Derik K. Cowan, International Man of Mystery

Cal Shakes Marketing & Communications Director Janet Magleby introduces you to our new box office manager.

Derik K. CowanEarlier this summer, Assistant Box Office Manager Derik K. Cowan stepped up to replace departing Box Office Manager Robin Dolan as the person who runs the Cal Shakes ticketing ship. Derik is the only child of a Navy family—he lived on three different continents by the time he was five years old. Having earned his B.A. from Amherst College as an English and Theater/Dance double major, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s. Derik joined the Cal Shakes box office staff as an associate in 2009 and also worked at the box offices of West Edge Opera and 42nd Street Moon. He currently lives in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco with his partner and their two cats, dreaming up things to do in his spare time now that he’s no longer working multiple jobs!

Some other things to know about Derik:

Last production he was in: “This past January I was in the world premiere of a play called The Witch House by an emerging playwright named Morgan Bassichis. I played Tingle, an 11-year-old boy who, during a visit to Salem, gets possessed by the spirit of Ann Putnam Jr., one of the main accusers in the Salem witch trials. The play went up at the Garage in San Francisco and sold out an extended run there.”

Favorite role he’s played to date: “This one’s tricky. I’d really have to break this into two parts—favorite role and favorite production. In college I played Chantal in a production of Jean Genet’s The Balcony that played both at Amherst and then down in New Haven, CT. The production was a bit of a mess (I actually came to the production as the stage manager but got sucked in as an actor, as well, when the original person playing the role quit) but the way they staged my scenes was just ridiculously over the top. I actually decided I wanted to keep developing the character after the show was over, so Chantal was my stage name at drag clubs for about five years.

My favorite production was a production of Equus that I did in 2005 at Ashby Stage. The director came into the show with the idea that the horse spirit isn’t just a psychological projection but an active archetypical “spirit,” active throughout the production; so she choreographed responses from the horses to anything in the text that might catch their interest. It was an amazing artistic experience to be a part of even though, as a horse, I didn’t have a single line.”

One food/meal he could eat every day for a year: “There really isn’t anything that I’d want to eat for a year—my food preferences generally come and go in waves that only last a couple of months. Most recently I was on a Pad Thai kick. I was ordering it from like every restaurant in SF that would deliver it for the past three months. Then the most recent time I ordered it from my favorite place, I couldn’t eat it. I’m just done with it for a while. Though I have to say that my habit of getting a garlic bagel from Berkeley Bowl for breakfast every day as I come into work started last season, so…”

Book on your nightstand right now: Brandon Sanderson’s A Memory of Light, which was the conclusion to Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series. I’m a sucker for fantasy fiction serials, but I’m also not the person to talk to about what’s new. Night reading for me is comfort reading, so I’m far more likely to snuggle up to something I’ve read multiple times than something that I’ve never read before.”

Last time he was star-struck: “I don’t know if this counts as a star-struck moment as much as it was an awkward moment involving a star. When my partner and I were first dating we went to see Cyndi Lauper and the B-52s at the Greek Theatre. After the show we took the rambling route back to BART, ending up across the street from where the official after-party was occurring, just as the B-52s were getting out of their car to go into the club. My partner totally wanted to run over and get their autograph but I made him stop and stay with me, mostly because the whole scene seemed very awkward. Their lead singer Fred Schneider was looking at us with this deer-in-headlights, ‘I’m not ready to deal with the public yet’ look, and I wanted to get as far away from that as possible.”

What he likes best about living in the Bay Area: “I love the diversity of the Bay Area and the openness we have to embracing that diversity. I love the value we place on personal expression. I love that San Francisco is a city that believes any day can be a reason to dress up in costume and have fun. At this point I’ve lived the majority of my life in the SFBA and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Favorite childhood memory: “I don’t have a specific memory that I’d say is my favorite, but my favorite memory era is when I was living in Western Australia as a three-to-five-year-old. Most of my memories are momentary from that period—feeding an emu from my hand in our front yard, kangaroos crossing the yard, seeing Goanna lizards at the beach. Almost all of my memories of Australia revolve around nature, and being in nature in such a different habitat. It was actually quite hard for me when we returned to the U.S.—I’d pretty much learned to talk while in Australia and had the full accent. When we moved back, my mom and I stayed first in Wisconsin with her family while my dad found us a place to live in Connecticut where he was being stationed. No one had heard such an accent there, and I got teased mercilessly. There were other little things that stuck with me for a long time after we left as well—I spelled ‘color’ with a ‘u’ all the way into high school!”

Last thing he spent too much money on: “Have you seen what the rents are in San Francisco? Just kidding (but only a little). My last frivolous thing that I spent too much on was Scissor Sisters concert tickets last June. They were performing on my partner’s birthday and I wanted him to experience them live. In fact most of my frivolous over-expenditures end up being for concert tickets.”

Favorite Cal Shakes production and why: The Verona Project, hands down. I love shows that are messy and heartfelt and drag you in by sheer will, and that was what that show brought. Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m really into the pop-rock concert experience, so the whole concept for the show was right up my alley.”

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