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James Devery: In Memoriam

Theatre artists gather to celebrate a dear friend's life

By Robert Faires, 6:00PM, Fri. Apr. 13, 2012

A lover of hair, theatre, and life: James Devery, with Adriene Mishler at a Paper Chairs benefit
A lover of hair, theatre, and life: James Devery, with Adriene Mishler at a Paper Chairs benefit

Sometimes the people who give the most in the theatre aren't the ones onstage. So it was with James Devery, a hairstylist by profession but by nature one of the most generous and supportive souls ever to contribute to a stage production. On Sunday, those who knew him will gather to celebrate the life of this open-hearted man, who died unexpectedly last week.

His many friends are in agreement on three key points about Devery: He was an absolute artist when it came to hair; he was the most joyful person they knew and always good for a laugh; and his kindness and charity knew no bounds. Most of the time, these qualities bled into one another, as when his clients/friends would show up at Frenchy's Beauty Parlor, where he worked, and no matter what their mood when they went in, they would leave on a high, buoyed by the look of their hair and all the hilarity while they were in the chair (their mood also not infrequently loosened by the pouring of generous amounts of wine). Devery would rather work on someone for free than let that person walk around with bad hair because he or she couldn't pay. And all the work he did for theatre – Naughty Austin, Salvage Vanguard Theater, Refraction Arts, Paper Chairs, and productions for students at the Griffin School – was pro bono, as were his contributions to Theater Action Project, a local arts education organization that was especially meaningful to him. Just a week before his passing, Devery was teasing up Texas-sized 'dos at the Salt Lick for TAP's Big Hair Country Fair fundraiser.

In another life, Devery worked in the television and film industry in New York City and Los Angeles, working as a first assistant director before a flirtation with doing makeup led him to his passion for hair. But by the time he arrived in Austin, he had reinvented himself as a stylist par excellence and a friend to theatre and its practicioners. Devery was also a lover of stories and, by all accounts, a great spinner of yarns. But he also treasured the stories of others, and when they were shared with him, they added a bond between him and the teller. It's only fitting, then, that his friends would want to get together to tell stories about Devery &ndash and to drink and to laugh and to relish life as much as he clearly did. So they're gathering this Sunday, April 15, 6pm, at the Elk's Lodge, 600 Dawson, to celebrate his life and what he gave them and Austin. Devery is survived by his dog Kayle Cherie, family in Maryland, and all those whose lives he touched in Austin. Donations in his honor may be made at wepay.com/james-devery.

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