R. Eric Thomas

R. Eric Thomas

R. Eric Thomas is the winner of the Barrymore Award for Best New Play, the Dramatists Guild Lanford Wilson Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Drama, and was a finalist for the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award. Recent productions include four world premieres: Nightbird at Austin Playhouse, Backing Track at Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre Company, The Folks at Home at Baltimore Center Stage, and Crying on...
R. Eric Thomas is the winner of the Barrymore Award for Best New Play, the Dramatists Guild Lanford Wilson Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Drama, and was a finalist for the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award. Recent productions include four world premieres: Nightbird at Austin Playhouse, Backing Track at Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre Company, The Folks at Home at Baltimore Center Stage, and Crying on Television at Everyman Theatre. He has been commissioned by Baltimore Center Stage, Theatre Exile, Simpatico Theatre, Act II Playhouse and more. He was on the writing staff for the Peabody Award-winning series Dickinson (AppleTV+) and Better Things (FX) and he is the author of four books, HERE FOR IT, a memoir-in-essays that was a Read with Jenna book club pick featured on Today, RECLAIMING HER TIME, a biography of Rep. Maxine Waters co-authored with Helena Andrews-Dyer, KINGS OF B'MORE, a YA novel, and the forthcoming essay collection CONGRATULATIONS, THE BEST IS OVER!. He is the co-lead artistic mentor of PlayPenn’s playwriting cohort The Foundry and a member of Azuka Theatre’s New Pages. He is a member of WGAEast and Dramatist's Guild.

Plays

  • Merland
    Merland is a mid-apocalyptic contemporary folk tale about Blackness, narrative, and the ability to transform. Audrey and Jonah are blithe, Black siblings who live in a version of Baltimore beset by plagues, the most pressing of which are the frogs that come from nowhere and get everywhere. They accept this with little question, just like they accept the warning from their charismatic but strident Aunt Nellie...
    Merland is a mid-apocalyptic contemporary folk tale about Blackness, narrative, and the ability to transform. Audrey and Jonah are blithe, Black siblings who live in a version of Baltimore beset by plagues, the most pressing of which are the frogs that come from nowhere and get everywhere. They accept this with little question, just like they accept the warning from their charismatic but strident Aunt Nellie that it's unsafe to leave the house, that they must only eat the prepackaged food that she brings, and that the beguiling Hollywood movie about public pool desegregation filming outside of their row home is not to be trusted. But when Jonah begins a relationship with the handsome, somewhat slippery star of the film, known only as The Diver, and Audrey connects with an urban farmer named The Seed Woman who has a deeper connection than is first indicated, the carefully constructed world they live in starts to fall apart.
  • Nightbird
    What goes in the place of a Confederate monument in a Black Baltimore neighborhood? Chelle, an artist, has recently purchased her childhood home in Upton; her brother Willard is working on refurbishing it. The place is stunning, honey, but the neighborhood is more weed than flower. The windows let in the sounds of a city street teeming with kids and sirens and the footsteps of white joggers and firecrackers and...
    What goes in the place of a Confederate monument in a Black Baltimore neighborhood? Chelle, an artist, has recently purchased her childhood home in Upton; her brother Willard is working on refurbishing it. The place is stunning, honey, but the neighborhood is more weed than flower. The windows let in the sounds of a city street teeming with kids and sirens and the footsteps of white joggers and firecrackers and the chop of the police helicopters. And out of those windows you can see an abandoned lot on one side--an opportunity and an eyesore--and on the other, an empty pedestal that until recently was home to a statue of Robert E. Lee. An eyesore. And an opportunity. Willard is determined to focus on the present, preparing for a Juneteenth festival in the park that used to house the monument, as Chelle starts building a new monument to take the old one's place.

    This is a play about liminal spaces, about the in-between, the tenuous, the fragile and the things on the cusp of exploding. Will a reckoning come? And after that, well, what then?
  • The Folks at Home
    Roger and Brandon, an interracial couple living in South Baltimore, are doing the best they can. Their mortgage is late, Roger's been laid off for months, and there might be a ghost in the attic. It's a lot. When Brandon's mom and Roger's parents fall on even harder financial times and are forced to move in with the struggling couple, the blended family must figure out how to share space and...
    Roger and Brandon, an interracial couple living in South Baltimore, are doing the best they can. Their mortgage is late, Roger's been laid off for months, and there might be a ghost in the attic. It's a lot. When Brandon's mom and Roger's parents fall on even harder financial times and are forced to move in with the struggling couple, the blended family must figure out how to share space and how to survive. The Folks at Home is a sharp and heartfelt political comedy in the style of Norman Lear's classic sitcoms of the 70s and 80s.
  • Humble Yourself!
    It's 1997, the Hale-Bopp Comet is closer than ever, and Margene Taylor has come back to Eau Claire to kill her former friend Duke Owens. Motivated by a set of self-help tapes that's bleeding into her reality, and accompanied by a stoic, news-obsessed cowboy from Abilene, Margene sets herself on a collision course with Duke and with her conception of herself. Featuring two actors playing 11 characters...
    It's 1997, the Hale-Bopp Comet is closer than ever, and Margene Taylor has come back to Eau Claire to kill her former friend Duke Owens. Motivated by a set of self-help tapes that's bleeding into her reality, and accompanied by a stoic, news-obsessed cowboy from Abilene, Margene sets herself on a collision course with Duke and with her conception of herself. Featuring two actors playing 11 characters, Humble Yourself! is a dark comedy about being your best worst self.
  • An Army of Lovers
    An aging queer activist is invited to the sleek, enclosed campus of a global communications company to give a speech for their first Pride celebration. She does not come in peace. An Army of Lovers is a play about radical acts of existence, corporate culture as an oxymoron, and the freedom to be public.
  • Backing Track
    The novelist Alexander Chee recently wrote “the only place I experience grief lately is at karaoke. The song someone else is singing that catches me off guard and all of the losses of the last few years sneak in to say hi.” When I read his words, months after a weeklong workshop of Backing Track, my play on falling in love while grieving, gentrification, and karaoke, I had to catch my breath. It was as if he...
    The novelist Alexander Chee recently wrote “the only place I experience grief lately is at karaoke. The song someone else is singing that catches me off guard and all of the losses of the last few years sneak in to say hi.” When I read his words, months after a weeklong workshop of Backing Track, my play on falling in love while grieving, gentrification, and karaoke, I had to catch my breath. It was as if he and I, though strangers, were suddenly in the same dark bar, lit only by a bright monitor with words crawling up the screen. Or, as Roberta Flack sings, like he was “singing my life with his words.” The same feeling--intimacy, surprise, the mix of laughter and loss--waits for readers and audience members in Backing Track.
  • Crying on Television
    After a chance meeting, Mackenzie realizes that she’s seen Ellison somewhere before—as a contestant on a reality dating show from 10 years earlier. Struck by the girl she remembers from the decade-old clip, Mackenzie decides they should be friends and quickly gets caught up in an escalating series of hijinks to make that happen. Mackenzie’s quest pulls in Chris, her brother’s ex who is doing his best to be a...
    After a chance meeting, Mackenzie realizes that she’s seen Ellison somewhere before—as a contestant on a reality dating show from 10 years earlier. Struck by the girl she remembers from the decade-old clip, Mackenzie decides they should be friends and quickly gets caught up in an escalating series of hijinks to make that happen. Mackenzie’s quest pulls in Chris, her brother’s ex who is doing his best to be a weird loner, and Taffy, an amateur sleuth who never met a stranger, as the group wrestle with life's greatest mystery: how to make friends as an adult.
  • Mrs. Harrison
    Mrs. Harrison is about two women and one story. At their 10-year college reunion, Aisha and Holly meet by chance. Is this the first time or has it just been a long time? They can't agree. Aisha is a black, successful playwright; she's on the cover of the alumni magazine. Holly is a white, struggling stand-up comedian; she's here for the free drinks. Aisha's most successful play bears a...
    Mrs. Harrison is about two women and one story. At their 10-year college reunion, Aisha and Holly meet by chance. Is this the first time or has it just been a long time? They can't agree. Aisha is a black, successful playwright; she's on the cover of the alumni magazine. Holly is a white, struggling stand-up comedian; she's here for the free drinks. Aisha's most successful play bears a striking resemblance to a tragic event in Holly's life. Is it a coincidence or is it theft? As a rainstorm interrupts the outdoor reunion, they find themselves trapped inside, together. They both have a story that they've been telling themselves about what happened all those years ago and they're both willing to fight for the truth in the present.
  • Safe Space
    Safe Space is a ghost story and a farce. Helen, a young white liberal who runs a non-profit focusing on lower class black people, summons Courtney, a black unemployed locksmith, to her the sprawling “farm house” she’s inherited from her uncle. There’s a door in the basement that won’t come open and she needs his help. Simple, easy. Here’s the thing: no one here is being honest about what they want. Courtney,...
    Safe Space is a ghost story and a farce. Helen, a young white liberal who runs a non-profit focusing on lower class black people, summons Courtney, a black unemployed locksmith, to her the sprawling “farm house” she’s inherited from her uncle. There’s a door in the basement that won’t come open and she needs his help. Simple, easy. Here’s the thing: no one here is being honest about what they want. Courtney, whose boyfriend Bill works for Helen’s non-profit, has been hearing voices including one that compels him to steal from the house. Helen is engaged in a battle of wills with her MAGA brother, Ryan, over the contents of the house, most of which indicate that their dearly departed uncle was part of a nationalist militia. And then there’s Charlotte, the ghost of a formerly enslaved person, who has been trapped in this house since John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid went south and has contented herself with watching television and plotting her escape. When the basement door is unlocked the reveal a secret room full of valuable antique guns, Charlotte, Courtney, and Helen’s destinies become irrevocably and explosively linked.
  • Time Is On Our Side
    “A superbly crafted two-hour mystery… Thomas creates an entire world with seeming room for all of humanity’s hopes and dreams, foibles and longings.” –Jim Rutter, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Annie loves the past. Curtis lives for the future. Together they host a wildly unpopular podcast from Annie's living room in which they "queer history," reinterpreting Philadelphia lore...
    “A superbly crafted two-hour mystery… Thomas creates an entire world with seeming room for all of humanity’s hopes and dreams, foibles and longings.” –Jim Rutter, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Annie loves the past. Curtis lives for the future. Together they host a wildly unpopular podcast from Annie's living room in which they "queer history," reinterpreting Philadelphia lore through an modern, intersectional lens. When Annie finds a family heirloom that reveals a buried connection to the early LGBT rights movement, the political suddenly gets explosively personal. TIME IS ON OUR SIDE's shape-shifting plot bounds gleefully from the Underground Railroad to pop culture futurity, as Annie and Curtis search for answers to the questions “How do we let go of the past? And when will it let go of us?”

    “[D]elivers thoughtful, clear storytelling drama that new plays frequently lack.” -Howie Shapiro, Newsworks.
  • Miriam1234
    10 minute play. Mel, an irascible lesbian woman, needs to answer 4 security questions to change her password so she can check into the flight that will take her to meet her first grandchild. A technophobe who is grieving the death of her partner, Mel would rather get caught up in the memories that the questions provoke than risk losing them to the forward march of time.
  • Human Resources
    After a company merger with a start-up, a corporate drone starts to notion strange things about the new co-workers. They’ve got strange ways of doing things, they’re excessively zany. They might be puppets. Like, actual puppets.

    Human Resources was a finalist for the 2015 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting and premiered in Miami, Florida as part of Summer Shorts 2015.
    ...
    After a company merger with a start-up, a corporate drone starts to notion strange things about the new co-workers. They’ve got strange ways of doing things, they’re excessively zany. They might be puppets. Like, actual puppets.

    Human Resources was a finalist for the 2015 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting and premiered in Miami, Florida as part of Summer Shorts 2015.

    "But nothing is more brilliantly bonkers than R. Eric Thomas’ Silicon Valley satire Human Resources, with Wahl as a startup drone frustrated by the new hires his company installed in a merger — all of whom happen to be puppets." –Miami New Times

  • It's Not Gossip If I Say It to Your Face
    Ugh, cities. Doesn't it seem like you always run into the people you don't want to meet at the worst possible time? No? Just me. Fine. Well, it all started so simply--Roy runs into his sister's boyfriend Mick on a street corner--but a friendly meeting quickly escalates to farcical levels thanks to a series of ill-timed texts, mistaken identities, stalker exes and one very nosey hairdresser. Ugh, people.
  • Institutional Memory
    Two African-American audience members step on-stage during a production of a play about the 50th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision featuring an all-white cast. No one notices.

    Institutional Memory takes a "race play"--about racially homogenous private school's struggles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision--and zooms out to look at the larger...
    Two African-American audience members step on-stage during a production of a play about the 50th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision featuring an all-white cast. No one notices.

    Institutional Memory takes a "race play"--about racially homogenous private school's struggles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision--and zooms out to look at the larger socio-economic framework that controls the way we think about, talk about and act on racial inequality in America.