Thomas Gibbons

Thomas Gibbons

Thomas Gibbons is playwright-in-residence at InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia, which has premiered nine of his plays: Pretending to America, 6221, Axis Sally, Black Russian, Bee-luther-hatchee, Permanent Collection, A House With No Walls, and Silverhill. His most recent play, Uncanny Valley, was a Continued Life of New Plays Fund selection; it premiered at Contemporary American Theater Festival in...
Thomas Gibbons is playwright-in-residence at InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia, which has premiered nine of his plays: Pretending to America, 6221, Axis Sally, Black Russian, Bee-luther-hatchee, Permanent Collection, A House With No Walls, and Silverhill. His most recent play, Uncanny Valley, was a Continued Life of New Plays Fund selection; it premiered at Contemporary American Theater Festival in 2014 and in 2015 at InterAct, San Diego Rep, and Capital Stage (Sacramento) and is published by Dramatists Play Service. Other plays include The Exhibition and Homer. His plays have also been seen at the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, off-off-Broadway at Blue Heron Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Florida Stage, Unicorn Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, New Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Kirk Douglas Theatre/Center Theater Group, Aurora Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, and many others. He is the recipient of seven playwriting fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Roger L. Stevens Award from The Fund for New American Plays, the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award, the NAACP Theatre Award, two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding New Play, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Permanent Collection was the pilot selection of the National New Play Network’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund, and A House With No Walls was a subsequent selection. Both plays, along with Bee-luther-hatchee, are published by Playscripts.

Plays

  • Dark Damocloid
    A work in progress. Mark is a philosopher at the Future of Humanity Institute, a think tank that ponders the deep future of the human race. His new book, a meditation on the various ways that humanity might be driven to extinction, has become a surprising bestseller, and he has been invited to deliver a TED talk. He rehearses for his wife Allison and their daughter Sarah, presenting various scenarios: the...
    A work in progress. Mark is a philosopher at the Future of Humanity Institute, a think tank that ponders the deep future of the human race. His new book, a meditation on the various ways that humanity might be driven to extinction, has become a surprising bestseller, and he has been invited to deliver a TED talk. He rehearses for his wife Allison and their daughter Sarah, presenting various scenarios: the eruption of a supervolcano, climate change, the creation of malevolent artificial intelligence, or---perhaps the most unpredictable of all---a collision with a dark Damocloid, an asteroid that cannot be seen. Meanwhile, a portrait of their troubled marriage gradually emerges: while Mark focuses on a myriad of hypothetical futures, Allison resents his neglect of the here and now---and she wants a change. As Mark rehearses his presentation one last time, change arrives in the most unexpected way. By turns mysterious, funny, romantic, bleak, and paradoxically hopeful, DARK DAMOCLOID frames the darkest and most urgent of subjects in the most immediate and personal terms. How do we confront the end of everything we know and cherish?
  • Uncanny Valley
    Drawing on current research in artificial intelligence, robotics, and the possibility of “downloading” human consciousness as a means of extending the human lifespan, Uncanny Valley charts the relationship between Claire, a neuroscientist, and Julian, a nonbiological human. As Julian is “born” over the course of the play---first his head, then an arm, then both arms and his torso, and finally his legs---Claire...
    Drawing on current research in artificial intelligence, robotics, and the possibility of “downloading” human consciousness as a means of extending the human lifespan, Uncanny Valley charts the relationship between Claire, a neuroscientist, and Julian, a nonbiological human. As Julian is “born” over the course of the play---first his head, then an arm, then both arms and his torso, and finally his legs---Claire educates him in techniques of being as human as possible: mirroring people’s speech, engaging in small talk, playing a musical instrument. Her goal is to overcome the “uncanny valley” effect by which people’s initial fascination with a lifelike artificial human inevitably transforms into revulsion. Their deepening friendship and Julian’s growing “humanity” lead to the revelations of an unhealed sorrow in Claire’s personal life and, ultimately, the purpose for which Julian has been created. The play culminates in an unexpected encounter between them that tests their knowledge of each other and of their own natures. Uncanny Valley explores the painful divide between creator and creation, the inherent unpredictability of consciousness, and how we are redefining what it means to be human in the 21st century. Selection of the Continued Life of New Plays Fund. Published by Dramatists Play Service.
  • Chekhov on Sakhalin
    In 1890, Anton Chekhov embarked on one of the most puzzling episodes in his life---a grueling and dangerous trip across the breadth of Russia to visit the penal colony on Sakhalin Island off the coast of Siberia. During his three-month stay, he traveled around the island while conducting a census of the 10,000 prisoners and exiles on the island, recording their details on index cards. He also observed the...
    In 1890, Anton Chekhov embarked on one of the most puzzling episodes in his life---a grueling and dangerous trip across the breadth of Russia to visit the penal colony on Sakhalin Island off the coast of Siberia. During his three-month stay, he traveled around the island while conducting a census of the 10,000 prisoners and exiles on the island, recording their details on index cards. He also observed the colony’s other inhabitants: prison administrators, guards, and free settlers. Upon his return to Moscow he wrote Sakhalin Island, his only non-fiction work and certainly his least known. Chekhov’s account of his trip is an extraordinary document: an investigation of the brutal conditions under which the prisoners lived, it is also an unsparing examination of the corruption caused in “civilized” people by unlimited control over others’ lives. CHEKHOV ON SAKHALIN is a highly theatrical dramatization of Chekhov’s book, which creates the world of Sakhalin on a unit set through lighting and sound. The play requires a cast of six: one actor to play Chekhov and five others (four men and one woman) who play multiple roles, including officials, prisoners and their spouses and children, guards, wardens, and physicians.
  • Silverhill
    In 1891 the members of Silverhill, a utopian community in upstate New York, live and work in harmony, guided by the precepts of their Bible-based communism and "complex marriage." But their idyllic existence is threatened when Alden, their leader, becomes too involved with a young woman and Frank, a young member who sells their products to the outside world, proposes reorganizing Silverhill according...
    In 1891 the members of Silverhill, a utopian community in upstate New York, live and work in harmony, guided by the precepts of their Bible-based communism and "complex marriage." But their idyllic existence is threatened when Alden, their leader, becomes too involved with a young woman and Frank, a young member who sells their products to the outside world, proposes reorganizing Silverhill according to the principles of capitalism.
  • A House With No Walls
    A bitter public battle erupts when it is revealed that the site of a new museum enshrining American liberty is the ground on which George Washington's slaves' house once stood. An African-American political activist occupies the site, demanding that the house be recreated as a reminder of the reality of slavery in our history and a memorial to the slaves' lives. He is opposed by a controversial...
    A bitter public battle erupts when it is revealed that the site of a new museum enshrining American liberty is the ground on which George Washington's slaves' house once stood. An African-American political activist occupies the site, demanding that the house be recreated as a reminder of the reality of slavery in our history and a memorial to the slaves' lives. He is opposed by a controversial African-American conservative author, who argues that blacks must lay aside their pursuit of victimhood if they are to achieve true equality. Their conflict is juxtaposed against the story of Oney Judge, one of Washington's slaves, as she struggles with the decision of whether to risk everything to escape her bondage. Moving in time between the present and the past, the play explores our relationship to troubling historical reality. How do we decide which elements of our history will be commemorated and which will be forgotten? Selection of the Continued Life of New Plays Fund.
  • Permanent Collection
    Soon after African-American businessman Sterling North becomes the new director of the Morris Foundation, he discovers that this world-famous art collection includes several significant African sculptures tucked away in storage. His proposal to add them to the public galleries is opposed by the foundation's long-time education director, who is loyal to the idiosyncratic wishes of the late Dr. Morris....
    Soon after African-American businessman Sterling North becomes the new director of the Morris Foundation, he discovers that this world-famous art collection includes several significant African sculptures tucked away in storage. His proposal to add them to the public galleries is opposed by the foundation's long-time education director, who is loyal to the idiosyncratic wishes of the late Dr. Morris. Spurred on by a zealous local journalist, this clash quickly escalates to public accusations of racism and a bitter struggle for control of the collection. Ultimately, the play asks how much space---literally and figuratively---the white world gives to African-Americans. What is the cost of failing to view the world through another's eyes? Pilot selection of the Continued Life of New Plays Fund. Barrymore Award, Outstanding New Play.
  • Bee-luther-hatchee
    Shelita Burns, an African-American editor, publishes Bee-luther-hatchee, the autobiography of a reclusive 72-year-old woman named Libby Price. Shelita has never met Libby, and when the book wins a prestigious award she decides to deliver it to her in person. To her profound shock, the actual author of the book is a white man named Sean Leonard. Furious and resentful, Shelita accuses Sean of perpetrating a hoax...
    Shelita Burns, an African-American editor, publishes Bee-luther-hatchee, the autobiography of a reclusive 72-year-old woman named Libby Price. Shelita has never met Libby, and when the book wins a prestigious award she decides to deliver it to her in person. To her profound shock, the actual author of the book is a white man named Sean Leonard. Furious and resentful, Shelita accuses Sean of perpetrating a hoax, while he defends the book as a truthful work of imagination. Their confrontation, played out on the edge of the racial divide, builds to a jarring act of violence.
  • Black Russian
    Alternating between past and present, Black Russian dramatizes the journeys of a father and son. Eugene is an African-American agronomist who emigrates to the Soviet Union in the 1930s to help build the 'workers' paradise." His son Misha---half white, half black, half Russian, half American---comes to America in 1996 to discover his heritage. Barrymore Award, Outstanding New Play.
  • Axis Sally
    Docudrama based on the life of Mildred Gillars, the most notorious of the American "radio traitors" who broadcast Nazi propaganda from Berlin during World War Two.
  • 6221
    A three-act documentary drama for a large ensemble, 6221 charts the twenty-year history of the radical group MOVE and its relationship to the city of Philadelphia. Beginning with the groups's founding in Powelton Village, the play culminates in the violent encounter of 1985 when police dropped an improvised bomb on their house in West Philadelphia. The resulting fire killed eleven MOVE members, including...
    A three-act documentary drama for a large ensemble, 6221 charts the twenty-year history of the radical group MOVE and its relationship to the city of Philadelphia. Beginning with the groups's founding in Powelton Village, the play culminates in the violent encounter of 1985 when police dropped an improvised bomb on their house in West Philadelphia. The resulting fire killed eleven MOVE members, including five children, and destroyed an entire city block.
  • Pretending to America
    Benjamin Olaya, a political refugee and torture victim from an African country, is about to undergo his hearing before the Immigration Service. His caseworker, Liz Petersen, will accompany him but has to inform him that his chances of being accepted are uncertain. In order to summon the courage to attend the hearing, Benjamin must face the moment in his torture when his will to resist was broken.
  • Homer
    On the eve of a major Civil War battle, a Union captain confronts the traveling photographer who captures war's aftermath.
  • The Exhibition
    One-act play about the life of John Merrick, the "Elephant Man," and his relationship with Dr. Frederick Treves.