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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

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.

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.

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.

One Minute Play Festival!

This year, I had the honor of being asked to contribute two plays to the annual One Minute Play Festival, and I have to say, writing a one minute play is a much bigger challenge than you'd expect it to be. The festival hits the stage in January, and I'll share information about the performances when I have it. In the meantime, I posted one of the plays as my weekly post over at Five By Five Hundred, so you can check it out there. Generally speaking, these plays are meant to be open-ended vehicles for the director, more than a chance for the writer to show his stuff, but I'm pretty happy with the way these turned out.

"The Call" at FiveByFiveHundred.com

An Interview with playwright Kirsten Greenidge

Kirsten Greenidge just won an Obie Award for playwriting for her play Milk Like Sugar. A Boston native, Kirsten's Boston-based play The Luck of the Irish just had its world premiere at the Huntington and was our highest grossing world premiere by a female playwright, ever. (which is pretty awesome) Here's a video interview I did with Kirsten, discussing her history and relationship with the Huntington. Not only was she a Huntington Playwriting Fellow, but she decided to become a playwright after seeing a student matinee performance at the Huntington when she was 12. And here we are, 16 years later! Not bad at all!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqEZUAvUPx4&w=400&h=225]

I'm Back Now, And I Brought T-Shirts For Everybody!

I have a confession to make. I didn't really bring t-shirts for everybody. Although I do have these sweet new business cards! So that's cool, right? I know I've been slacking (again) lately (again) with keeping this website updated with all of my various doin's. But it's not like I've not been not doing things (...or is it?)! Instead, I've just been too busy doing things to, ya know, write about doing things. It's kind of why I hate meetings in general, because I'd rather be doing things, than talking about doing things. So this website's kind of like a meeting then. Except I don't hate it; in fact, I quite love my little website here. So really, not like a meeting at all.

(shut up Thom) Okay so here's a brief rundown of where the hell I've been:

  • My very short play, Stumped, was performed as part of a staged reading series to celebrate Company One's production of Hookman.
  • My debut comic book story, Not Dead Yet, finally saw print in GrayHaven Comics' sci-fi anthology, The Fifth DimensionAlso the first printing already sold out, which means maybe someday you'll be able to sell that shit on eBay for like $20 (but probably not)
  • I did a totally awesome article for Quirk Books comparing Samuel Beckett (the playwright) to Sam Beckett (the time traveling protagonist from Quantum Leap) and it was totally awesome. Don't believe me? Ask the former executive director of the American Theatre Wing!
  • I also started doing some writing for Tor.com, with my first article being a roundup of great sci-fi/fantasy rock bands (so basically my two favorite things, combined. If only there was more beer!)
  • We did another staged reading of my play True Believers as part of ImprovBoston's Geek Week celebration. It was really great to hear the play out loud in front of different kind of crowd, as it helps me figure out what kind of changes I need to make to the script before the world premiere this summer at the Factory Theatre (July 12 - 21! Get yer tickets while they're hot! Just kidding, they're not on sale yet). The lovely producing folks at Vagabond Theatre Group have a post up over at their website about the event so you can catch up on all the happening. There's also the first part of an instructional series about how to make your very own The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee, which actually comes a lot more in handy than you might think.
  • Did I mention that I launched a new website for the Huntington, and that our world premiere production of The Luck of the Irish was extended, and sold out almost every night? For being, ya know, "just my day job" or whatever, sometimes it keeps me pretty busy as well.
  • Plus Cupcake! So many things, so very busy with this wonderfully little world-premiere-musical-that-could. We raised $6,000 in our Kickstarter campaign (we were going for $3,750...whoops!), and we were the featured show this past Friday on Goldstar. You may have seen some of my sexy posters around town as well (just don't tell Grant that I photoshopped his arm a bit...) Previews start this Thursday, May 10!
  • AND, to top it all off, I've only got like 50 pages left to read in Infinite Jest (finally! Jesus God this book is epic), so I'm gonna go finish that right now and hopefully conquer my crippling fear (no pun intended) of paraplegic Quebecers.

An Interview with STICK FLY Playwright Lydia R. Diamond

A few weeks ago, I spoke with playwright Lydia R. Diamond, whose play STICK FLY will begin playing on Broadway on November 18. Lydia is a Huntington Playwriting Fellow, and Stick Fly was previously seen at the Huntington under the direction of Kenny Leon as a part of our 2009 — 2010 season. It's really incredibly play, and one worth seeing if you have the chance (like instead of waiting in that endless line at the TKTS Booth for tickets to some lame musical, take advantage of the "Plays Express"). [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVPxmia8as8&w=500&h=284]

Peter DuBois on Before I Leave You

Here's a brief video that I filmed back in May, as part of an interview between Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Charles Haugland, Artistic Programs and Dramaturgy, about our upcoming world premiere of Before I Leave You by Huntington Playwriting Fellow (and 40-year Cambridge resident!) Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro. The play tells the story of a group of academic friends living in Harvard Square as they approach the dreaded "old age." I could tell you more but, well, that's what I made the video for! [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcK1Zvq3W_c&w=500&h=284]

True Believers Staged Reading

The first public staged reading of my new play, True Believers, took place today at the Berkshire Fringe Festival, following two weeks of intense workshopping. The cast was as follows:

  • Chad Mailer..........Ryan Marchione
  • Billy Horowitz..........Joshua Ramos
  • Ted Thompson..........Bill Shein
  • Chloe Long..........Bethany Geiger
  • Kt Watts..........Kristen Sparhawk
  • Box/Ensemble..........Timothy Ryan Olson
  • Calvin..........Hector Rivera
  • Ensemble..........Clelia Sweeney
  • The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee..........Himself

Special thanks to my director, Keith Bulla, and dramaturg/playwright mentor Laura Maria Censabella. Overall, the script seemed to be well received, and I made a lot of progress on it over the past 2 weeks, tightening the story and sharpening the edges. There'll be another draft coming up, so stay tuned to see where your favorite Comic-Con play goes next!

True Believers Facebook Contest

As mentioned before, my new play, True Believers, will be receiving a workshop production as part of the Berkshire Fringe Festival. I'll spend two intensive weeks in the Berkshires, writing and re-writing, before the public workshop on August 13. Here's the elevator pitch for the play to get you interested:

The heartfelt lives of starcrossed lovers, psychotic fanboys, aspiring comic book writers, cybernetically enhanced humans, and girls who dress like Princess Leia all intertwine over a whirlwind Comic-Con weekend.

(Also, part of the play is set in WORLD OF WARCRAFT. Like, the actual scenes play out within the world of WORLD OF WARCRAFT, when they're not otherwise taking place on the convention floor. Totally cool, right? I'm brilliant)

To get everyone excited about the smörgåsbord of events going on at the Berkshire Fringe Festival (as if True Believers somehow weren't exciting enough on its own), they're holding a Facebook contest to get you extra pumped. One lucky winner will walk away with a $100 cash prize, a season pass to the Berkshire Fringe Festival, and — AND — a snazzy t-shirt. (because we can all use more free snazzy t-shirts, amirite?)

You can read the detailed contest instructions over at the Berkshire Fringe website. Win that money, use it to buy me a beer, and come check out True Believers on August 13!

Fancy Backyard Bohemian Play Readings (plus beer)

This is my professional headshot.Last night, we held a small reading (well, okay, it's a fairly large cast, but there was audience, so whatever) of my new play True Believers, at the Westerly Street Theatre Company and BrewPub. Also known as My Backyard. Clearly of all of my neighbors were quite impressed by the psuedo-Bohemian lifestyles of me and my friends read plays and drank homebrewed beer. Did I mention that True Believers is a play about Comic-Con, and includes cyborgs, girls dressed as Princess Leia, and scenes that take place entirely in WORLD OF WARCRAFT? Okay, so maybe we're less Boheme, more Geek Chic. I'm cool with that.

Thanks to everyone who helped out with the reading; everyone had great feedback to share, and the response helped to get me even more excited for workshopping the play as part of the Berkshire Fringe Festival in August (during which there will be a public staged reading of the play, featuring professional actors and directors. Not that my friends aren't professional actors/director [which, some of them are! No, really.], but they're also, well, my friends, and I know them).

Stay tuned (for more information on) True Believers!

Writing, Writing Everywhere, and Not a Drop To Read

I have to apologize for the radio silence here at ThomDunn.net over the last few weeks. Layne Anderson, a close friend and former roommate of mine, passed away unexpectedly on April 7th, and as much as I've kept up with everything (well, almost everything), time has been rather a blur. I've chronicled the situation as impersonally as possible over at FiveByFiveHundred.com in two posts — Shark Grief, about my own grieving process, and iWake, which as entirely fictional account of a some inappropriate gallows humor inspired by the situation of which Layne would have most certainly approved. Meanwhile, this week's entry steps away from the morbidity and explores the quantum mechanics of one night stands as interpreted through Bell's Theorem, using the Shrödinger's Cat experiment as a proof. Hopefully, that sounds ridiculous (and ridiculously intriguing) enough for you to check out Shrödinger's Cat Call, also over at FiveByFiveHundred.com.

Also in the last two weeks, we've officially opened Sons of the Prophet at the Huntington, which is then moving to the Roundabout Theatre Company Off-Broadway in the Fall. Plus, I did some filming for Art & Design of the 20th & 21st Centuries and the Boston Print Fair, did a small reading of my new play, True Believers (which is set at a Comic Book Convention and features a cameo by the Cyborg Head of Stan Lee, among other things), and started rehearsals and arrangements for my (wait for it) all-male hard rock Lady Gaga tribute band, Alejandro & the Fame, which is going to be every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. Come check us out on May 20th at the afterparty for Propeller Theatre Company's all-male production of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors at the Huntington's B.U. Theatre.

Woo. Okay. I think that's it. Tune in next week for your regularly scheduled programming.