Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Playwright Interview #2 – Dave Chapman October 24, 2010

NAME: Dave Chapman

PROJECT: Sinking Spring

Dave Chapman is a recent transplant to Portland, but he has been writing, acting, and directing for most of his life.  He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University, where he directed productions of Death and the Maiden and Chicks, and acted in several productions.  He has also directed productions of Henry IV Part One, The Tempest, and Little Secrets. He has authored a variety of plays, including Lock and Key, Use Only as Directed, and Condolences, and he wrote and directed the films Numb to the Cold and Ruin Follows Us while studying as a graduate student at Ohio University.  In 2007 Dave coordinated and participated in a playwriting workshop in the Los Angeles area, resulting in the play Over, which he directed in a staged reading.  Dave is a regular attendee of the PDX Playwrights group, and is thrilled to be a part of this year’s Fertile Ground festival.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave is new to town and left blank the Portland-specific questions because he hasn’t been here long enough to make an assessment.  But don’t hold it against him.  He’s here NOW, and that’s what’s important.]


1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Joss Whedon

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . Edward Albee Meets Steve Erickson

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . .

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . Michelle Williams as Jessica

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . .

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . Scorpions

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . Baseball

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . Little Big (John Crowley)

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . .Human, Horrifying, Hopeful

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . If it’s an indie, I might as well play myself.  We probably can’t afford anyone else.


1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

The residents of Sinking Spring, Iowa have learned to live with neglect. Kids grow up and leave forever. There are few jobs left. No one pays much attention to this little town except for the brief few days during campaign season when caucus candidates make their obligatory stops at the local pizza parlor. No one notices the desperation and resentment that threatens to tear the community apart. And certainly no one expects the senseless tragedy that gains national attention and shakes one family to its core … but that just might be the clarion call for which Sinking Spring has been waiting.

Sinking Spring is presented by PDX Playwrights and will play Sunday January 23 at 9:00 pm at Hipbone Studio (1847 E. Burnside).  Tickets are Pay-What-You-Will.

2. How did this story come about?  What inspired it?

I was thinking about It’s a Wonderful Life, and wondered what it might be like to tell a story like that, but kind of inverted — rather than have an idealistic young man stay in a stifling, small town to keep it from falling apart, what if that young man had left the town and now comes back to try to fix it after most of the damage has been done?  I’d already been developing the story of Jessica and Calvin as a one-act, so I decided to incorporate them into the town as well.  Most of my scripts are narrowly focused on a few characters, and I wanted to try something with a slightly grander sense of place.

3. Talk about your writing process.  (How do you write?  When do you write?  What gets you writing?)

Unfortunately, I’m a very undisciplined writer.  I’m not one of those people who sets aside a few hours everyday to write.  In fact, I really don’t write very often, and I’ll sit on an idea for years before I actually start putting anything down on paper.  My writing “career” is full of false starts.  I don’t particularly enjoy the process of writing, but as far as I can tell it’s a requirement if you want to get anything written.

4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

I work as a programmer, so I spend most of my time in front of the computer trying to solve puzzles.  I am also a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs, so I’m usually pretty miserable in the late summer.


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