Charles Deemer


Charles' impact on Northwest literature and theater over the past twenty-plus years is impressive. As a critic I've followed his work since the early 1980s, and no playwright has had such an important or long-lasting effect on this community's cultural life. Charles's work has always had an intense sense of place, but also the technical skill and intellectual breadth to give it strong impact far from home, as his many national and international productions attest. In the 1980s, when theater budgets were even more paltry than they are now, Deemer proved that a good playwright working with talented Portland actors and directors could create brilliant, engaging theater that could inspire an entire arts scene. With such plays as "Chateau de Mort" and "Turkeys" he also became a national pioneer in the field of simultaneous action or hyperdrama, anticipating an artistic movement that would later sweep such centers as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Many of his plays have also dealt specifically with matters of local or regional history and the history of radical politics, from "Ramblin' " to "1934: Blood and Roses" to "Abigail aud Harvey." 

But mostly it's the broad intellectual range of Deemer's many plays that distinguish his career. The beautiful, compassionate and very funny meeting of East and West in "Christmas at the Juniper Tavern," the personal and artistic struggles of the great French satirist Moliere in "The Comedian in Spite of Himself," the hardscrabble humanity of "Waitresses," the conjunction of sexual politics and nuclear physics in "The Half-life Conspiracy": Each of these constitutes a high point in the history of Portland drama. Deemer has a special talent.

Bob Hicks 
Senior Critic, The Oregonian

For over 20 years, Charles has persevered as a playwright, screenwriter, fiction writer, essayist, editor and teacher. In recent years, he has been an innovator in publishing his projects in hypertext, and, since 1994 in serving as a home page webmaster for screenwriters and playwrights. 

Charles has written over 40 plays and numerous scripts, essays, short stories and web projects. Over three dozen of his stage plays have been produced. I am unaware of another Oregonian who has had such a versatile and productive career in these areas of the arts. 

Brian G. Booth
Founder, Literary Arts and the Oregon Book Awards

In the best sense, Charles is a professional. In theatre that means he comes in with a complete work but willing to collaborate with the other artists involved in creating theatre that lives. Despite - or , more likely, because of his extensive experience - he remains open to new ideas and responds to what is happening in rehearsal. 

During the years we've worked together, I feel Charles was the clearest and most important theatre voice in Oregon. 

Steve Smith 
Artistic Director (retired), Theatre Workshop

Mr. Deemer teaches screenwriting in the MA in Writing and minor in writing programs and has become a staple of the curriculum. I have seen him teach and have reviewed his student evaluations for close to 10 years now. Students appreciate his expertise and his mentorship. He is generous with his time and advice, offering guidance to writers who are curious about not only the craft of playwriting and screenwriting, but also about breaking into the profession. As you probably know, his credentials as a writer in these fields are impressive, but I wish to emphasize how accomplished he is as a teacher. Not all good writers are good teachers, and not all good teachers write well. Professor Deemer does both superbly...
W. Tracy Dillon
Chair, Dept. of English
Portland State University

I am writing to congratulate you on publishing The Seagull Hyperdrama -- an original translation and expansion of Chekhov's classic play The Seagull -- into the hyperdrama form on the Internet.

Faculty productivity at this level is a source of pride for the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Portland State University.

Marvin A. Kaiser
Portland State University

Love at Ground Zero is a shard through the heart. Timely, powerful and sadly resonant. One of many stories that will emerge from that archetypal event, it is a fragment of the collective experience that represents the whole. It feels like you said what should be said. What a painful ending. Opening with 9/11 establishes a mood of catastrophe that extends through the narrative like the debris smoke from the falling towers. The sense of inevitable doom makes the novel feel comparable to Greek tragedy. This vision gives unusual poignancy to the love story. The allegory, an ideal union between West and East, also feels like an ill-fated dream. Your calm, humane, tolerant and generous tone contrasts with the noise surrounding the events and with the hatred that prompts terrorism. 
Mike Hollister
Novelist, Holywood

I am really thrilled about your novel. It's cracking good! Magic. Just finished it, and felt very moved-- somehow I really sort of..know you. I really liked the tone and the youthfulness of this work.

H.D., reader

About "Love & Country"...

In his compelling work, Charles Deemer focuses on ordinary people whose lives undergo extraordinary windshifts after the tragedy. His vivid characters love, divorce, die, and go to war. Deemer’s fine portrayals make the reader care about each character – writers, students, teachers, patriots and even tramps. This is a fine work with strong narrative and clean, clear prose. Everyone should read it and rethink their own lives.
-- Craig Lesley, three Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Awards, the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Novel, and an Oregon Book Award.

Theater can be risky business. Hundreds of works come and go each season with little notice, seen and appreciated by only the experimental set. Successful Sam Shepards are rare. Portland, however, is lucky to have a stellar playwright in Charles Deemer, three-time winner of the local Willies award for Best New Play.
Tim Sills
Northwest Datebook

Seven Plays by Charles Deemer.
In this volume of plays, Deemer shows impressive range and scope; the plays deal with everything from contemporary out-of-work mill workers to Old West gold-diggers to modern urban alcoholics to the life of Moliere. The fact that the diverse characters in all these plays seem totally organic to their own millieu is a significant achievement in itself. Deemer also shows significant range in his structure. He has a gift for dense plotting and is also adept at simple character-based work. Christmas at the Juniper Tavern is probably most impressive structurally, as he merges sophisticated plotting while maintaining the feel of a loose, naturalistic slice of life.
Comments by Doug Grissom
University of Virginia
Judge, Oregon Book Award.

For pure media hype and upscale audience adulation, however, Baryshnikov was the only act to upstage [Charles Deemer's] Chateau de Mort. An unprecedented full page in The Oregonian was devoted to the show...
Northwest Arts (Seattle)

Deemer's act [Ramblin'] is unusually faithful to the material, graced with the selfsame sense of commitment and trust in the common people that continues to keep Guthrie's spirit alive in this country, a spirit that's needed now more than ever.
Doug Marx
Willamette Week

On the list of "some of our favorite Portlanders" celebrated in Willamette Week's 25th anniversary issue, 1999.

"They Rule: We're sure we've left a few thousand names off this list, but the following people, during the last quarter-century, have all helped to make this a better and more entertaining place in which to live. We've haven't always agreed with them, but these folks have made Portland Portland." "Charles Deemer: Dramatic License." Details.

Thank you for letting me read The Comedian In Spite Of Himself. It's impressive work.

I'm up to my ears with three projects for just this season, and I don't respond obsessively enough to your play to want to commit myself further. But, as I said, it's first rate.

Harold Prince
Producer, Phantom of the Opera etc.

I wrote to you back in 1995 to praise your web site. You sent me back a very nice e-mail.

I have learned a lot reading your writings. You have made a big contribution to the understanding of the craft.

Many, many people know that all over the world.

Eneida Molina Ortenburger
Puerto Rico

During the three years that I was his student, I benefited greatly from Instructor Deemer’s love of teaching, his professional, friendly, generous, and artistically inspiring manner, his reliability and dependability in terms of helping me to meet strict deadlines related to the completion of my thesis, and his intensely focused and unwavering commitment to excellent writing. Due, in great part, to Charles’ superlative guidance, I was able to option my first screenplay to a Los Angeles production company. Charles assisted me in every step of this process, from writing the project to marketing it. Upon graduation, Charles was generous enough to recommend me for an online screenwriting course that he had decided to give up teaching. I am aware that he has similarly guided other students toward creative and professional success.

Charles arrived at Portland State University with a strong academic and professional background in screenwriting and playwriting (his list of personal accomplishment is quite extensive,) and went on to single-handedly create PSU’s distinguished screenwriting program. His classes have been so popular, PSU instigated a Film Studies to satisfy the growing interest in film created by his presence in the college community. His college-level classes are characterized by fascinating lectures, delivered with the knowledge, humor, and the type of no nonsense affect that characterizes many of the great writing teachers of our time.

Adriane Rainer
Graduate student (former)

Although each of my professors has been very good and has taught me a lot, Mr. Deemer is undoubtedly among the very best....

In the classroom, Mr. Deemer is energetic and enthusiastic about writing. Although he is honest about the possibility for success as a screenwriter or as a playwright, he is very encouraging to his students, not only telling us to go for it, but also telling us how to go for it. Besides being very knowledgeable about his craft, he is very approachable as a teacher, inviting his students to ask questions and talk to him about their concerns. For a writing student, this is very important.

Because Mr. Deemer is a practicing writer with many years of experience, he is able to use both his vast wealth of knowledge and his practical work experience in his teaching, which I found immensely helpful. He is able to recommend specific scripts for his students to study depending on their individual writing and the story they are telling.

Lisa Frank
Undergraduate student (former)