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Tom Eyen
(August 14, 1940 - May 26, 1991) USA

Tom Eyen

Playwright, lyricist, TV writer, theatre director


Tom Eyen was born in Cambridge, Ohio, the youngest of seven children of Abraham and Julia Eyen, who owned a family-run restaurant. He attended The Ohio State University but left before graduating, in 1960, and moved to New York City to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Having no success with acting, Eyen worked briefly as a press agent and then began writing. He found a home for his unique outlook on contemporary life in the 1960s at the Off-Off-Broadway avant garde theatre scene at Caffe Cino and La MaMa Theatre. With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, he formed his own company, the Theatre of the Eye Repertory Company, in 1964.

Eyen is considered a principal proponent of the 1960s neo-expressionist Off-Off-Broadway movement. He was prolific, writing and usually directing 35 plays at La MaMa alone in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1970, Eyen had his biggest commercial success to date with The Dirtiest Show in Town , a satiric response to, but also an example of, the era's plays featuring sexual situations and nude actors, which ran for two seasons with later versions Off-Broadway and in London's West End.

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. 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 for the cable network Showtime, making it the first "made for cable" television movie, featuring John Wesley Shipp.

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 . Nell Carter's performance in that musical inspired Eyen and Krieger to craft a musical about a black singing trio, which they workshopped for Joe Papp with Carter, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine but shelved in 1978 when Carter took a role in a soap opera. 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 .

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 Award nomination for Outstanding Lyrics.

When a film adaptation of Dreamgirls by writer/director Bill Condon was released in 2006 by DreamWorks and 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, became hits again.

Eyen's 1984 attempt to duplicate his Dreamgirls success with Kicks: The Showgirl Musical, a collaboration with composer Alan Menken about members of The Rockettes during World War II, never made it past the workshop stages,[19] though individual numbers from the show are often performed in concert.

Eyen died of AIDS-related complications in Palm Beach, Florida at the age of fifty.


Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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