Playwright Spotlight: Fierce Words from Doug DeVita

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The FRESH FRUIT FESTIVAL invites you to join the pride and see productions like acclaimed playwright Doug DeVita‘s THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW – a fast-moving caustic comedy about an art director in high-powered New York ad agency, trying to discover his real self amid power struggles and stereotypes. He finds an ally in Dodo, who understands his plight – being that she became a lady-living-legend in an era of “Mad Men.” Matthew Jellison appears with Carole Monferdini as Dodo and Steven Hauck and Paloma Pilar. Teresa Kelsey is also a member of FIERCE, directed by Dennis Corsi. BroadwayWorld has a sneak peek at the cast in character below!

THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW by Doug DeVita performs Friday, July 22 at 7pm; Saturday, July 23 at 6:30 pm; and Sunday July 24 at 3:30 pm at The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, NYC.

We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?

I’m fueled by rage, martinis, and memories. And actors. Lots of wonderful actors who inspire me with their voices, their mannerisms, their enormous TALENT and generosity of spirit.

Tell us about your play … and why you wrote it?

The Fierce Urgency Of Now tells the story of Kyle, an Art Director in a high-powered New York ad agency who, at 30, is still trying to figure out who he is and what he wants from life. He finds an ally in Copywriter Dodo, a living-legend who started in the business during the era of “Mad Men,” and the two form an unlikely bond as they negotiate their way through the power struggles and skewed priorities of that bizarre world where everything, and nothing, is fierce, urgent, and now.

The play is a fictionalized recounting of some of my own experiences in that world; I was an Art Director / Associate Creative Director at several top worldwide ad agencies working on big blue chip accounts, and I’m currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at F.I.T. in New York (my Alma Mater), where I teach kids who want to enter that crazy, stressful, sometimes wildly creative world how to “Think Different,” as those brilliant ads for Apple said.

Dodo was a real person, a colleague at N.W. Ayer (one of the agencies I worked for), and a larger-than-life personality who influenced me in so many profound ways I can’t even begin to describe. Kyle is an amalgam of me and one of my former students, Stephen Weisbrot. Over Memorial Day weekend in 2013, Dodo called me from her home in Chicago, where she had retired 20 years earlier: “Dougbird, I have brain cancer. This sucketh.” A couple of weeks later, I was having congratulatory cocktails with Stephen, who had just landed a pretty good job at a major NY ad agency. I could tell something was up with him, and after about the third martini he admitted he hated the industry, he was very unhappy, he knew he’d made a mistake as early as his junior year in college, and his life was ruined. (Oh, the adorable drama of being 22.) I asked him (just like Dodo pressed me all those years ago): “What do you really want to do?” He finally admitted he wanted to be a pilot for a major airline. “Well, then do it, dammit!” At the time, I hadn’t really connected these two threads of my life, even though I knew that at one point in her life Dodo had been a licensed pilot, and had entertained everyone with fabulously funny stories about her exploits in the air.

In September, 2013, Dodo died. The connections between her, Stephen, and myself became crystal clear within seconds of hearing the news. And I began writing this play. BTW, Stephen left the ad industry a few months later to go to flight school, and has now accepted a job with American Airlines as a pilot on their regional routes.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

Fame and wealth, then. Seriously, though: I want to make people laugh, and then think. And hopefully they’ll leave one of my plays with questions that, if not change the way they think about the world, at least open themselves to the myriad of possibilities out there and realize that not everything is black and white, that there are, as my mother used to say, “alternatives to the alternatives.”

Although fame and wealth wouldn’t suck. Particularly wealth. This is an expensive vocation.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

I’m making it the only thing I can do. Because I can do many things – alternatives to alternatives, remember –  but it is the only thing I do that feels right in my soul, the only thing that stops the “knocking” Dodo speaks to Kyle about in the play.

Along those lines, if you couldn’t do this, what would you do?

The joy of being a writer is that I can do this until I drop dead. So I’ll continue to do this even after I “retire” and I’m loafing on the beach in Santa Monica. With my notepad, my camera/phone (or whatever the digital equivalent will be by then), and – hopefully – my observational wit still intact.

Last words?

The quieter me says to keep your mind, and your options, open to the opportunities which are sometimes staring you in the face; so what if it’s not the path you’re determined to follow because someone else laid it out for you? Think different. It’s what I’ve done. (Pissed my mother off, too, despite her “alternatives to the alternatives” mantra. What was that question about inspirational muses earlier?) I might not have fame and wealth, but I’m happy.

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