Theatrefolk - The Drama Teacher Resource Company

Playwright Spotlight: Get to Know Patrick Derksen

Welcome to "Playwright Spotlight" — your exclusive backstage pass to the creative minds crafting the incredible plays featured in our Theatrefolk catalogue. Discover the magic, quirks, and genius of the playwrights who help bring the stage to life. Let's meet one of these exceptional playwrights who offers the chance for your student performers to shine in their spotlight.

What inspired you to start writing plays specifically for high school & middle school students?

My school had no drama program (therefore no budget). So I dedided I'd take matters into my own pen.

Can you share a bit about your creative process when developing plays that resonate with students?

I watch many plays with my students. I observe what they react to, and I get their opinions. Being the playwright, we can revise it in rehearsals; I've made pretty big changes based on student ideas!

Are there any challenges you face when writing for student performers, and how do you overcome them?

They are more talented and capable that many might assume! Being students, they're used to learning & growing and take direction well - better than some adults.

What themes or messages do you aim to convey through your plays?

I think a common theme in my plays is how misunderstandings are the root of most problems. I also love characters who rise above expectations. Students are pretty wary of 'after-school special' type messaging - "that's so cringe!" It works better to suck them in with a good story and/or humour first.

How do you balance education and fun in your scripts?

Ensembles are a great point of entry where students can judge what they're ready to take on. I try to create fairly obvious character traits so students get the idea that "this is the character, not me." Otherwise that can be a big hang-up for younger performers.

Can you share a memorable experience or feedback from a student performance that left an impact on you?

My absolute favourite thing is to see a shy wallflower come out of their shell - not only on stage, but also in life. I've seen theatre make a big difference in kids' confidence and social skills. One girl in my class never said anything above a mumble, but after her role shredding air-guitar and whipping her hair around, she was a different kid.

Any advice for teachers or directors looking to choose engaging and age-appropriate plays for their student performers?

Ask the students! Read through with a group and they'll tell you what works.

What is your favourite play you've written so far?

I like certain scenes from different plays - sometimes ones that probably wouldn't be audience favourites, but they resonate with me for one reason or another. Overall, A Lighter Shade of Noir has made the biggest impact in my life; I love seeing performances of it from around the world.

Anything else you'd like students and/or directors to know about you as a playwright?

I'm just a humble grade 8 teacher without any real drama education. If I can do it, so can you!

Products referenced in this post: A Lighter Shade of Noir

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