Derek Ahonen

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Derek Ahonen
Ahonen lecturing in Madrid
Ahonen lecturing in Madrid
BornChicago, Illinois
OccupationPlaywright, Director, Filmmaker, Producer
GenreGallows Humor Dramas
Years active2007–present

Derek Ahonen is an American playwright, director, producer, and filmmaker. He is the founder of The Amoralists Theatre Company in NYC. Ahonen is most known for his plays The Pied Pipers of The Lower East Side, Happy In The Poorhouse, The Bad And The Better, and The Qualification of Douglas Evans which have had numerous runs in New York and have been translated, adapted, and performed across three different continents. His plays are published by Indie Theatre Now and Playscripts Inc.[1] ==

Early life[edit]

The son of Anna, a Children's Theatre Director, Ahonen was born in Chicago, Illinois. Having grown up around the theatre, Ahonen began performing in his mother’s plays from a young age. After graduating from Waubonsie Valley High School, Ahonen moved to New York City to continue his education at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[2][3][4]

Career with The Amoralists[edit]

In 2006, Ahonen formed The Amoralists in New York City. The company was founded with the mission to "produce work of no moral judgment," and is "dedicated to an honest expression of the American condition..explor[ing] complex characters of moral ambiguity…"[5][6] The Amoralists first gained attention in 2009 with Ahonen’s cult hit The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, which Time Out (magazine) called “the happiest surprise of the season.”[7] The New Yorker noted "the young company’s deep commitment and contagious exuberance brings to mind the vitality that distinguished the early off-broadway work of artists like Sam Shepard."[8] The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side has been revived by the company numerous times. In the spring of 2013 it opened at Madrid’s Teatro Espanol under the title Los Iluminados, where it had an extended run along with subsequent tours throughout Spain.[9] Ahonen followed up The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side with Happy in the Poorhouse, which The New York Times wrote "has a knockabout physicality that grabs your attention. But what holds it is the working-class poetry of Derek Ahonen’s script. Mr. Ahonen, who also directs, brings the populist instincts of a born entertainer. As in a performance by the vintage Brando, the tough-guy swagger of his production masks an achingly sentimental heart. He might be a contender yet."[10]

The majority of Ahonen’s plays feature ensemble casts and characters living on the outskirts of society. Working-class people and blue color sentiment color most of his writings. His plays are often about the journey the characters are willing to take on their way to nowhere.[11] His plays are plot-driven family melodramas about delusions and affairs of the heart, tragedies played at such a fever pitch that they spill into farce.[12] In an interview with T. Nikki Cesare for TDR (journal), Cesare writes "Ahonen himself could be a character in one of his plays. Compared repeatedly in mainstream reviews to a young Sam Shepard, Ahonen is ribald and charismatic, idiosyncratic and easy with the rough edges." In the same interview Ahonen says, "We (The Amoralists) like to say our plays are comedies full of tears and ideas. We set out for instant pudding, then we hope it has some intellectual substance-without being pretentious. We hope people care enough about the characters to go with them on their journeys, emotionally. When they leave the theatre, they’re still thinking about whether they like the character or not." Ahonen goes on to say, "I don't like stuff that thinks it's better than me. I really do consider a work I see for weeks after before I decide whether I like it or not. The biggest turn off for me is theater that isn't welcoming, that's cold and trying to teach me something through its distance. I like work that brings me closer to an artists ideas. And that's what I've dedicated my career to accomplishing. " [11]

Amoralists Works[edit]


Post Amoralists Theatre[edit]

In the fall of 2014 Ahonen and The Amoralists parted ways. In April 2015, Ahonen directed the Los Angeles premiere of The Pied Pipers of The Lower East Side at The Matrix Theatre Company to great critical acclaim.[15] The production contained a completely new cast from previous New York incarnations. He was then commissioned to write his first post-Amoralists play, The Transcendents, by The Village Rep in Charleston, South Carolina. The play ran in the summer of 2015 and was well received with The Charleston City Paper describing it as a "captivating, disturbing, and surprisingly uplifting play" [16] April 2017 brought the Spanish musical adaptation of Ahonen's The Bad and The Better to Madrid's TAI under the title, Los Malos Y Los Mejores. [17] In the summer of 2017 Ahonen collaborated with actress Sarah Roy on his one woman show, Catherine And Anita. The play opened at Edinburgh Festival Fringe to great acclaim. The Stage called the play "Slick, Sick, and Unsettling" [18] The Ed Fringe Review called it "A powerful show with an important message" [19] Voice Magazine says "This is an amazing piece of theatre." [20] Catherine and Anita later transferred to King's Head Theatre of London in February 2018.[21]

The Transcendents (Film)[edit]

In April 2018, Ahonen made his feature film directorial debut of his screenplay, The Transcendents. It was shot entirely on 16mm kodak and Fujifilm in Austin, Texas.[22] It premiered at 20th Annual Sarasota Film Festival on April 18. The film stars Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go's, William Leroy, Rob Franco, Savannah Welch, Ben Reno, and Paul Sevigny.[23]

The Transcendents made its international premiere at The Madrid International Film Festival on July 22, 2018. There it was nominated for three awards including: Best Feature Film, Best Editing of a Feature Film, and Best Original Screenplay for a Feature Film. It won the award of Best Original Screenplay for Ahonen.[24]


  1. ^ "Derek Ahonen". Indie Theater Now. The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  2. ^ "Waubonsie Valley High School Graduates". High Beam Research. The Beacon News. Archived from the original on 2015-03-28.
  3. ^ "Derek Ahonen". Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  4. ^ Szymkowicz, Adam. "I Interview Playwrights Part 133: Derek Ahonen". Adam Szymkowicz Blog. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Mission". The Amoralists. The Amoralists. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  6. ^ Denton, Martin. "Derek Ahonen, James Kautz and Matthew Pilieci: Amerissiah". Indie Theater Now. The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  7. ^ Feldman, Adam. "Pipe dreams: The Amoralists return". Time Out New York. Time Out New York Magazine. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  8. ^ Jacobs-Jenkins, Branden. "The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  9. ^ R. Diaz Sande, Jose. "Los Iluminados. Derek Ahonen Critica". Madrid Teatro. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  10. ^ Zinoman, Jason. "Dreams Die Hard, Even in Palookaville". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  11. ^ a b Cesare, T. Nikki (2010). "'Comedy, Truth, and, like, Real Shit': Derek Ahonen, the Amoralists, and the Well-Made Play". TDR Caught Off-Garde: New Ensemble Theatre in NYC. 4 (54): 175–87.
  12. ^ Zinoman, Jason. "Hands-On Theater (at Times With Fists)". The New York Times. The New York Company. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Derek Ahonen". Playscripts. Playscripts. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  14. ^ Purcell, Carey. "The Amoralists Will Take Aim at Addiction and Network TV". Playbill. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b "The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side in Los Angeles at The Matrix Theatre 2015". Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  16. ^ Hardaway, Connelly. "Theater review: The Transcendents is brought to vibrant life by Village Rep". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  17. ^ "Derek Ahonen visita TAI – Blog TAI". Blog TAI (in Spanish). 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  18. ^ "Catherine and Anita review at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh - 'slick, sick and unsettling'". The Stage. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  19. ^ "EFR - Reviews of Catherine and Anita". Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  20. ^ "Catherine and Anita". Voice Magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  21. ^ Wilkinson, Alistair. "BWW Interview: Derek Ahonen Talks CATHERINE AND ANITA at King's Head Theatre". Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  22. ^ "Kodak and Kickstarter Want to Help You Shoot on Film". No Film School. 2016-04-25. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  23. ^ Donoghue, Bess. "Lineup Announced for the 20th Annual Sarasota Film Festival". Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  24. ^ "Madrid IFF 2018 Nominations – Film Fest International". Retrieved 2018-07-31.