5 Questions with Bill Doan, Penn State theater professor, and writer/performer of Not Self Inflicted
Bill Doan is a professor, author, and performing artist. He has taught theater history, criticism, and literature as well as devised a community-based theater at Penn State for five years now. He also has served as president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education from 2011 to 2013.
On November 19 and 20, Doan will perform his solo piece Not Self Inflicted at the State Theatre. Town&Gown had a chance to talk with Doan about his history in theater as well as his upcoming solo performance.
T&G: How did you first become interested in theater?
Doan: A high school teacher talked me into auditioning, and before I knew it I was in three plays in a row. Each play was more fun and each role became more challenging. Up to that point, most of my interests were sports. She was also the music teacher, and talked me into singing in chorus as well.
T&G: Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming performance?
Doan: Not Self Inflicted is a solo performance piece intended for mature audiences that deals with class and identity. It’s a combination of autobiographical material and material from interviews and other sources.
T&G: What was it that gave you the idea for writing it?
Doan: I’m as much a solo-performance artist as I am a theater person. I think the two are complementary. This specific piece was inspired by a series of poems I wrote.
T&G: How long did it take for you to complete the piece, from start to finish?
Doan: It’s still in progress. The November performances at the State Theatre are actually workshop performances to test it out in front of an audience. I’ve been working on this piece on and off for about two years.
T&G: How many theater pieces have you written/performed in?
Doan: I’ve written half a dozen and performed in too many to remember! My most recent work includes Southwest Ohio Society of Badasses, which premiered at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in 2008, followed the next year by a new play called Villainy. In 2010, my play Bud’s Last Prayer was selected by the Mizzou New Play Festival for an artist in residency and staged reading. I also have an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, called An Odyssey, that premiered as part of the American College Theatre Festival a number of years ago, which I’m currently revising.