Richard O'Donnell (playwright)

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Richard “R.” O'Donnell
Odonell-Richard-400.jpg
Born (1956-06-17) June 17, 1956 (age 62)
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Occupation Actor, producer, writer
Years active 1976–present
Notable work New Age Vaudeville, TV Dinner Hour, One & One, Elmore & Gwendolyn Putts, New Variety, R. Rated, The Kreep

Richard O'Donnell (born June 17, 1956, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania) is an American playwright, composer, lyricist, poet, actor, and stand-up comic. He has worked and lived in New York City and Chicago where he has written and performed for the stage and television. O'Donnell co-wrote the award-winning Off Broadway musical comedy One & One, Radio City Music Hall's Manhattan Showboat, and co-founded the New Age Vaudeville theatre company, the New Variety cabaret, Black Pearl Cabaret, St. John's Conservatory Theater, and the comedy variety R. Rated Chicago television show.

Early life and education[edit]

Richard O'Donnell began in the entertainment industry as a professional ventriloquist.[1] He ran away with the Sells & Gray 3-ring tent circus at the age of 15,[2] sleeping in the back of the elephant truck that transported their sole elephant, Bessie.[3]

O'Donnell was eventually forced to return home to finish high school, earning a scholarship to attend the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts[4] where he studied theatre alongside classmate Kevin Bacon.

New York, N.Y.[edit]

One & One[edit]

In 1978, at the age of 22 years, Richard O'Donnell co-authored the book (with Fred Bennett) and the music and lyrics[5] (with Dianne Adams) for One & One (musical comedy) that played The Carter Theatre, in the Carter Hotel, 250 West 43rd street. It opened Off Broadway, November 15, 1978[6] received three American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers ASCAP Awards,[7] shared with Dianne Adams.[8]

Manhattan Showboat[edit]

For Showplace of the Nation, Radio City Music Hall, O'Donnell co-wrote the review entitled, Manhattan Showboat produced by Robert Yani in 1979 that celebrated over 100 years of American entertainment.[9] The Manhattan Showboat extravaganza, musical direction and arrangements by Tony Award-winning conductor Donald Pippin (A Chorus Line, Cabaret, La Cage aux Folles), and received critical and public acclaim.[10]

The Double R[edit]

In the 1980s, billed as "The Double R" comedy duo, in collaboration with writer Richard LaGravenese, O'Donnell co-penned and consecutively performed in several Off-Off-Broadway productions including Spare Parts, Blood-brothers, and Entrees at The 78th Street Theatre Lab, The Lion Theatre, and West Bank Cafe. The Double R were regular guests on the Linda Lichtman Comedy hour, WNBC Radio, 30 Rockefeller Plaza.[11]

On the college circuit they opened for Leon Redbone and further developed their work in stand-up comedy clubs such as New York City's Comedy Cellar and Yuk Yuk's in Toronto. While working with O'Donnell, LaGravenese discovered he had a knack for writing dialogue.[12]

Fish Creek, Wisconsin[edit]

Comedy Cabaret[edit]

In 1983, O'Donnell was contracted by Tony Award-winning producer James B. McKenzie to create an after-show review to complement evening performances of the Peninsula Players in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. The "Comedy Cabaret", as it came to be known, produced by Amy McKenzie, returned to Door County for a follow-up season opening in 1985 with O'Donnell's comedy review, Dr. Funny Bones as New Age Vaudeville in its own 100-seat theater in Glidden Lodge, Baileys Harbor.[13]

While working the comedy cabaret, O'Donnell also took to the main stage at Peninsula Players, starring in two title roles in Larry Shue's The Nerd and The Foreigner,[14] O'Donnell was featured on the cover of the Chicago Tribune Arts Section, The Summer Stock Life.[15]

Wish Wisconsin[edit]

In 1998, O'Donnell was commissioned to write the book, music, and lyrics for a new musical play entitled Wish Wisconsin, to celebrate the state's 150th birthday. Directed and produced by Amy McKenzie, it opened Friday January 2, in the Fish Creek Town Hall Auditorium. Songs of merit included Wish, So Blessed, and Oh!, Wisconsin.[16]

Chicago, Ill.[edit]

New Age Vaudeville[edit]

Following the summer-stock season in 1983 Richard O'Donnell co-founded (with Amy McKenzie) the highly acclaimed Chicago theater company New Age Vaudeville (1984–1987). Throughout its run, O'Donnell produced, wrote, composed, choreographed, and acted in numerous productions with actors Megan Cavanagh, Amy McKenzie, Todd Erickson, Bobby McGuire, Peter Neville, Michael Dempsey, Lisa Keefe, Caroline Schless and Tom Purcell (head writer The Colbert Report and Executive Producer The Late Show with Stephen Colbert).

Productions included the cult-hits An Evening with Elmore & Gwendolyn Putts - The Neighbors Next Door and The TV Dinner Hour (the later featured iO, formerly ImrovOlympic, founder Del Close). Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune hailed both productions as "Among the most polished and clever productions of the season, a pair of devilishly inventive and challenging shows that won over critics and audiences."[17]

Stand-up Comedy[edit]

As a stand-up comic billed as R. O'Donnell, he played numerous clubs[1] including Zanies, The Chicago Improv, the Funny Firm, Catch A Rising Star, as well as featuring for such comics as Brian Regan, Rick Overton and Bill Hicks.[18]

New Variety[edit]

O'Donnell co-produced the New Variety, which played, among other venues, at the 500-seat Chicago Improv Comedy Club[19] for over 2 years. He was responsible for changing a faltering 3-ring comedy presentation into a successful variety format.[20]

The New Variety, which was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as "A cabaret for the 90's!"[9] was a fast-paced, ever-changing volley of acts that included award-winning jugglers, fire-eaters, comics, and sketch comedy groups including the all-girl Nude Coffee, the all-gay The Boys in the Bathroom, and the all-improv Upright Citizens Brigade. Dr. Boom (who literally blew things up on stage) was the highlight of the evening.[21]

Fox TV comedy variety shows[edit]

Twisted[edit]

O'Donnell produced and directed comedy segments for the 1998 New Year's Eve special Twisted,[22] which aired on Fox TV, Chicago featuring Matt Besser (Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade) as well as writing and directing commercials for McDonald's, Toyota, Jiffy Lube, and Ameritech starring Besser and stand-up comic Michelle Garb in a stylistic homage to the works of Ernie Kovacs.[23]

R. Rated[edit]

In 1999, O'Donnell went on to produce and host R. Rated which also aired on Fox TV in Chicago, a comedy anthology featuring short works by The Annoyance Theatre featuring Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live), Mick Napier (The Second City), Tim Kazurinsky (Saturday Night Live), and Stephnie Weir (MADtv), among many other independent film and video makers.[1]

Journalism and blogging[edit]

R. O’Donnell has written for such national publications as Entertainment Weekly and Stop Smiling as well as serving as Editor-at-Large for the latter, and for cultural ezine staticmultimedia.[24]

B. R. Kreep[edit]

(a.k.a. The Kreep) is his nom de plume. He has a popular Gothic blog entitled The Kreep. The Kreep, according to Robert K. Elder of the Chicago Tribune, is, “…a Gothic poet and illustrator in the tradition of Edward Gorey.”[25]

As B. R. Kreep, O'Donnell has penned over half a dozen full-scale musical comedies including An Evening With The Kreep, Kreepshow, Kreepmas, Mr. Scrooge, Twist, Kreepy Hollow and Alice Isn't All There. B. R. Kreep is currently playwright in residence for the St. John's Conservatory Theater in Ogdensburg, New York.[26]

Port Townsend, Washington[edit]

Poetry Scream[edit]

O'Donnell went on to create and host (sometimes as The Kreep) the Poetry Scream on July 30. 2010. Now an ongoing event, the Poetry Scream features five poets on stage, Thursdays at the Boiler Room in Port Townsend, Washington.[27]

Black Pearl Cabaret[edit]

In 2012, O'Donnell founded the Black Pearl Cabaret with the mission to recruit a professional troupe of actors, variety artists and musicians to perform original works of a Gothic and macabre nature.[28]

An Evening With The Kreep[edit]

Black Pearl Cabaret presented An Evening With The Kreep, a 90-minute theatrical with book, music, and lyrics accredited to O'Donnell's nom de plume B. R. Kreep. It was presented by the Black Pearl Cabaret on October 25–27, 2012.

An Evening With The Kreep featured poetry and song and summons a variety of haunting characters from the Kreep’s darkest dreams.[29]

Kreepmas[edit]

Kreepmas is a Gothic, macabre twist on the Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol" with book, music, and lyrics accredited to O'Donnell's nom de plume B. R. Kreep. It was presented on December 20–23, 2012.

Characters included B. R. Kreep performed by O'Donnell, Albert T. Krumb performed by Jason "Ares" Altamirano, Kreepy H. Krawler performed by cellist Aidan McClave, Thaddeus Plum performed by Joey Ripely, Matilda Pift performed by Misha Cassella-blackburn and the two-headed Twipple Twins, Twinkle & Dinkle, performed by Cassella-blackburn and Ripley.[30]

Bite Me![edit]

Black Pearl Cabaret presented "Bite Me," a musical spoof on the vampire film Twilight with book, music, and lyrics by O'Donnell. It was presented on February 14, 15, 16, 2013 at the Pope Marine Building on the pier in Port Townsend, Washington.[31]

Kreepshow[edit]

Kreepshow is a 90-minute Gothic musical comedy cabaret with book, music, and lyrics accredited to O'Donnell's nom de plume B. R. Kreep. It opened for an open-ended run on March 29, 2013 at the historic Manresa Castle in Port Townsend, WA.[32] Characters include B. R. Kreep performed by O'Donnell, Parthenia Goste performed by Misha Cassella-blackburn, Jack Frost performed by Jason Altamirano, and Kreepy H. Krawler performed by cellist Aidan McClave.[33]

Ogdensburg, N.Y.[edit]

St. John's Conservatory Theater[edit]

Co-founder of the St. John's Conservatory Theater. SJCT is a professional troupe of actors, variety artists, and musicians. It is JCT’s vision to create educational, inspirational, and professional opportunities for local artists of all ages while presenting original works that are based on folklore, literature, and fairy-tales.

Alice Isn’t All There[edit]

St. John's Conservatory Theater (SJCT) presented an original musical comedy "Alice Isn’t All There", a 90-minute theatrical with book, music, and lyrics accredited to O'Donnell's nom de plume Brazillia R. Kreep. “Alice Isn't All There” is an adaptation on Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.” It was presented by the St. John's Conservatory Theater on October 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 2014 at the St. John's Parish Theater in the city of Ogdensburg, NY.[34]

Alice Isn’t All There Re-staged[edit]

Alice Isn't All There was remounted and presented by St. John's Conservatory Theater on June 3, 4, 5, 17, 18, and 19, 2016 with an extended book, music, and lyrics accredited to playwright and composer O'Donnell's nom de plume B. R. Kreep. The sets and props were re-designed by fine artist Stephen Chambers and principal cast costumes re-designed by Karen Fischbeck and built in Ogdensburg, New York and the Prague, Czech Republic.[35]

A Kreepy Christmas Carol[edit]

St. John's Conservatory Theater (SJCT) presented “A Kreepy Christmas Carol,” a musical comedy adaptation on the Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol" with book, music, and lyrics by O'Donnell's nom de plume Brazillia R. Kreep. It was presented by the St. John's Conservatory Theater on December 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20, 2014 at the St. John's Parish Theater in the city of Ogdensburg, NY. It was produced and directed by O'Donnell, musical direction by Angela Conzone Dwyer with digital orchestrations by Ryan C. McNally, technical direction by Christopher Dwyer.[36]

A Kreepy Christmas Carol Re-named, Re-staged[edit]

Mr. Scrooge, a musical comedy adaptation on the Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol" with book, music, and lyrics accredited to O'Donnell's nom de plume B. R. Kreep, was a re-staging of the musical A Kreepy Christmas Carol. It was originally produced at the St. John’s Parish Theater for the past three years, and was presented December 15, 2017 at the multi-million-dollar all-digital George Hall Theater at Ogdensburg Free Academy, Ogdensburg, NY. It played evenings December 15 and 16 with matinees December 16 and 17.[37]

Orchard of Hide & Seek[edit]

St. John's Conservatory Theater presented “Orchard of Hide & Seek,” on July 9 – 12 and 16th – 19th, 2015. It featured an original story and songs written and directed by Richard O’Donnell. With musical direction by Angela Conzone Dwyer and Ryan C. McNally, digital arrangements by Ryan C. McNally, choreography by Johanna Carmany, set and prop designs by Stephen Chambers, costumes and makeup by Ann Losurdo and Karen Fischbeck Carmany, technical direction and production coordination by Christopher Dwyer, and stage managed by Sadie Smith.[38]

Orchard of Hide & Seek Re-staged[edit]

The musical "Orchard of Hide & Seek", book, music, and lyrics by O'Donnell was presented by St. John's Conservatory Theater and restaged at the multi-million dollar all-digital Ogdensburg Free Academy (OFA) Auditorium Theater in Ogdensburg, NY.[39] It played two weeks beginning June 16 through the 23, 2017.[40]

Kreepy Hallow[edit]

Kreepy Hallow is a musical comedy adaptation of Washington Irving’s classic short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" with book, music, and lyrics penned under O’Donnell’s nom de plume B. R. Kreep. It was presented by the St. John's Conservatory Theater on October 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25, 2016 at the St. John's Parish House in the city of Ogdensburg, NY. Executive produced and directed by O'Donnell, musical direction and choreography by Angela Conzone Dwyer, digital orchestrations by Ryan C. McNally, and technical direction and production coordination by Christopher Dwyer. Original costumes and makeup design were created by Karen Fischbeck Carmany with additional costumes made by Ann Losurdo with Set and Props hand-crafted by fine artist Stephen Chambers.[41][42]

Twist[edit]

Twist is a musical comedy adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist with book, music, and lyrics penned under O’Donnell’s nom de plume B. R. Kreep. It was presented by the St. John's Conservatory Theater on October 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23, 2016 at the St. John's Parish Theater in Ogdensburg, NY. The production was executive produced and directed by O'Donnell, musical direction and choreography by Angela Conzone Dwyer, digital orchestrations by Ryan C. McNally, technical direction and production coordination by Christopher Dwyer, costumes and makeup design by Karen Fischbeck, senior costumer Heron Hetzler, assistant costumer Ann Losurdo, prop master Tonya Ott, and production design by Stephen Chambers.[43]

Kreepy Hallow Re-named, Re-staged[edit]

“Kreepy Hollow”, (re-named) a musical comedy with book, music, and lyrics penned under O’Donnell’s nom de plume B. R. Kreep, and based on Washington Irving’s classic short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", was presented by the St. John's Conservatory Theater at the new 900-seat multi-million dollar all-digital OFA Auditorium Theater in Ogdensburg, NY. It played October 26–28, 2017 with matinees 27 and 28, and executive produced and directed by O’Donnell, vocal arrangements and digital orchestrations by Ryan C. McNally, musical direction and choreography by Angela Conzone Dwyer, production coordinator and technical direction by Christopher Dwyer, costume and makeup designer Karen Fischbeck, senior costumer Heron Hetzler, and production design by Stephen Chambers.[44]

Personal[edit]

He is the identical twin brother of Michael A. O'Donnell. O'Donnell is the father of Valia Dee Lily O'Donnell,[45] Timothy O'Donnell, and Richie O'Donnell.[46]

Honors and awards[edit]

3 ASCAP (1978) Music Awards – Music & Lyrics, Off Broadway Musical One & One (shared with Dianne Adams)

In 2008, O’Donnell’s blog The Kreep received a Coraline handmade box numbered 46/50 assembled by the stop-motion animation team at Laika films, honoring their favorite bloggers.[47]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Johnson, Allan (August 13, 1999), "R. O'Donnell hopes his new comedy series will shift spotlight to Chicago", Chicago Tribune, Friday, page 1, section 5 Tempo
  2. ^ O'Donnell, R. (2004), "My Summer With Del", Stop Smiling, Issue 17, page 48-51
  3. ^ Woodcock, Barbarah. "Circus History all over the world". Circus History. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  4. ^ Faulkner, Mary (April 1974), "Governor's Talent School Names Penncrest Five", Reporter, pg. 3, Rose Tree Media School District, VOL IX, No. 9
  5. ^ Buonarabo, Anthony (November 28, 1978), "One And One", Entertainment - East Coast Edition – Vol 1, No. 3
  6. ^ "Off-Broadway", New York Times Theatre Directory, November 15, 1978
  7. ^ Reporter, Staff. "St. John's Conservatory Theater has cast its October show 'Kreepy Hollow". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  8. ^ Adams, Dianne. "DIANNE ADAMS (Composer, Musical Director)". West End Arts Center. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b Sawyers, June (May 15, 1992), "New Variety a cabaret for the '90s", Chicago Tribune, Friday, Page 2 - Section 7
  10. ^ SHEPARD, RICHARD F. (August 8, 1989). "Robert F. Jani, 54, a Producer". The New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  11. ^ Santarelli, Vince (1984), "WNBC Lineups", Rock Radio Scrapbook
  12. ^ Panek, Richard (1991), "A Writer's Dream", Premiere, pages 86-92
  13. ^ Scone, S. (July 25, 1986). "Calendar: Dr. Funny Bones" (Page 5). Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  14. ^ Gerds, Warren (October 6, 1985), "Shue's death is felt deeply at Peninsula Players", Green Bay Press Gazette, TV & The Arts – Page 4
  15. ^ Davis, Robert (August 19, 1984), "Theatre in the Rough", Chicago Tribune Magazine, Section 10, pg. 12
  16. ^ Gast, Jon (January 2, 1998), "A Fitting 150th Birthday Salute, New Play Finishing up at Fish Creek", Resorter Reporter, Pg. 2
  17. ^ Kogan, Rick (May 3, 1987), "VAUDEVILLE TROUPE TAKES LEAVE OF CITY", Chicago Tribune
  18. ^ Firm, Funny. "R. O'DONNELL -- STAND-UP -- FUNNY FIRM w/Bill Hicks part III". youtube. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  19. ^ Tucker, Ernest (August 6, 1993), "Improv Adds Some Variety To Its Stage", Chicago Sun-times, Arts & Show, Section 2
  20. ^ Spitznagel, Eric (October 11, 1993), "Sex, Drugs, & Cabaret - The New Variety Cabaret Just Might Make Comedy Dangerous Again", The Third Word, Sept/Oct issue, pg 10-12
  21. ^ Adler, Tony (May 27, 1993). "New Variety Offers Slicker Mix in New Digs". Chicago Tribune, Overnight.
  22. ^ Feder, Robert (August 4, 1999), "Ch. 32 Comedy Show keeps the talent local", Chicago Sun Times, pg 53, TV & Radio
  23. ^ Hoffhines, Eric. "TWISTED TV - McDONALDS - MATT BESSER". Youtube. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  24. ^ http://staticmultimedia.com
  25. ^ Elder, Robert K. (October 31, 2008), ""Kreep"ing along Poetically", Chicago Tribune, Friday, page 6, section 3 Movies
  26. ^ Reporter, Staff. "'Kreepy Hollow' opens in Ogdensburg Thursday night". Watertown Daily Times. Johnson Newspapers. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  27. ^ Chew, Jeff. "Poetry Scream Event". Peninsula Daily News. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  28. ^ Claflin, Megan (2012-10-17). "Black Pearl Cabaret presents The Kreep". Port Townsend Leader, Arts & Entertainment. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  29. ^ Claflin, Megan (2012-10-17). "Black Pearl Cabaret presents the Kreep". Port Townsend Leader, arts & entertainment. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  30. ^ Claflin, Megan (December 19, 2012). "A Very Mery Kreepmas". Port Townsend Leader. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  31. ^ Leader, PT (February 6, 2013). "'Bite Me' this Valentine's Day" (PT Leader). PT Leader. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  32. ^ Urbani de la Paz, Diane (March 29, 2013). "Cabaret brings 'Kreepshow' to Port Townsend stage". Peninsula Daily News.
  33. ^ Treacy, Steve (May 29, 2013). "'Kreepshow': Macabre with a pinch of improvisation". Port Townsend Leader.
  34. ^ Times, Watertown Daily (October 18, 2014). "'Alice Isn't All There' opening a rousing success" (Watertown Daily Times). Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  35. ^ Staff, Times. "St. John's Conservatory Theater readies "Alice Isn't All There"". Watertown Daily Times. Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  36. ^ Purcell, Amanda (December 8, 2014). "A new adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol' to bring laughs, holiday cheer" (Watertown Daily Times). Johnson Newspapers. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  37. ^ Reporter, Staff. "Mr. Scrooge brings musical fun to OFA stage". The Journal. Johnson Newspapers. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  38. ^ Coast, Fourth. "MUSICAL 'ORCHARD OF HIDE & SEEK' BIG HIT St. John's Conservatory Theater Offers Family Fun". Fourth Coast Entertainment. Fourth Coast Entertainment Magazine. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  39. ^ Reporter, Staff (June 16, 2017). ""Orchard of Hide & Seek" opens Friday in Ogdensburg". Watertwn Daily Times. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  40. ^ Writer, Staff (June 14, 2017). "St. John's Conservatory Theater presenting original musical in Ogdensburg". North Country Now. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  41. ^ Gardner, Andy (October 12, 2015). "Tickets on sale for 'Kreepy Hallow' musical comedy in Ogdensburg". North Country Now. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  42. ^ Brock, Chris (August 29, 2015). ""Kreepy Hollow" coming to Ogdensburg for two weekends in October". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  43. ^ Reporter, Staff. "St. John's Conservatory Theater announces cast, dates for "Twist"". Watertown Daily Times. Johnson Newspapers. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  44. ^ Robinson, Larry (August 24, 2017). "'Kreepy Hollow' cast chosen for October performance in Ogdensburg". The Journal. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  45. ^ Morgan, Mike. "Eugene Park's "Chicagoland Shorts" premieres at Facets". Reel Chicago. Reel Chicago. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  46. ^ Elder, Rob (Oct 31, 2008). "'Kreep'ing along, poetically" (Motion pictures, Motion picture festivals). Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  47. ^ Struan, John. "Coraline Boxes". Super Punch. Retrieved 27 November 2008.

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