- Tom Eyen
Tom Eyen (
August 14 1940- May 26 1991) was a Tony Awardand Grammy Awardwinning American playwright, lyricist, televisionwriter, and theatre director.
Cambridge, Ohio, Eyen is best known for works at opposite ends of the theatrical spectrum. Mainstream theatergoers became acquainted with him in 1981 when he partnered with composer Henry Kriegerand director Michael Bennettto write the book and lyrics for " Dreamgirls", the hit Broadway musical about an African Americanfemale singing trio. Eyen's career started, however, with avant gardeplays and musicals that he wrote and directed off-off Broadwayin the early 1960s, which eventually led to off-Broadwaysuccess in the 1970s with the controversial nudity-filled performance-art play " The Dirtiest Show in Town" and " Women Behind Bars", a camp parodyof women's prison exploitation films.
In 1960, Eyen left
The Ohio State Universityand moved to New York Cityto study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. [Klemesrud, Judy. "Dirty is a State of Mind", "New York Times", Sunday August 16 1970.] Having no success with that calling, he began writing and found a home for his unique outlook on contemporary life in the 1960s at the off-off-Broadway avant gardetheatre scene at Caffe Cinoand La MaMa Theatre, [ [http://lamamaetc.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html La MaMa article] ] where he gave Bette Midlerher first professional acting roles in his "Miss Nefertiti Regrets" and "Cinderella Revisited" (both in 1965, a children's play by day and an adult show by night). [ [http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,601990,00.html Time magazine profile on Midler] ] He started the Theatre of the Eye Repertory Company in 1964 and is considered a principal proponent of the 1960s neo-expressionist off-off-Broadway movement. [ [http://www.angelfire.com/musicals/cesearsforum/ Profile of Eyen] ] The New York Timesnoted, "His plays are known for emotionally grotesque material combined with sharp satire." [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504E5DD173BF934A15756C0A962948260 NY Times review] ]
Other early off-off-Broadway credits include writing (and usually directing) "My Next Husband Will Be A Beauty!" (1964), "Frustata, The Dirty Little Girl With The Paper Rose Stuck In Her Head, Is Demented!" (1964), "The White Whore And The Bit Player" (1964), "Can't You See A Prince?" (1965), "Court" (1965), "The Last Great Cocktail Party" (1965), "The Demented World Of Tom Eyen" (1965), "Why Hanna's Skirt Won't Stay Down; Or, Admission 10c" (1965, the title character has been described as an icon representative of all the crudeness, exuberance, decadence and off-the-cuff profundities of the era), [ [http://www.lamama.org/archives/2005/HannasSkirt.htm Information about "Hannah"] ] "Give My Regards To Off-Off Broadway" (1966), " Grand Tenement/November 22nd" (1967), "Sarah B. Divine!" (1967), "Kama Sutra, The (An Organic Happening)" (1968), "Who Killed My Bald Sister Sophie? Or, Thank God For Small Favours!" (1968), "When Johnny Comes Dancing Home Again" (1968), "Alice Through A Glass Lightly" (1968), "4 Noh Plays" (1969), "Caution: A Love Story" (1969), "The Dirtiest Show in Town" (1970, with later versions off-Broadway and in London's West End), [ [http://www.lamama.org/archives/2005/HannasSkirt.htm Information about "Hanna" and "Dirtiest Show"] ] "Areatha In The Ice Palace; Or, The Fully Guaranteed Fuck-Me Doll" (1970), "Gertrude Stein And Other Great Men" (1970), "Lana Got Laid In Lebanon" (1970), "What Is Making Gilda So Gray?; Or, It Just Depends On Who You Get" (1970), and "2008: A Spaced Oddity" (1974).
Eyen wrote the song "
Ode to a Screw" with Peter Cornell for the 1971 Miloš Formanfilm "Taking Off".
In 1973, he co-wrote the book for and directed one of Broadway's most notorious flops, the
Paul Jabara discomusical " Rachael Lily Rosenbloom (And Don't You Ever Forget It)", which closed after seven previews. The lead character, a flamboyant entertainer, had been inspired by Midler, who nevertheless passed on the role.
Following this setback, Eyen began to commute to
Los Angelesto write for television. He contributed scripts to the 1976-78 ground-breaking evening soap opera parody. " Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman", produced by Norman Lear. In 1978, he earned an Emmy Awardnomination for writing Midler's television special"Ol' Red Hair is Back".
Eyen's campy-disturbing send-up of women's prison exploitation movies, "Women Behind Bars", became a major off-Broadway hit in 1975, first with Pat Ast, and then with Divine, playing the lead role of the sadistic matron in drag. The
New York Timescalled it "an extraordinarily interesting work from one of America's most innovative and versatile playwrights." [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504E5DD173BF934A15756C0A962948260 NY Times review] ] . He followed up on this success with "The Neon Woman", another off-Broadway play starring Divine in 1978.
In 1980, Eyen directed a film version of "The Dirtiest Show In Town", with
John Wesley Shippbaring all, for the cable network Showtime, making it the first "made for cable" television movie. The film's explicit nudity and depiction of gaycharacters was considered a breakthrough of sexual expression in the early days of cable television.
"Dreamgirls" and later years
Eyen and Krieger first worked together on the 1975 musical version of Eyen's revue "The Dirtiest Show in Town", called "The Dirtiest Musical in Town". [ http://www.thevillager.com/villager_198/oscardreaming.html "The Dirtiest Musical in Town" is mentioned in this article on Krieger] ] .
Nell Carter's performance in that musical inspired Eyen and Krieger to craft a musical about Black back-up singers, which they workshopped for Joe Pappbut shelved when Carter dropped out in 1978. A year later, the project caught the interest of Broadway director-producer Michael Bennett, who asked Eyen to direct a workshop production of "Big Dreams", as the musical was then known, with Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devineand gospel singer Jennifer Hollidayas Carter's replacement. However, Holliday left the project, unhappy that her character died at the conclusion of the first act. After several workshops and numerous rewrites, Bennett decided that he needed Holliday, and the team rewrote act two to build up Holliday's character. [Hill, Jeremy. "Pre-Broadway. "Dreamgirls: Your Virtual Coffee Table Book of the Musical".]
Produced on Broadway in 1981, "Dreamgirls"' was the biggest success of Eyen's career. It was nominated for thirteen
Tony Awards, including two for Eyen: Best Book and, as lyricist, Best Original Score. The show won six Tonys, including Best Book. It also earned Eyen a Drama Desk Awardnomination for Outstanding Lyrics. The original cast albumwon Eyen a Grammy Award as lyricist, and one of the show's songs, " And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", sung by Holliday, became a top hit.
When a film adaptation of "Dreamgirls" by writer/director
Bill Condonwas released in 2006 by DreamWorksand Paramount Pictures, the soundtrack became a number one hit, and two of Eyen's songs from the soundtrack, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", sung by Jennifer Hudson, and "One Night Only", sung by Beyoncé Knowles(credited as Deena Jones & The Dreams), became hits again. To promote the film's release, DreamWorks and the licensee of the musical, The Tams-Witmark Music Library, paid the licensing fees for all non-professional stage performances of "Dreamgirls" for 2006. As a result, more than fifty high schools, colleges, and community theaters staged productions of "Dreamgirls" in 2006. [ Olsen, Mark (Dec. 12, 2006). [http://www.calendarlive.com/printedition/calendar/cl-et-dreamgirls12dec12,0,693678.story "One stage of film's marketing is on stage"] , "Los Angeles Times". Retrieved on December 15, 2006]
Eyen's 1984 attempt to duplicate his "Dreamgirls" success with "Kicks:The Showgirl Musical", a collaboration with composer
Alan Menkenabout members of the Rockettesduring World War II, never made it past the workshop stages, [Ostrow, Stuart "Present at the Creation, Leaping in the Dark, And Going Against the Grain" 2005, pp. 117-188. ] though individual numbers from the show are often performed in concert. [ [http://www.jorgeplace.com/Cast_ForgottenScores.htm Description of several "forgotten" releases] ]
Eyen died of
AIDS-related complications in Palm Beach, Floridaat the age of 50. A memorial service was held at the St. James Theatrein New York Cityon September 23 1991. In 1993, he posthumously received the Jerome Lawrence& Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute Award at The Ohio State University, where his papers are archived.
* [http://www.angelfire.com/musicals/cesearsforum/ Profile of Eyen]
* [http://www.dreamgirlsthemusical.com/productions/bio.php?name=3000&production=1000 Another profile of Eyen]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504E5DD173BF934A15756C0A962948260 NY Times review of "Women Behind Bars" from 1984]
* [http://www.lamama.org/archives/2005/HannasSkirt.htm Description of "Hannah" with information about Eyen]
* [http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/sanfran/s188.html Review of a San Francisco production of "Women Behind Bars", with biographical information about Eyen]
*Stone, Dr. Wendell, "Simulated Performances: Tom Eyen's Employment of Filmic Devices". (2002)
*Stone, Dr. Wendell, "Caffe Cino: the birthplace of off-off-Broadway". (2005) [http://books.google.com/books?id=vKTPQmmed9sC&pg=PA134&lpg=PA134&dq=%22women+behind+bars%22+eyen&source=web&ots=X7rLTivPmN&sig=fVkphZmoNh_kCBZ4U7vwNIipYHA]
* [http://www.4-wall.com/authors/authors_e/eyen_tom.htm List of Eyen's early plays]
* [http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsE/EyenTom.htm List of plays by Eyen]
* [http://finelinefeatures.com/pink/cast.htm Divine bio]
* [http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=8902 Internet Broadway Database listing]
* [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0264132/ Internet Movie Database listing]
* [http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1809051893 Eyen Filmography]
* [http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&keyword=name&first=Tom&last=Eyen&middle= Lortel Archives listing of some Eyen plays]
* [http://library.ohio-state.edu/search/t?SEARCH=TOM+EYEN+COLLECTION: Tom Eyen archives at The Ohio State University]
* [http://www.samuelfrench.com/store/product_info.php/products_id/5548 Available Eyen plays]
* [http://www.alanmenken.info/biography/kicks.html Kicks: The Showgirl Musical]
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