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Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. He enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey), and he firmly believes that Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is the single greatest atrocity committed against mankind. He is a graduate of Clarion Writer's Workshop at UCSD ('13) & Emerson College ('08).

STREETS LIKE THIS: A New World Premiere Play!

For the last couple of months, I've been working with AC Sidle on the Civic Ensemble's Re-Entry Theatre Program to create a new play about prison and addiction, inspired by the real-life stories of people who've lived the struggle. The play started with scenes, written by the program participants—most of whom are or were transitioning out of prison and/or rehab—which I then took and transformed into a full-length, fictional dramatic work.

It started out with their stories, but I gotta say: I'm pretty happy with the final product, and I hope we can continue giving it life across the country, because these conversations aren't going away.

StreetsLikeThisPosterBESTQUALITY.jpg
Ithacans, Civic Ensemble invites you to sit with Deon and Dennis, two local men getting up there in age. Deon is black, Dennis is white; both are worn out from past convictions, dysfunctional institutions, and the preventable deaths of loved ones. From their stoop, watch Crystal, Abby, and Brian struggle with their diverse obstacles and mistakes while stuck in the United States’ broken criminal justice system. Deon and Dennis narrate the stories of these three and other characters navigating the perils of real life and their own demons while dealing with the consequences of probation, incarceration, parole, and court-ordered rehabilitation. Streets Like This, based on true stories, travels from the Meadow Street Mobil to Social Services offices and the curb outside Day Reporting to their own workplaces and homes. The play offers no single solution but rather brings you into their worlds. As Deon says, “But maybe next time, you’ll do more than turn your heads away as you toss some spare change in their cups.”

Saturday May 5 at 7:30pm, followed by opening night party
Sunday May 6 at 4:00 pm & 7:30pm
at Kitchen Theatre Company, 417 MLK Jr St, Ithaca

Monday May 7 at 7:30pm
at GIAC Gymnasium, 301 W Court St, Ithaca

What's more romantic than spending Valentine's Day hearing me perform bad songs I wrote as a teen?

That's right, I'm doing another round of performances for the Boston Chapter of Mortified, showcasing the worst of the worst romantic songs I ever tried to write as an angsty/horny teen.

This year, we're doing 3 different shows — but fair warning, they're all selling out pretty fast!


Alejandro & the Fame at the Cantab Lounge!

That's right folks, everyone's favorite all-male hard rock Lady Gaga (+ other female pop artists) cover band returns to Boston — this Thursday night at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge! Be there, or be having less fun than the rest of us.

And here's a little taste of the tunes...

My ARISIA Convention Schedule

I'll be at the Arisia sci-fi / fantasy convention in Boston this coming weekend, speaking on a few panels and generally hanging around. I've never been to Arisia before, nor have I ever been on any convention panels, so I'm doubly excited (and very much hoping that I don't say anything too stupid).

Anyway, here's where you can find me. Come say hi!

  • Neurodiversity in SF/F
    Saturday, 11:30am-12:45pm in Marina 2 (2E)
    How are autistic and other neurodiverse characters presented in SF/F? What works handle this subject well, and which do not? Who are some neurodiverse authors whom we should all be reading? And how, as a genre, do we move beyond stories only focused on a “cure”?
    with Don Sakers, David G. Shaw, and JoSelle Vanderhooft
     
  • DC Comics on the Small Screen: 2015 Edition
    Saturday, 5:30-6:45pm in Marina 2 (2E)
    For all of DC’s much-disdained recent lack of creative success on the big screen, they’ve put together a string of received cartoons going back over twenty years ranging from episodic (Batman) to serialized (Young Justice) to goofy (Teen Titans Go). They’ve also launched multiple TV series, including Arrow, The Flash, and Constantine, even as their actual comics have become a pit of creative despair. We’ll discuss DC’s success (and occasional flop) over the years on television.
    —with Nomi S. Burstein, George Claxton, Jaime Garmendia, Dan Toland
     

  • Behind the Bristol Board: Comics as a Profession
    Saturday, 7-8:15pm in Marina 4 (2E)
    If you’re a comics fan, odds are you’ve thought about what it’s like to actually work in the comics industry. This panel will feature working professionals explaining the ins-and-outs of everything from writing and drawing, to editing and publishing. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about being a comics pro, but were afraid to ask.
    —with Ken Gale, Bettina Kurkoski, Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, Mercy E Van Vlack
     

  • Superman and Religion
    Sunday, 11:30am-12:45pm in Burroughs (3E)
    Superman remains an enigmatic figure in American mythology. Created by two Jewish kids from Cleveland, perhaps as a metaphor for Jewish assimilation, Superman also represents a Christlike figure in many stories, and the screenwriter of Man of Steel consulted, among other sources, the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. Does the wide cast of Superman’s religious influences render him a defender-of-all-faiths? Can any religion claim him as one of their own? Come explore this thorny issue with Arisia 2015.
    —with Michael A. Burstein, Ken Gale, Alex Jarvis, Daniel Miller
     

  • Story Autopsy
    Sunday, 2:30-3:45pm in Alcott (3W)
    Our group of panelists takes a few well-known works of genre fiction and picks them apart to show you how they work, why they work, and in some cases point out the parts that don’t work at all. If you don’t like spoilers this is probably not the panel for you.
    —with M. L. Brennan, James L. Cambias, John P. Murphy, Ian Randal Strock
     

  • The Medium and the Message
    Sunday, 5:30-6:45pm in Hale (3W)
    A story can be told in a multitude of formats. Anything from short stories and epic poems to graphic novels and screenplays can be used to convey a narrative. How do the various formats compare? Do certain genres work well in one but not another? What about translations from one medium to another? How can you tell which works best for your story?
    —with Heather Albano, Alexander Feinman, John G. McDaid
     

  • Writing and Racial Identity 
    Monday, 1-2:15pm in Hale (3W)
    What does your race have to do with what you write? Depending on your race, are certain topics forbidden to you? Obligatory? None of the above? If your race matters, how do you know what it is? By what people see when they look at you, or by what you know of your genetic background? By your cultural upbringing? By what you write?
    —with John Chu, Mark Oshiro, Victor Raymond

"GIMME INDIE ROCK!": The Simple Comforts of A Future Perfect

A Future Perfect is a brand new play by Ken Urban about indie rockers in their 30s dealing with marriage, careers, babies, and of course, rock and roll. The show is currently receiving its world premiere in Boston with SpeakEasy Stage Company, and if you're anything like me — that is, the creative indie rock type somewhere between the age of 24 and 45 trying to find a balance between still doing what you love and living some semblance of an "adult" life without explicitly selling out and/or turning boring — there's a good chance that this show might hit that sweet spot for you. It has all the charm and humor of a great indie movie (like The Happy Sad, also by Ken Urban and currently available on Netflix), along with a fantastic soundtrack featuring the likes of Pavement, Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Smiths, Dinosaur Jr., etc. etc.

In short, it's pretty fantastic. 

Then again, I might be biased. After all, the show is directed by my partner, M. Bevin O'Gara, and I also did some music and video projection work for the show myself (in addition to the sound design by Nathan Leigh). So I mean — sure, if you want to put it that way, I guess I would be biased. But it's also an incredibly touching story about friendship, adulthood, and not losing sight of the things that you believe in. Even without the personal connections, that still hits pretty close to home for me.

A Future Perfect runs tonight through February 7 at the Calderwood Pavilion in the South End (there's also a Pay-What-You-Can performance this coming Sunday, Jan. 11). If you're reading this, you'll like it. Trust me.

Also there's puppets.

Lucasfilm's STAR WARS-themed Holiday Cards From Over the Years

It's common nerd knowledge that the Star Wars Holiday Special premiered in 1978 and was swiftly ignored / forgotten (perhaps an ominous omen of George Lucas's reckless retconning to come — the "Ghost of Star Wars Past," as it were).

But there was another holiday tradition that pre-dated even that made-for-TV mess, one which was not-so-swiftly written out of continuity: Star Wars Holiday Cards. Initially designed and created by Ralph McQuarrie, Lucasfilm's then-resident concept artist, the first batch of cards featured R2-D2 and C-3PO in various holiday grabs and were distributed to employees and investors as a fun little celebration of their success with that little space opera that could. As the Star Wars universe continued and evolved, so did the holiday card tradition, folding new characters into that same old yuletide cheer and eventually opening up to new artists and designers as well. 

(side note, I appreciate Lucasfilm's forward-thinking commitment to non-denominational holiday cheer, and I think we should all follow in their example and replace all holiday greetings with "May the Force be with you." "And also with you.")

(Perhaps most importantly, there were only 2 years where the cards exclusively focused on the prequels — 1999 and 2000, which makes sense, since The Phantom Menace had just come out. So at least Lucasfilm's holiday corniness didn't give much preference to those cinematic abominations? Because frankly, I don't know if I could handle it if they were given preference over the Holiday Special, since neither a coked-up singing Carrie Fisher nor a script written almost entirely in Wookieese is anywhere near as insufferable as Jar Jar Binks.)

(and for the record: no, I don't know what happened to 1987-1993, whether they didn't send out cards at all, or whether I just couldn't find them online)

All The People That You'll See At Every Nerd Convention

Whoa. I don't know how I missed this until now, although it feels particularly timely with New York Comic-Con this weekend (I'll be there doing coverage for Bleeding Cool and Tor — let's hang out!). Dorkly artists Julia Lepetit and Andrew Bridgman created these infographics breaking down every single stereotype you're likely to find at a comic book / video game / general geek culture-based convention, and, well, they're all pretty accurate (not to mention utterly hilarious). 

Whether you've been to a con or not, you'll be amazed at how long this list keeps going. And every single caricature is remarkably accurate. So I guess it's good that there are so many, because at least we're stereotyping people into too broad of categories? Sure, that sounds like a rational justification for laughing at other people (most of whom are just like me).

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Happy Judgement Day! 17 Years Robopocalypse-Free! #NoFateButWhatWeMake

Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. 

(I'm just kidding, of course. The robots haven't killed us. Yet. And neither has that new Terminator reboot with the corny puntmanteau name. But once again, I should qualify it: yet.)

God I love this movie.

Smart People Who Are Funny But Then Also Sexy And Plus Smart

Here's a little video I put together for the upcoming world premiere of Lydia R. Diamond's Smart People at the Huntington, which starts previews this Friday and runs through June 29. Check it out!

We've also got one of those fancy 35 Below parties planned for it, after the Friday night performance on May 30. $25 gets you tickets + access to the party, including free drinks and live music. So it's basically a pretty sweet deal. Woohoo!

Become'd CUBA

This past weekend, my fiancé closed her production of Becoming Cuba at the Huntington. It was a fantastic for her, as well as a fantastic play — even if some of the reviewers had trouble grasping the idea that a play could have a Latina female as a protagonist (God forbid!), or be set in an historical context without being a "history lesson." I've seen various incarnations of this show...6 times now? And I still don't know anything about the Cuban War of Independence, other than that it happened, and that, in an incredibly over-simplified way, it's kind of the same conflict as what we call the Spanish-American War (meanwhile, we have done shows at the Huntington that could be described as "history lessons," but those were all about white dudes).

ANYWAY, in the end, the show was beautiful and successful, and that's what matter. I previously shared some of the earlier promotional videos that I made for the show, but over the course of its run, I made a few more as well, focusing on the relationship between Bevin and the playwright, Melinda Lopez, as well as the eerie synchronicity between the play and some of the actors' personal lives. Check 'em out:

Meanwhile, fellow playwright / bacon lover / renaissance man John J. King — the so-called "Child Wrangler" on Becoming Cuba — had some fun backstage (no, not like that) with "Chucho," the kid in the play. The two of them wrote a parody of "Royals" by Lorde sung from Chucho's point of view in the play, and I whipped together a quick video for it. I think it's pretty amazing (of course, it could be one of those "you-had-to-be-there" things, but c'mon — Lorde would be way cooler if she sang about guerrilla warfare and syphilis amiright?)

We also had our annual Gala fundraiser at the Huntington last week (in addition to some other, less uplifting news), for which I shot & edited a tribute to MacArthur "Genius" Mary Zimmerman, whom we honored at the event, and shot the footage for our new education video:

So, ya know. I've been busy. What else is new?

Big Ups for BECOMING CUBA!

Last night was the official opening of Becoming Cuba at the Huntington, which is not only a fantastic show, but also just so happens to be directed by incredibly talented fiancé M. Bevin O'Gara (also I totally made her a website isn't that neat?).

If you're in Boston in the next month, it is absolutely worthy seeing (all personal bias aside). But if that's not enough to convince you, here are a few videos I put together about the show that could do the job just as well.

(And for the record: being paid at your job to edit video with your fiancé's face on a 36" screen is every bit as awkward as it sounds)

Oh Hey What's Up Kate Burton

This past weekend, we began previews for our production of The Seagull at the Huntington. I can say without bias that this is the funniest Chekhov play I've ever seen (and possibly the first time I've actually looked Chekhov to be humorous). But on top of that, the production also features Kate Burton (aka Vice President Sally Langston on Scandal plus like a million other things) and her real-life son, Morgan Ritchie, as the onstage mother-and-son Arkadina and Konstantin, which is pretty cool. Here are two videos I put together about the show, which runs through April 6 at the BU Theatre

The Backyard Committee at the Huntington

Last night, I had the pleasure of joining my friends in The Backyard Committee for a few songs on lap steel guitar at one of our 35 Below parties at the Huntington. I've played a shows with them before, mostly on keyboards, and this was a fun, different experiment, as I don't really get to play lap steel guitar out in front of people very often (it's also a very difficult instrument to play by yourself). The band is essentially Mike Sembos, and whatever musicians he finds to accompany him. Even if I hadn't been friends with Mike for 12 or so years now, I'd still love this band, because Mike is an utterly fantastic songwriter. So they're always a blast to play with, and I'm hoping to do it again pretty soon. Did I mention that you can download both of their albums for free on their website?

...also there was Duck Hunt:

Upcoming Stuff & Events & Things (Nov. '13)

Hello, website! Long time, no update! I swear that one of these days I am going to actually train myself to just make brief updates here as they happen, instead of these info dumps. ANYWAY. I've got some stuff going on, because of course I do. It goes like this:

Meanwhile, in addition to my normal duties at Five By Five Hundred, I have a review of Eric Smith's new book The Geek's Guide To Dating on Tor.com, and some coverage of SpeakEasy Stage Company's world premiere production of Make Up Your Mind, a brand new play by Kurt Vonnegut even though he's dead.

And then, ya know, the youge (like, the slang/shortened word for "usual," but spelled phonetically? Is that right?): Workin', writin', so on and so forth. Tonight at the Huntington we start performances for The Cocktail Hour by A.R. Gurney, which is directed by Maria Aitken, a favorite of ours at the theatre. Here's a little video I made for that:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa_ckErMzAY]

I also wrote some fun stuff about ghost stories at the theatre on the Huntington's blog which is still worth reading even though it's after Halloween, as well as two pieces of flash fiction in this "Quantum Shorts" competition that you can go read and vote for so I can win some monies: I Kill Dead People and Not Dead Yet (which was the basis for my story in Grayhaven Comics' Fifth Dimension anthology).

Wow that's a whole lot of dead stuff. In that case, I should end this on a happy note, which is that Maurissa Tancharoen both listened to and enjoyed my song "I'll Fight A Whedon For You"; unfortunately, her husband Jed was less than impressed.

So now I've pissed one Whedon and armwrestled another, which only leaves Zak for me still to cross. But overall I think that means that I've successfully become a Whedonverse villain?

Holy crap, I'll be 28 in 2 weeks.

Huntington Updates

We've got one week left of The Jungle Book (now officially our highest-grossing show of all time), and previews began tonight for The Power of Duff, a new play by Stephen Belber (and featuring, among others, Jennifer Westfeldt, writer of Kissing Jessica Stein and wife of Jon Hamm). Here's a little video I put together about it:

Here's another brief video I made for our Annual Fund ask, which hopefully gives a glimpse of the size and scope of our productions (and makes clear that even when shows are selling well, we still need money because, well, theatre this good don't come cheap, y'know?)

I'm also trying to up my blogging quotient for the company -- because hey, I enjoy writing sometimes, believe it or not -- and here's one of my latest posts, about our new young donor program "The Hunt."