Tom Eyen
Tom Eyen was an American playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, lyricist
A lyricist is a songwriter who specializes in lyrics. A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-composer, who composes the song's melody.-Collaboration:...

, television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 writer and theatre director.

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 Krieger
Henry Krieger
Henry Krieger is an American composer.Krieger wrote the music for the Broadway shows Dreamgirls , The Tap Dance Kid , and Side Show , as well as other works of musical theatre.He was nominated for the Tony Awards for Best Score for both Dreamgirls and Side Show, won a Grammy...

 and director Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett was an American musical theater director, writer, choreographer, and dancer. He won seven Tony Awards for his choreography and direction of Broadway shows and was nominated for an additional eleven....

 to write the book and lyrics for Dreamgirls, the hit Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

 about an African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 female singing trio. Eyen's career started, however, with avant garde plays and musicals that he wrote and directed off-off Broadway in the early 1960s, which eventually led to off-Broadway
Off-Broadway theater is a term for a professional venue in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499, and for a specific production of a play, musical or revue that appears in such a venue, and which adheres to related trade union and other contracts...

 success in the 1970s with the controversial nudity-filled performance-art play The Dirtiest Show in Town
The Dirtiest Show in Town
The Dirtiest Show in Town is a musical revue with a book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Jeff Barry.An attack on both air pollution, the Vietnam War, urban blight and computerized conformity, it is filled with sex, nudity, and strong lesbian and gay male characters, and culminates in a massive...

and Women Behind Bars
Women Behind Bars
Women Behind Bars is a play by Tom Eyen.A camp spoof of the exploitation films produced by Universal, Warner's, and Republic Pictures in the 1950s, this black comedy is set in the Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village...

, a camp
Camp (style)
Camp is an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its taste and ironic value. The concept is closely related to kitsch, and things with camp appeal may also be described as being "cheesy"...

A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 of women's prison exploitation films.


Eyen was born in Cambridge, Ohio
Cambridge, Ohio
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,520 people, 4,924 households, and 2,954 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,055.1 people per square mile . There were 5,585 housing units of an average density of 996.3 per square mile...

, 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
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
The American Academy of Dramatic Arts is a fully accredited two-year conservatory with facilities located in Manhattan, New York City – at 120 Madison Avenue, in a landmark building designed by noted architect Stanford White as the original Colony Club – and in Hollywood, California...


Early career

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, where he gave Bette Midler
Bette Midler
Bette Midler is an American singer, actress, and comedian, also known by her informal stage name, The Divine Miss M. She became famous as a cabaret and concert headliner, and went on to star in successful and acclaimed films such as The Rose, Ruthless People, Beaches, and For The Boys...

 her 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). With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, he formed his own company, the Theatre of the Eye Repertory Company, in 1964. The company performed together for a decade, and took Eyen's 1967 play about Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt was a French stage and early film actress, and has been referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known". Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of France in the 1870s, and was soon in demand in Europe and the Americas...

, "Sarah B. Divine!," to the Spoleto Festival in Italy in 1967. Eyen is considered a principal proponent of the 1960s neo-expressionist off-off-Broadway movement. The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

noted, "His plays are known for emotionally grotesque material combined with sharp satire."
Eyen was prolific, writing and usually directing 35 plays at La MaMa alone in the 1960s and 1970s. Early off-off-Broadway plays, other than those mentioned above, include 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; revived in 1981 at Corner Theatre ETC
Corner Theatre ETC
Corner Theatre E.T.C. was an American experimental theater in operation from 1968–1987, a not-for-profit cultural organization located in Baltimore, Maryland, which provided resources for new playwrights, designers, directors, actors, dancers, and other artists seeking alternative means and...

), "Why Hannah's Skirt Won't Stay Down" (1964), Can't You See A Prince? (1965), Court (1965), The Last Great Cocktail Party (1965), The Demented World Of Tom Eyen (1965) and 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. Others included Give My Regards to Off-Off Broadway (1966), Grand Tenement/November 22nd (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) and Caution: A Love Story (1969).

1970 to 1980

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
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...


This was followed by such shows as 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), 2008: A Spaced Oddity (1974) (with music by Gary William Friedman
Gary William Friedman
Gary William Friedman is an American musician and composer. He completed his undergraduate work at Brooklyn College, and did advanced training in electronic music at Columbia University....

) and The Neon Woman
The Neon Woman
The Neon Woman is a comic play written by Tom Eyen. The play is an outrageous murder mystery set in a seedy Baltimore burlesque house run by a retired stripper . It was written as a vehicle for Pink Flamingos star Divine , who had previously starred in a revival of Eyen's Women Behind Bars...

(1979) starring Divine. According to The New York Times, "Eyen was called the Neil Simon
Neil Simon
Neil Simon is an American playwright and screenwriter. He has written numerous Broadway plays, including Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and The Odd Couple. He won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Lost In Yonkers. He has written the screenplays for several of his plays that...

 of Off Off Broadway at one point when he had four plays running simultaneously." Eyen wrote the song "Ode to a Screw" with Peter Cornell for the 1971 Miloš Forman
Miloš Forman
Jan Tomáš Forman , better known as Miloš Forman , is a Czech-American director, screenwriter, professor, and an emigrant from Czechoslovakia. Two of his films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, are among the most celebrated in the history of film, both gaining him the Academy Award for...

 film Taking Off".

In 1973, Eyen co-wrote the book for and directed one of Broadway's most notorious flops, the Paul Jabara
Paul Jabara
Paul Jabara was an American actor, singer, and songwriter of Lebanese ancestry. He wrote Donna Summer's "Last Dance" from Thank God It's Friday and Barbra Streisand's song "The Main Event/Fight" from The Main Event...

Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

Rachael Lily Rosenbloom (And Don't You Ever Forget It)
Rachael Lily Rosenbloom (And Don't You Ever Forget It)
Rachael Lily Rosenbloom is a musical with a book by Paul Jabara and Tom Eyen, music by Jabara, and lyrics by Jabara, David Debin, and Paul Issa....

, 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 Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 to write for television. He contributed scripts to the 1976-78 ground-breaking evening soap opera
Soap opera
A soap opera, sometimes called "soap" for short, is an ongoing, episodic work of dramatic fiction presented in serial format on radio or as television programming. The name soap opera stems from the original dramatic serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers, such as Procter & Gamble,...

A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is an American soap opera parody that aired in daily syndication from January 1976 to May 1977. The series was produced by Norman Lear, directed by Joan Darling and starred Louise Lasser...

, produced by Norman Lear
Norman Lear
Norman Milton Lear is an American television writer and producer who produced such 1970s sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude...

. In 1978, he earned an Emmy Award
Emmy Award
An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

 nomination for writing Bette Midler's first television special
Television special
A television special is a television program which interrupts or temporarily replaces programming normally scheduled for a given time slot. Sometimes, however, the term is given to a telecast of a theatrical film, such as The Wizard of Oz or The Ten Commandments, which is not part of a regular...

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
Divine (Glen Milstead)
Divine , born Harris Glenn Milstead, was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Described by People magazine as the "Drag Queen of the Century", Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women's clothing in musical performances...

, playing the lead role of the sadistic matron in drag. The New York Times called it "an extraordinarily interesting work from one of America's most innovative and versatile playwrights." 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
Television movie
A television film is a feature film that is a television program produced for and originally distributed by a television network, in contrast to...

, featuring John Wesley Shipp
John Wesley Shipp
John Wesley Shipp is an American actor best known as Mitch Leery, the title character's father on the television drama Dawson's Creek from 1998 to 2001 and for roles in several daytime soap operas...


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. Nell Carter
Nell Carter
Nell Carter was an American singer, and film, stage, and television actress. She won a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin, as well as an Emmy Award for her reprisal of the role on television...

'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
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Sheryl Lee Ralph is an American actress, singer, and activist.-Personal life:Raised between Mandeville, Jamaica, and Long Island, New York, Sheryl Lee Ralph was born in Waterbury, Connecticut to an African American father and a Jamaican mother. Sheryl attended Uniondale High School in Uniondale, NY...

 and Loretta Devine
Loretta Devine
Loretta Devine is an American stage, film and television actress known for her roles on Boston Public, Grey's Anatomy, and Eli Stone. She also provided her voice for the stop motion animated television series The PJs. Devine is a NAACP Image Award and Emmy award winning actress.-Early life: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
Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett was an American musical theater director, writer, choreographer, and dancer. He won seven Tony Awards for his choreography and direction of Broadway shows and was nominated for an additional eleven....

, who asked Eyen to direct a workshop production of Big Dreams, as the musical was then known, with Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine and gospel singer Jennifer Holliday
Jennifer Holliday
Jennifer-Yvette Holliday is an African-American singer and Tony Award-winning actress. She started her career on Broadway in musicals such as Dreamgirls, and later became a successful recording artist...

 as 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.

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
Drama Desk Award
The Drama Desk Awards, which are given annually in a number of categories, are the only major New York theater honors for which productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway compete against each other in the same category...

 nomination for Outstanding Lyrics. The original cast album won Eyen a Grammy Award as lyricist, and one of the show's songs, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is a torch song from the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, with lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger...

", sung by Holliday, became a top hit.

When a film adaptation of Dreamgirls
Dreamgirls (film)
Dreamgirls is a 2006 musical drama film, directed by Bill Condon and jointly produced and released by DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures. The film debuted in three special road show engagements beginning December 15, 2006 before its nationwide release on December 25, 2006...

 by writer/director Bill Condon
Bill Condon
William "Bill" Condon is an American screenwriter and director. Condon is best known for directing and writing the critically acclaimed films Gods and Monsters, Chicago, Kinsey, and Dreamgirls. In 1998, Condon debuted as a screenwriter in Gods and Monsters, which won him his first Academy Award....

 was released in 2006 by DreamWorks
DreamWorks Pictures, also known as DreamWorks, LLC, DreamWorks SKG, DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC, DreamWorks Studios or DW Studios, LLC, is an American film studio which develops, produces, and distributes films, video games and television programming...

 and Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

, 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
Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Kate Hudson is an American recording artist, actress and spokesperson. She came to prominence in 2004 as one of the finalists on the third season of American Idol coming in seventh place...

, and "One Night Only
One Night Only (song)
"One Night Only" is a song from the 1981 Broadway musical Dreamgirls, with lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger. In the context of the musical, "One Night Only" is performed twice in succession, as differing versions of the song - a soul ballad by the character Effie White and a disco...

", sung by Beyoncé Knowles
Beyoncé Knowles
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles , often known simply as Beyoncé, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she enrolled in various performing arts schools and was first exposed to singing and dancing competitions as a child...

 (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
Tams-Witmark is an American company that provides to professional and amateur theaters license to Broadway musical scripts and scores. Among the many notable properties handled by the company are Kiss Me, Kate; My Fair Lady; Gypsy; Bye Bye Birdie; Hello, Dolly!; Oliver!; Cabaret; Man of La Mancha...

, 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.

Eyen's 1984 attempt to duplicate his Dreamgirls success with Kicks:The Showgirl Musical, a collaboration with composer Alan Menken
Alan Menken
Alan Menken is an American musical theatre and film composer and pianist.Menken is best known for his numerous scores for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. His scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas have each won him two Academy Awards...

 about members of the Rockettes during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, never made it past the workshop stages, though individual numbers from the show are often performed in concert.

Eyen died of AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

-related complications in Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida
The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from the neighboring cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth...

 at the age of 50. A memorial service was held at the St. James Theatre
St. James Theatre
The St. James Theatre is located at 246 W. 44th St. Broadway, New York City, New York. It was built by Abraham L. Erlanger, theatrical producer and a founding member of the Theatrical Syndicate, on the site of the original Sardi's restaurant. It opened in 1927 as The Erlanger...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 on September 23, 1991. In 1993, he posthumously received the Jerome Lawrence
Jerome Lawrence
Jerome Lawrence was an American playwright and author.-Life and career:Lawrence was born Jerome Lawrence Schwartz in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Sarah , a poet, and Samuel Schwartz, a printer. He worked for several small newspapers as a reporter/editor before moving into radio as a writer for CBS....

 & Robert E. Lee
Robert Edwin Lee
Robert Edwin Lee was an American playwright and lyricist. With his writing partner, Jerome Lawrence, Lee worked for Armed Forces Radio during World War II; Lawrence and Lee became the most prolific writing partnership in radio, with such long-running series as Favorite Story among others.-Life and...

Theatre Research Institute Award at The Ohio State University, where his papers are archived.

External links

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