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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).

Hey! You! Playwright! Go make theatre in Alaska! #NewPlay #2amt

This past May, I had the pleasure of workshopping my play True Believers at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska. "Where the hell is Valdez?" you ask, and all I can really tell you is that I had to take a 45 minute flight on a little puddlejumper plane from Anchorage to Valdez, and that there was totally a US Marshall on my 18-person flight, escorting a criminal in handcuffs, which was pretty badass. Fortunately, I did not end up on LOST, and instead had a fantastic week full of theatre and wonderful people in a remarkably beautiful setting.

I bring this up now because the conference is currently accepting submissions for next summer, and if you're a playwright, it's an opportunity that you absolutely should not skip. I was hesitant myself at first -- the conference does offer a stipend for out-of-state writers, but it doesn't cover the full cost of your airfare, and, well, Alaska's kinda far away. But I was talked into it by my friend and colleague Meron Langsner, who said that it was one of his favorite programs in the country, and was a more educational experience for him than grad school. I thought that was a pretty bold claim, but I listened to him, and while I can't compare it to the graduate degree that I don't have, I can say with confidence that it was absolutely worthwhile in the development of my specific, and my personal and professional development, and that I cannot wait to go back.

You see, when people talk about a love for "theatre," they're talking about a very wide range of skills and tastes. You got your children's theatre, your community theatre groups, your scrappy college / fringe groups, local professional theatre groups, your regional theatre powerhouses, and of course, your Broadway / West End scene. Within this, you've also got animosity between the groups -- the fringe companies who hate on the LORT theatres with money, the LORT theatres that scoff at the unprofessionalism of community theatre, the community theatre types whose egos far outweigh their budgets, your annoying aunt & uncle who think that Broadway is the only legitimate / viable form of theatre, etc. I don't have to explain this all -- and I probably shouldn't, because it probably makes me sound like an asshole -- but if you're involved in theatre, you know what I mean. There's an air of pretension around every level, to a certain degree (I should know, because I have excellent taste in everything).

But what makes the Last Frontier Theatre Conference so remarkable, at least to me, is that all of these groups are represented, and all of them are treated with the exact same level of respect. Playwrights get one three-hour rehearsal for their readings, and the actors are probably performing in 15 readings throughout the week, and regardless of whether it's your first script ever, or your 30th production and you've recently completed a residency at the Public Theatre, everyone is treated the same. You also end up meeting people from all over the world, with varying levels of theatre experience, but they all share the same passions, and some of them might give you some ideas or insights or opinions that you've never even heard before.

And sure, I saw some plays that were truly amazing, and others that were less so. But by leveling the field for the week, so to speak, it really brought everyone together, and reminded us all of why we love this artform in the first place. I'll be the first to admit that I get annoyed with some people when they use the act of creation of itself to justify shitty work, but the Last Frontier Theatre Conference reminded me how to appreciate that initial creative impulse. Everyone was treated as a professional, a celebrity, simply because they were willing to put themselves out there and express themselves in some theatrical form. In a way, it harkened back to my DIY days playing punk rock hall shows, where it didn't matter how good or bad you were; all that matter was that you picked up a guitar and you wrote some damn songs and you got in front of a crowd and you played and played and played until your throat went raw and your fingers started bleeding on the pickguard and for those 30 minutes you were still a fucking rockstar and that was all that mattered in the world. (Except this time we didn't have to worry about shotgunning PBRs behind the dumpster before the cops show up because everyone is a fully functioning adult)

Also? Alaska is gorgeous, even if it did take me a week to realize that staying out the bar for another hour or two after sundown meant that it was 3am. 

So if you've got a play you're working on, send it in. I promise you will not regret it.

Oh, and tell Dawson that I miss him dearly.

Big News! #Clarion2013

I just returned from the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska, which was an absolutely incredible time filled with lots of new friends (hi everyone!). While I was there, pondering how so many people could afford to be alcoholics in such a remote and expensive small town, I learned three important things: (1) how it feels to be Al Pacino in Insomnia; (2) what I think is the final missing piece of my play True Believers; and (3) that I just got accepted into the Clarion Writing Workshop Class of 2013! Clarion is pretty much the premiere training grounds for short fiction writers in the realms of science fiction / fantasy / horror. I'll be spending 6 weeks in San Diego along with 17 other writers, studying under such notable names as Cory Doctorow (woohoo!) and pumping out and workshopping a new short story every week. And somehow, my job is actually letting me get away with this (although the timing is fortunate in that we don't actually have any shows running in the summer). Clarion is a hugely respected program, and I couldn't be more excited or proud to have been accepted, and so far, everyone else in the program has been incredibly welcoming (at least through our minor e-introductions, anyway).

Granted, it's kind of crazy and stressful to deal with news like that when you're already 4 hours behind the people in Boston that you need to talk to about it and you're also supposed to be adhering to a somewhat-rigid schedule of play readings that conflict with everything on the East Coast, but I was able to make it work (seriously the Clarion phone call literally came in the middle of the workshop reading for True Believers) (don't worry, I silenced my cell phone ahead of time) (yes, there is cell reception in Valdez).

So basically if anyone wants to hang out in San Diego in July, I'm yours! I'm going to be sad leaving Boston at such a beautiful time (and especially leaving Bevin behind), but it's a pretty exciting reason to make such a sacrifice.

Oh, and yes, this does mean that I will be at #SDCC this year. Hollerrrr.

Good News, True Believers!

I've got two new exciting bits to share with you about your favorite nerdy theatre experience. First, The Hive Theatre in New York will be presenting a staged reading of True Believers on Monday, March 18 at 7pm at the Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute on East 15th Street near Union Square. The reading is being presented under an Equity showcase contract, which technically means that they're all professional actors who probably aren't being paid, but that's okay, because hey, cool, professional NY actors! I've met with the company once so far, and they're incredibly excited and supportive about the show. I by no means feel that the script is perfect, but when I asked them about a few of the concerns I had about it, they all pretty much answered, "Nope, it's great, don't worry about it," so, ya know, that's nice. If you're in New York, or have any friends in New York, please tell them to come (especially if they're important agents/editors/producers/superheroes/billionaire philanthropists/the real-life inspiration for Avenger because oh God I want to see his face). The other great news I received this same weekend (which also pertains to True Believers) is that I've been invited to participate in the Last Frontier Theatre Conference at Prince Williams Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska, which is apparently a 6 hour drive from Anchorage. It's a week long conference full of panels and workshops all focusing on new works for American theatre, and another staged reading of True Believers will be presented under my adept direction. But mostly, it'll be cool to go to Alaska in May when it's not a frozen tundra and there's only like 3 hours of darkness and then suddenly I'm Al Pacino and I'm going crazy trying to catch a killer and hey that could be plot of my next play (he says, already working on 2 more simultaneously instead of focusing on finishing one UGH).

So in conclusion: The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee was right.

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

GOOD NEWS: The 2012 BroadwayWorld Boston Award nominations are out, and my play True Believers has been nominated for a ton of them, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Direction, and Best Ensemble (they seem to have gotten rid of the "Best Play - Small/Fringe" category this year, jerks) BAD NEWS: Now you have to go vote for me. With every email address you have. Also tell your friends to do the same. Or else The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee will come to your house and destroy your soul. KTHXBYE.

(also, while you're at it, vote for my girlfriend M. Bevin O'Gara's incredible production of Love Person at Company One, in all of those categories, too, 'cause she's awesome.)

(you can also vote for the Huntington in all of the Large Theatre categories as long as you're there, ya know?)

True Believers Closing and More Reviews

Before I run away to Florida and sleep for 2 weeks straight because I need it, here's a final roundup of more reviews for the world premiere of True Believers:

"Dunn's script is smart and sharply written. He creates memorable and believable characters set in this world who many of us can either relate to, or just be familiar with.  The comedic moments are great and chock full of fantastic one liners. He also is able to create strong and powerful dramatic moments that help balance the comedy.  It doesn't become a parody, but a snap shot of what this world could very well be like. What else can be said about this show except only more praise?"  - MuffinEatsDragon.com

"I was impressed with this show for many reasons, but the foremost was the interesting, thoughtful story that they told extremely well. The second is that it spoke authentically to the nerd fringe community. I know, ‘nerd culture’ is the hip thing right now with comic book movies dominating the box office, but I agree with the sentiment that this newfound cash cow does not represent the community in a real way. Though it does help to normalizesome nerd culture. True Believers by Thom Dunn feels like a play that intimately knows what conventions are like. Their lights are clever, their sound is full of hilarious nerdy references, the script is clever, the characters are interesting, and the actors are brilliant. I could not recommend this show more."  - My Entertainment World

And to top it off, we were the Pick Of The Week in RadioBoston! All in all, I'd say that's not so bad for a nerdy little play about a comic book convention.

Now without any further ado, I'm going to retreat and recuperate for a few years. You'll hear from me eventually...

First review of True Believers is a rave!

From EdgeBoston:

Heroes and villains clash in Thom Dunn’s True Believers; it’s not the fate of the cosmos that hangs in the balance, but rather the personal worlds of everyone involved. This salute to comic-con is fraught with sharp writing and impeccable performances. Comic books are wildly colorful exaggerations of life, a form of contemporary myth, and Dunn understands this. Dunn’s energetic script takes on the general form of a farce, albeit one in which aimless young men dress in crude cardboard approximations of cyborg armor. The play’s particulars may be specific to a certain social subset, but its themes and motivations are universal. The characterizations are well wrought and the jokes are smart, sometimes downright wicked sharp.

Yeah, alright, I'll take that! You can read the full review online as well. We have just 5 more performances this week (Wed - Sat) before the show closes, so make sure you catch it will you can!

True Believers Production Photos

Here's a little peek at True Believers, for those of still waiting / unable to see it (or for those of you who want to relive the experience). All photos by Paul Cantillon / LIDEC Photo.[slideshow]