Harold Thomas (Tommy) Duren, II (born February 18, 1967) is a popular African-American child entertainer and puppeteer from Washington, DC, who developed a form of puppetry also known as "Poppetry". "Poppetry", which uses forms of dance, theatrics, and magic to tell stories that feature puppets and live actors often with an ethnic or urban twist. Most notably Duren's plays Illusions and Images were featured plays during the late 1980s and spawned an international tour that introduced his form of performance art to an international audience.
Tommy Duren was born to a socially prominent African-American family in Washington, DC (the Douglas family). He is the only child of Jean Douglas Duren, a college professor and Harold Duren Sr., a small business owner. Duren spent many of his early years in various gifted child programs and first gained attention after a performance in his hometown for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that featured young poets, actors and dancers. His unique and standout performances gained the attention of members of then President Jimmy Carter's administration. Subsequently, Duren and his fellow performers were invited to the White House in 1978.
Later Duren would be a regular guest on NBC's Emmy Award-winning children's television program Stuff, where he would develop further as a television personality. In the years following Duren would win the regional talent contest (The Metro Talent Search), sell out his own show, Illusions, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and produce an international tour that would eventually take him to Tokyo, Japan. While in Tokyo Duren would enjoy substantial recognition for his unique approach to the art of puppetry. Tommy would develop an international fan base which would include lifelong idol,superstar Michael Jackson who Tommy performed for and befriended while in Japan. Plans were made to expand the Illusions tour to Europe; however, in 1988, Duren announced the end of his short career to deal with personal family business.
In recent years Duren has focused primarily on social issues. He started the movement for the 1996 national boycott of The Eddie Bauer Corporation which resulted in a multi-million dollar legal suit. In the early 2000s, his significant fundraising efforts led to the opening of The City Museum of Washington, D.C. He also worked on the campaigns of John Kerry and Mark Shriver, nephew of President John F. Kennedy. In 2000, Tommy ran a vigorous but unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the District of Columbia Board of Education.
- DC League of Women Voters Education Fund - Voters Guide to School Board Candidates - November 3, 1998, General Election of the District of Columbia
- Further reading
- Justin Blum, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, October 30, 2000
- "D.C. Votes Revealing Old Divide"
- "Race Becomes an Issue in Realigned School Districts"
- People Magazine July 1985
- "Stars of The Summer Streets"
- "King the of Capital's Puppet Regime"
- Ann H Oman, "The Talking Hands of Tommy Duren", The Washington Post, April 1980