them is incredibly important for me. Coming from an acting background, their process is something I hold sacred. Additionally, the workshop period gives me, the director, and the dramaturge, an opportunity to talk through my vision of the script and where my vision and my writing don’t necessarily match up. Every play is different. I have a pretty strong idea of what I want my plays to sound and look like. That said, I make as many changes as necessary to get the writing to reflect the stage world I see in my mind’s eye.
BANG! The Essential Theatre Festival focuses on Georgia playwrights, what kind of atmosphere for theater do you think exists in Georgia?
Theroun Patterson Honestly, one that has a lot of room for improvement. There are some great theaters doing some great work.
BANG! In the process of writing, do you seek out inspiration or did your ideas come to you naturally?
Theroun Patterson Um, the short answer is both. That UGANDA Play came from actively looking online for stories, poems, articles, anything that might spark something. I came across the David Bahati (one of the authors of the “Kill The Gays” bill in Uganda) interview and it, quite frankly, pissed me off.
BANG! Is playwriting your chief medium? If not, what else, and how does it compare?
Theroun Patterson Finally, at long last, yes, Playwriting is my main source of creative expression. I still enjoy acting, but it’s a distant second.
BANG! Who do your think play speaks to?
Theroun Patterson Hopefully, the intellectually and emotionally curious, the open minded.
BANG! Does your story change throughout the fine-tuning process? How much?
Theroun Patterson During fine tuning? Not much. At that point, it’s about clarifying language, streamlining, and small adjustments. Before that point my plays have usually gone through 8-10 revisions, a couple of readings, and a workshop period.
BANG! What is the avenue of getting a play produced like without the help of Essential Theatre?
Theroun Patterson It’s not easy, but not impossible. Productions are a privilege and shouldn’t be easily attained. I’m incredibly grateful for any opportunity to see my work realized on stage.
BANG! What do you hope your maximum contribution to your audience is?
Theroun Patterson That’s a hard question to answer. I just hope the work stays with them long after the lights go down, and that they want more from me . . . ‘cause I’ve got more in me.
Check out the festival schedule below, and definitely go check out all the offerings of the Essential Theatre Playwriting Festival here: http://www.essentialtheatre.com/2014-festival/