‘It’s all storytelling’: How the Argus’ David Templeton has made his passion into a career
“Behind the Byline” is a an occasional feature in the Argus-Courier, sharing information about the writers, editors and photographers of the Argus-Courier. It runs on the fifth Friday of the month, whenever those occur.
David Templeton knows how to tell a story.
That was evident decades ago, when he was staging puppet theater productions at the Ontario City Library in Southern California. He sharpened his storytelling skills through years of journalism production, writing and editing — including the past five as community editor for the Petaluma Argus-Courier.
Along the way, he picked up performing arts again — first as a one-off, going undercover to audition for a play as part of a freelance assignment. Later, Templeton’s friends put him up in a hotel room with orders to complete a draft of a play in three days. The benevolent kidnapping reignited Templeton’s passion for the medium.
Now, with a recent play earning national recognition, Templeton, 62, jokingly calls himself “The World’s Oldest Emerging Playwright.”
As his former editor, I was honored to get the chance to interview him for this latest installment of Behind the Byline, and to introduce the talented David Templeton more fully to the people of Petaluma.
Petaluma Argus-Courier: Let’s start with some news. Your award-winning play, “Galatea,” which made its debut after a pandemic-induced delay, just got some more love on the national stage via a table read in New York. What is that?
Templeton: It’s sometimes called an industry reading, which is when a play is presented very simply by actors just holding their scripts and reading for people in the industry who might be interested in producing, participating in or publishing a new work. At some point the goal of a playwright is to get their stuff published and officially licensed. Then other people can do the play because they would license it from that publishing company. We had an interesting cast, including some reasonably famous people, and a great director, Bob Ari. So, we’ll see.
PAC: You’ve styled yourself as “The World’s Oldest Emerging Playwright,” but it’s more of a re-emergence, right?
Templeton: I wrote my first play when I was in third grade, and I think I’ve considered myself a playwright ever since. My brother and I regularly did shows at the local library in Ontario. I wrote a bunch of little stories and scripts and puppet shows. By the time I got to (Downey High School), I was doing more and more of that type of writing … I went through a long period where I couldn’t do any theater because my job (as a graphic designer and production artist for the Marin Independent Journal and USA Today) had me working a swing shift. It wasn’t until about 12 or 13 years ago that a couple of friends of mine got tired of me talking about all of these plays I wanted to write … They announced to me that they were kidnapping me and they were going to put me in a hotel room for three days … I had to come out with something … It unleashed a torrent of creative work. I have now written eight plays in the last 12 years, “Galatea” being the most recent.
PAC: I hear that and I think, “There’s a lesson there.” Maybe not the kidnapping part. But a lesson of some sort. Do you think of it that way? What’s the message to others?
Templeton: I guess the lesson is it’s never too late. And you shouldn’t give up. I got a lot of bad advice early on in my life. A lot of people would question why I thought I had anything to offer as a playwright … That question got really internalized by me. I had a lot of self-doubt … I’m somebody who really works well with cheerleaders. Give me a deadline and encourage me. It was what I needed to get going and keep going and finish the project. I was lucky to finally find a group of friends and family who were providing that. My advice would be don’t necessarily wait for that, you can be your own cheerleader.
PAC: Usually, with emerging stars in any sort of industry, people ask about mentors and the like. So, let’s do that. Do you have any mentors? Or, alternatively, are there some people from whom you take inspiration?
Templeton: There have been a bunch of them. Greg Cahill, who was once the community editor of the Argus-Courier, he went on to be the editor of The Bohemian. He is one who really transformed me from someone who wrote a column about movies, my first job with him as my editor, into somebody who wrote all kinds of stuff … I don’t have a college education. I didn’t go to journalism school. I learned the old-fashioned way — by a journalist teaching me how to do it. (Spreckels Performing Arts Center Theatre Manager) Sheri Lee Miller has been extremely important theatrical-wise. Sheri has been involved in just about every play I’ve done. I have learned so much from her, and she has continued to be a major cheerleader.