Richard O'Donnell (playwright)

Richard O'Donnell (playwright)

Infobox actor

imagesize = 150px
bgcolour =
name = Richard “R.” O'Donnell
birthdate = birth date and age|1956|6|17
location = Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
occupation = Actor, Producer, Writer and Stand-up Comic

Richard O'Donnell (born June 17, 1956 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania) is a playwright, producer, actor, and stand-up comic living in Chicago. He has worked and lived in New York City and Chicago where he has written and performed for the stage and television. O'Donnell wrote the award-winning off-Broadway show "One & One", Radio City Music Hall's "A Manhattan Showboat", and co-founded the New Age Vaudeville theatre company, the New Variety cabaret, and the "R. Rated" Chicago television show.


Early life

Richard O'Donnell began in the entertainment industry as a professional ventriloquistcitation |periodical=Chicago Tribune, Friday, page 1, section 5 Tempo |date=August 13, 1999 |title=R. O'Donnell hopes his new comedy series will shift spotlight to Chicago |first=Allan |last=Johnson] . He ran away with the Sells & Gray 3-ring tent circus at the tender age of 15citation |periodical=Stop Smiling, Issue 17, page 48-51 |date=2004 |title=My Summer With Del |first=R. |last=O'Donnell] , sleeping in the back of the elephant truck that transported their sole elephant, Bessie. O'Donnell was eventually forced to return home to finish high school, earning a scholarship to attend the Pennsylvania Governor's School of the Artscitation |periodical=Reporter, pg. 3, Rose Tree Media School District, VOL IX, No. 9 |date=April, 1974 |title=Governor's Talent School Names Penncrest Five |first=Mary |last=Faulkner] where he studied theatre alongside classmate Kevin Bacon.

New York City

In 1978, at 22 years-old, Richard O'Donnell co-authored the book (with Fred Bennett) and the music and lyricscitation |periodical=Entertainment - East Coast Edition – Vol 1, No. 3 |date=November 28, 1978 |title=One And One |first=Anthony |last=Buonarabo] (with Dianne Adams) for the musical "One & One" that played The Carter Theatre, in the Carter Hotel, 250 West 43rd street. It opened off-Broadway, November 15, 1978citation |periodical=New York Times Theatre Directory |date=November 15, 1978 |title=Off-Broadway |first= |last=] received three ASCAP Awards, and was later recorded by actor Nathan Lane ("The Producers") for the Broadway Backers Audition.

For "Showplace of the Nation", Radio City Music Hall, O'Donnell co-wrote a hit mega-review entitled, "A Manhattan Showboat" in 1979 that celebrated over 100 years of American entertainment.citation |periodical=Chicago Tribune, Friday, Page 2 - Section 7 |date=May 15, 1992 |title=New Variety a cabaret for the ‘90s' |first=June |last=Sawyers]

He was invited to participate in the American Film Institute's "New Directors" program based on the merits of an original screenplay "Closet Lovers", directed by tap-legend Miriam Nelson and scored by Henry Mancini.

In the 1980's, billed as "The Double R" comedy duo, in collaboration with writer Richard LaGravenese, O'Donnell co-penned and consecutively performed in several off-off-Broadway productions including "Spare Parts", "Blood-brothers", and "Entrees" at The 78th Street Theatre Lab, The Lion Theatre, and West Bank Cafe. The Double R were regular guests on the Linda Lichtman Comedy hour, WNBC Radio, 30 Rockefeller Plazacitation |periodical=Rock Radio Scrapbook |date=1984 |title=WNBC Lineups |url= |first=Vince |last=Santarelli] . On the college circuit they opened for Leon Redbone and further developed their work in stand-up comedy clubs such as New York's Comedy Cellar and Yuk-Yuks in Toronto. While working with O'Donnell, LaGravenese discovered he had a knack for writing dialogue.citation |periodical=Premiere, pages 86-92 |date=May, 1991 |title=A Writer's Dream |first=Richard |last=Panek]

Fish Creek, Wisconsin

In 1983 Richard O'Donnell was contracted by Tony award-winning producer James B. McKenzie to create an after-show review to complement evening performances of the Peninsula Players in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. The Comedy Cabaret, as it came to be known, was an immediate success and returned to Door County for a follow-up season in 1984 as New Age Vaudeville in its own 100-seat theater in Baileys Harbor. O'Donnell also took to the main stage at Peninsula Players, starring in two highly acclaimed title rolescitation |periodical=Green Bay Press Gazette, TV & The Arts – Page 4 |date=October 6, 1985 |title=Shue's death is felt deeply at Peninsula Players |first=Warren |last=Gerds] in Larry Shue's "The Nerd" and "The Foreigner", O'Donnell was featured on the cover of the Chicago Tribune Arts Section, The Summer Stock Life.citation |periodical=Chicago Tribune Magazine, Section 10, pg. 12 |date=August 19, 1984 |title=Theatre in the Rough |first=Robert |last=Davis]

In 1998, O'Donnell was commissioned to write the book, music, and lyrics for a new musical play entitled "Wish Wisconsin", to celebrate the state's 150th birthday. Directed and produced by Amy McKenzie, it opened Friday January 2, in the Fish Creek Town Hall Auditorium. Songs of merit included "Wish", "So Blessed", and the show-stopper "Oh!, Wisconsin".citation |periodical=Resorter Reporter, Pg. 2 |date=January 2, 1998 |title=A Fitting 150th Birthday Salute, New Play Finishing up at Fish Creek |first=Jon |last=Gast]

Chicago, Illinois

Following the summer-stock season in 1983 Richard O'Donnell co-founded (with Amy McKenzie) the highly acclaimed Chicago theater company New Age Vaudeville (1984-1987). Throughout its run, O'Donnell produced, wrote, composed, choreographed, and acted in numerous productions with actors Megan Cavanagh, Amy McKenzie, Todd Erickson, Bobby McGuire, Peter Neville, Michael Dempsey, Lisa Keefe, Caroline Schless and Tom Purcell (head writer The Colbert Report). Productions included the cult-hits "An Evening with Elmore & Gwendolyn Putts - The Neighbors Next Door" and "The TV Dinner Hour" (the later featured iO, formerly ImrovOlympic, founder Del Close). Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune hailed both productions as "Among the most polished and clever productions of the season, a pair of devilishly inventive shows that won over critics and audiences alike."citation |periodical=Chicago Tribune |date=May 3, 1987 |title=VAUDEVILLE TROUPE TAKES LEAVE OF CITY |url=|first=Rick |last=Kogan]

tand-up and variety

As a stand-up comic billed as R. O'Donnell, he played numerous clubscitation |periodical=Chicago Tribune, Friday, page 1, section 5 Tempo |date=August 13, 1999 |title=R. O'Donnell hopes his new comedy series will shift spotlight to Chicago |first=Allan |last=Johnson] including Zanies, The Chicago Improv, the Funny Firm, Catch A Rising Star, as well as featuring for celebrated comics Chris Rock, Bill Maher, Brian Regan, Rick Overton, and the late Bill Hicks.

O'Donnell co-produced the New Variety, which played, among other venues, at the 500-seat Chicago Improv Comedy Clubcitation |periodical=Chicago Sun-times, Arts & Show, Section 2|date=August 6, 1993 |title=Improv Adds Some Variety To Its Stage |first=Ernest |last=Tucker] for over 2 years. He was responsible for changing a faltering 3-ring comedy presentation into a successful variety format.citation |periodical=The Third Word, Sept/Oct issue, pg 10-12,|date=October 11, 1993 |title=Sex, Drugs, & Cabaret - The NewVariety Cabaret Just Might Make Comedy Dangerous Again |first=Eric |last=Spitznagel] The New Variety, which was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as "A cabaret for the 90's!"citation |periodical=Chicago Tribune, Friday, Page 2 - Section 7 |date=May 15, 1992 |title=New Variety a cabaret for the ‘90s' |first=June |last=Sawyers] was a fast-paced, ever-changing volley of acts that included award-winning jugglers, fire-eaters, comics, and sketch comedy groups including the all-girl Nude Coffee, the all-gay The Boys in the Bathroom, and the all-improv The Upright Citizens Brigade. Dr. Boom (who literally blew things up on stage) was the highlight of the evening.

Fox TV shows

O'Donnell produced and directed comedy segments for the 1998 New Year's Eve special "Twisted"citation |periodical=Chicago Sun Times, pg 53, TV & Radio |date=August 4, 1999 |title=Ch. 32 Comedy Show keeps the talent local |first=Robert |last=Feder] , which aired on FOX TV, Chicago featuring Matt Besser (Comedy Central's The Upright Citizens Brigade) as well as writing and directing commercials for McDonalds, Toyota, Jiffy Lube, and Ameritech starring Besser and stand-up comic Michelle Garb in a stylistic homage to the works of Ernie Kovacs.

In 1999, O'Donnell went on to Executive Produce and host "R. Rated" which also aired on FOX TV, Chicago, a comedy anthology featuring short works by The Annoyance Theater featuring Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live), Mick Napier (Second City), and Stephnie Weir (Mad TV), along with Tim Kazurinsky (Saturday Night Live), among many other independent film and video makers. It is said that O'Donnell hoped his new comedy series would shift the LA and NYC comedy spotlights to Chicago talent.citation |periodical=Chicago Tribune, Friday, page 1, section 5 Tempo |date=August 13, 1999 |title=R. O'Donnell hopes his new comedy series will shift spotlight to Chicago |first=Allan |last=Johnson]


3 ASCAP (1978) Music Awards – Music & Lyrics, off-Broadway Musical "One & One" (shared with Dianne Adams)


External links

* [ Richard O'Donnell's R. Productions]
* [ R. Productions YouTube Channel]
* [ R. Productions MySpace page]

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