Karson Deveraux is a junior who penned “Cowboy Noir and His Gang of Misfits” over the last year  

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero High School (AHS) drama department is keeping things in-house for its 2023 fall production. Instead of doing a play penned by one of the many popular playwrights out there, this year’s fall play is written by AHS’s very own Karson Deveraux. Deveraux is a junior who reached out to drama teacher Shawna Volpa and asked her to look over his play, “Cowboy Noir and His Gang of Misfits,” and the rest is history that you can see on stage for yourself.

Kid Playwright Karson Deveraux AHS Drama 2
Playwright Karson Deveraux, junior at Atascadero High School, wrote “Cowboy Noir and His Gang of Misfits,” which will be performed at AHS. Photo Courtesy of AHS drama

“‘Cowboy Noir and His Gang of Misfits’ is basically about a gang of cowboys who really want to be these outlaws but aren’t that great at being outlaws, and they live in the town of Cody, Wyoming,” said Deveraux. “It’s a story of family and love and finding a sense of belonging while also being very melodramatic and over the top.”

The play dabbles with semi-historical themes and is set in the 1860s, but just like any production you can see at the Great American Melodrama in Oceano, Deveraux has taken plenty of liberties for laughs and the drama of it all, including the use of finger guns.


Deveraux said that he’s always been super into writing and telling stories since he was just a little kiddo.

“I would always write these stories and pictures on pieces of paper,” he said. “One year, for Christmas, I asked for a stapler just so I could staple all my pictures together. That was my favorite gift that I’ve ever gotten. So stories have definitely always been something that I’ve been super into.”

But it wasn’t until seventh grade, in the midst of COVID, when his theater assignment was to write a play, that he unlocked something. That play, “The Three Little Mixup,” which mixed “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” with “The Three Little Pigs,” made him fall in love with being a playwright.

“When I first wrote that play, something just kind of clicked right there that writing plays and movies was something that I’ve always wanted to do,” added Deveraux.

In addition, a trip to Kernville, California, with his mom, a visit to the Melodrama in Oceano, and his Nana and Papa being from Cody, Wyoming, inspired him to start “Cowboy Noir.” Well, that and the mixture of last year’s homecoming theme being a western theme.

“It [homecoming] was a cowboy theme, and a lot of my friends dress in more dark and gothic fashions, and from there, I sort of got inspiration for some kind of cool abstract costumes, and that’s sort of where I got this idea for a cowboy gang,” Deveraux said. “So I just sat down one day, wrote out all of my ideas, and just started writing everything on paper.”

It took Deveraux about a year to complete his western comedy, and that’s when he came to Volpa and asked her if she had a play picked out for the fall and added that he had written “Cowboy Noir” and offered for her to read it. Once Volpa had finished it, she was on board 100 percent. 

“I feel lucky. I’m stoked that, I feel like my job is to just facilitate and empower and let them believe, if you can think it, we can do it,” said Volpa of the experience in doing Deveraux’s play. “I feel lucky that I have a student first that’s writing like that and who’s like, ‘I’m gonna do this,’ and I feel like that’s inspiring to others. So I felt like I’m jumping on that train because if this will start a fire, I would love to see that grow.”

Deveraux said he was encouraged after having his work validated by Volpa.

“She’s taught me how to write comedic forms with the past classes I’ve taken, like improv and all of the acting classes that I’ve taken here,” he said. “Having her say that this thing that I wrote is really great really meant a lot to me, and it really felt nice knowing that she actually did want to do this play and she also gave me the opportunity to also co-direct this piece of work that I’ve created and it felt incredible.” 

He said that being able to co-direct his own work has given him a new perspective. As someone who’s always been on stage and has just started learning what it is to build and design sets in Volpa’s technical theater class, being so hands-on with his own play has shown him how a complete production comes together.

“It is just a very cool opportunity to get to show my work, and I do hope that people see how cool that is,” concluded Deveraux.

More information on ‘Cowboy Noir and His Gang of Misfits’

Synopsis: For years, the gang of misfitting outlaws led by Cowboy Noir has disrupted the town of Cody, Wyoming, with their mayhem and pranks. That is, until one day, an incredibly rich man by the name of Mr. Kennedy enters town with his daughter Eleanore and threatens the harmony of the troublesome group. Noir, however, has his eyes set on Eleanore. Will this forbidden love truly prevail? Will the misfits be able to continue their life? Find out in the melodramatic tale of Cowboy Noir and his Gang of Misfits! 

See the show yourself on Dec. 1, 2, and 8 at 7 p.m. or Dec. 2 and 9 at 2 p.m. at the Atascadero High School Black Box Theater. Purchase tickets here: ahsblackbox.ludus.com/index.php.

Feature Image: Atascadero High School drama students rehearse “Cowboy Noir and His Gang of Misfits” under the co-direction of Shawna Volpa and playwright Karson Deveraux. Photo Courtesy of AHS drama