Richard O'Donnell (playwright)
Richard “R.” O'Donnell
|Occupation||Actor, producer, writer|
|New Age Vaudeville, The 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, and Radio City Music Hall's Manhattan Showboat. He co-founded the New Age Vaudeville theatre company, the New Variety cabaret, Black Pearl Cabaret, St. John's Conservatory Theater, and the comedy variety television show R. Rated.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 New York, New York
- 3 Fish Creek, Wisconsin
- 4 Chicago, Illinois
- 5 Fox TV comedy variety shows
- 6 Journalism and blogging
- 7 Port Townsend, Washington
- 8 Ogdensburg, New York
- 8.1 St. John's Conservatory Theater
- 8.2 Alice Isn't All There
- 8.3 Alice Isn’t All There re-staged
- 8.4 A Kreepy Christmas Carol
- 8.5 A Kreepy Christmas Carol re-named, re-staged
- 8.6 Orchard of Hide & Seek
- 8.7 Orchard of Hide & Seek re-staged
- 8.8 Kreepy Hallow
- 8.9 Twist
- 8.10 Kreepy Hallow re-named, re-staged
- 9 Personal life
- 10 Honors and awards
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Early life and education
Richard O'Donnell began in the entertainment industry as a professional ventriloquist. He ran away with the Sells & Gray 3-ring tent circus at the age of 15, sleeping in the back of the elephant truck that transported their sole elephant, Bessie.
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, where he studied theatre alongside classmate Kevin Bacon.
New York, New York
One & One
In 1978, at age 22, O'Donnell co-authored the book (with Fred Bennett) and the music and lyrics (with Dianne Adams) for One & One that played the Carter Theatre, in the Carter Hotel at 250 West 43rd street. It opened Off-Broadway on November 15, 1978, and received three American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers ASCAP Awards, shared with Dianne Adams.
For Showplace of the Nation, Radio City Music Hall, O'Donnell co-wrote the revue entitled Manhattan Showboat produced by Robert Yani in 1979 that celebrated over 100 years of American entertainment. It featured 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.
The Double R
In the 1980s, billed as "The Double R" comedy duo, in collaboration with writer Richard LaGravenese, O'Donnell co-wrote 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.
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.
Fish Creek, Wisconsin
In 1983, O'Donnell was contracted by Tony Award-winning producer James B. McKenzie to create an after-show revue 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 revue, Dr. Funny Bones, as New Age Vaudeville in its own 100-seat theater in Glidden Lodge, Baileys Harbor.
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 on January 2, in the Fish Creek Town Hall Auditorium. Songs included "Wish", "So Blessed", and "Oh!, Wisconsin".
New Age Vaudeville
Following the summer-stock season in 1983, 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 of The Colbert Report and executive producer of 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."
As a stand-up comic billed as R. O'Donnell, he played numerous clubs, including Zanies, the Chicago Improv, the Funny Firm, and Catch A Rising Star, as well as featuring for such comics as Brian Regan, Rick Overton and Bill Hicks.
O'Donnell co-produced the New Variety, which played, among other venues, at the 500-seat Chicago Improv Comedy Club for over two years. He was responsible for changing a faltering three-ring comedy presentation into a successful variety format.
The New Variety, which was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as "a cabaret for the 90's," 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.
Fox TV comedy variety shows
O'Donnell produced and directed comedy segments for the 1998 New Year's Eve special Twisted, which aired on Fox TV, Chicago featuring Matt Besser (Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade). He also wrote and directed 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.
In 1999, O'Donnell produced and hosted R. Rated, which also aired on Fox TV in Chicago. This comedy anthology included 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.
Journalism and blogging
B. R. Kreep
B. R. Kreep (a.k.a. The Kreep) is O'Donnell's nom de plume. He has a popular Gothic blog entitled The Kreep. This persona, according to Robert K. Elder of the Chicago Tribune, is, “…a Gothic poet and illustrator in the tradition of Edward Gorey.”
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.
Port Townsend, Washington
O'Donnell created and hosted (sometimes as The Kreep) the Poetry Scream on July 30, 2010. Now an ongoing event, it features five poets on stage, Thursdays at the Boiler Room in Port Townsend, Washington.
Black Pearl Cabaret
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.
An Evening With The Kreep
On October 25–27, 2012, 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. The event featured poetry and song, and summoned a variety of haunting characters from the Kreep’s darkest dreams.
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.
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, and 16, 2013, at the Pope Marine Building on the pier in Port Townsend, Washington.
Kreepshow is a 90-minute Gothic musical comedy cabaret with book, music, and lyrics accredited to B. R. Kreep. It opened for an open-ended run on March 29, 2013 at the historic Manresa Castle in Port Townsend, Washington. 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.
Ogdensburg, New York
St. John's Conservatory Theater
O'Donnell is the co-founder of the St. John's Conservatory Theater. SJCT is a professional troupe of actors, variety artists, and musicians. SJCT's vision is 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
SJCT presented the original musical comedy Alice Isn’t All There, a 90-minute theatrical with book, music, and lyrics accredited to The Kreep. It is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It was presentedon October 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, and 25, 2014 at the St. John's Parish Theater in Ogdensburg, New York.
Alice Isn’t All There re-staged
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 The Kreep. The sets and props were re-designed by fine artist Stephen Chambers, and principal cast costumes were re-designed by Karen Fischbeck and built in Ogdensburg and Prague, Czech Republic.
A Kreepy Christmas Carol
SJCT presented A Kreepy Christmas Carol, a musical comedy adaptation on the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol with book, music, and lyrics by The Kreep. It was presented on December 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20, 2014 at the St. John's Parish Theater in Ogdensburg. It was produced and directed by O'Donnell, with musical direction by Angela Conzone Dwyer, digital orchestrations by Ryan C. McNally, and technical direction by Christopher Dwyer.
A Kreepy Christmas Carol re-named, re-staged
Mr. Scrooge, a musical comedy adaptation of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, with book, music, and lyrics accredited to The 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 previous three years, and was presented on December 15, 2017 at the multi-million-dollar, all-digital George Hall Theater at Ogdensburg Free Academy, Ogdensburg. It played evenings on December 15 and 16, with matinees on December 16 and 17.
Orchard of Hide & Seek
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 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.
Orchard of Hide & Seek re-staged
The musical Orchard of Hide & Seek, with book, music, and lyrics by O'Donnell, was presented by St. John's Conservatory Theater and restaged at the Ogdensburg Free Academy Auditorium Theater in Ogdensburg. It played June 16–23, 2017.
Kreepy Hallow is a musical comedy adaptation of Washington Irving's classic short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" with book, music, and lyrics by The 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 Ogdensburg. It was executive produced and directed by O'Donnell, with 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. Set and props were hand-crafted by fine artist Stephen Chambers.
Twist is a musical comedy adaptation of Dickens' classic Oliver Twist, with book, music, and lyrics by The 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,. The production was executive produced and directed by O'Donnell, with 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.
Kreepy Hallow re-named, re-staged
Kreepy Hollow (re-named), a musical comedy with book, music, and lyrics by The Kreep, and based on Washington Irving's classic short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", was presented by the SJCT at the OFA Auditorium Theater in Ogdensburg. It played October 26–28, 2017 with matinees 27 and 28. It was executive produced and directed by O’Donnell, with 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.
Richard O'Donnell is the identical twin brother of Michael A. O'Donnell.
Honors and awards
O’Donnell has received three ASCAP (1978) Music Awards – Music & Lyrics, Off-Broadway Musical One & One (shared with Dianne Adams).
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