Richard Dresser (born c. 1951) is an American playwright and screenwriter, whose work has been widely performed in theaters across the United States, as well as in Europe. In addition to his plays, he wrote the book for the Broadway musical Good Vibrations and the musical Johnny Baseball. Dresser has also served as a writer and producer for multiple television series, most notably The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.
Personal life and early careerEdit
Dresser was raised in Massachusetts. Following college, he worked in several different jobs at various New England factories, including one position where he manufactured thighs for G.I. Joe action figures. Dresser later became a graduate student in communications at the University of North Carolina, with the intention of pursuing a career in radio; he discovered his talent for drama when he took an elective course in dramatic writing that led him to enter, and win, a collegiate play festival.
Before finding success as a playwright, Dresser did freelance writing for corporate speeches and industrial films, mainly for pharmaceutical companies. He credits his early career experiences in factories and the corporate world with inspiring his workplace comedies The Downside and Below the Belt (set in a pharmaceutical company and a manufacturing plant, respectively).
Dresser lived in New York City as of the late 1980s; in the early 1990s, he moved to Los Angeles with his wife and son (born around 1990) He and his family moved from Los Angeles to upstate New York in approximately 2000.
Since his early career, Dresser has been unusually prolific for a playwright. As of May 2009, he had published seventeen plays; at least fourteen full-length plays and six one-acts by Dresser have been performed for American audiences. Venues that have commonly hosted regional, national or world premieres of Dresser's work include the Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky; the Contemporary American Theatre Festival (CATF) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia; and the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, California. Dresser has also had plays developed through the PlayPenn New Play Conference.
Among his most notable early works were Better Days (premiered in April 1987 at the Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays) and The Downside (premiered in November 1987 at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven). In 1995, Dresser's Below the Belt premiered at the Humana Festival, followed by a 1996 Off-Broadway production named by the Wall Street Journal as the "best new American play of the season." Since its debut, Below the Belt has found especially high popularity in Europe, including over 40 productions in Germany alone.
Perhaps Dresser's most successful play in the new millennium has been Rounding Third, his 2002 two-character baseball comedy, which was workshopped at CATF in 2001 before its 2002 premiere in Chicago, where it met with great favour from audiences. In 2003, the play was performed at San Diego's Old Globe Theater and the Laguna Playhouse before an Off-Broadway run in the fall and a return to CATF in summer 2004.
Kevin Kelly of the Boston Globe called Dresser "a ferocious playwright...(who) writes with a headlong intensity and a sense of pervasive mystery."
Dresser's play, The Last Days of Mickey & Jean, had its world premiere at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA in March, 2010. The play is a retirement comedy about an aging mobster on the run with his longtime girlfriend. The show is an apparent dramedy about Whitey Bulger but Dresser and his lawyers say it is not.
Trouble Cometh made its world premiere at San Francisco Playhouse in San Francisco, CA in May 2015. The show is a comic thriller about two executives locked in an existential struggle against an impossible deadline to form a reality TV show.
Dresser wrote the book for the Broadway musical Good Vibrations, a story about teenagers in southern California, told through the music of the Beach Boys. Following a preview period, Good Vibrations opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in February 2005; the show received poor reviews and closed in April after 94 regular performances.
In spring 2010, the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts premiered Johnny Baseball, a musical about the history of the Boston Red Sox with book by Dresser and music by Robert and Willie Reale. Diane Paulus directed the production.
Dresser's most significant work in television has been as a writer, story editor and producer for the 1987-1991 comedy-drama The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. He was offered the writing job by the show's creator Jay Tarses after Tarses saw one of Dresser's plays at the Humana Festival.
Dresser has also worked on the series Keen Eddie, The Job, and Madigan Men. In 2002, Dresser worked with Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase and Tom Leopold as a co-writer and producer on an NBC sitcom pilot to star Chase as a father of three daughters. The pilot, America's Most Terrible Things, was not picked up to air on the network.
In May 2009, Dresser delivered the commencement address at Shepherdstown's Shepherd University, which hosts CATF annually. In his address, Dresser told graduates that in the current state of the world, "A lot of things need fixing and there are a lot of people who need help. We need you, your talent, energy and optimism." He warned them that "there are no safe choices." Dresser also received an honorary degree from the university during the ceremony.
- Benched (2018) - Screenwriter
List of playsEdit
|Title||Plot/Notes||Premiere and/or Selected Other Performances|
|At Home||One-act.||Premiered April 1984 at Ensemble Studio Theater in New York City, as part of the theater's seventh annual marathon of new one-act plays.|
|The Hit Parade||A decade after the death of a talent agent's only successful client, the agent hires a car thief to impersonate the dead rock star in a comeback concert for the residents of the musician's hometown.||Performed in summer 1985 by Manhattan Punch Line at TOMI Theater in New York City.|
|Bait and Switch||One-act. Two brothers attempt to save their struggling restaurant by bringing in a new partner, a member of the Mafia.||Performed April 1986 as the opening play in the third annual New Dramatists Lunchtime One-Act Play Festival in . West Coast premiere in fall 1993 by Interact Theatre Company at Theater Exchange in North Hollywood.|
|Amnesia||A man suffers from amnesia and other difficulties. Originally written to be filmed.||First reading July 1987 at the National Playwrights Conference at Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford.|
|The Downside||Employees of a New Jersey pharmaceutical company prepare an anti-stress drug for its American release and cope with its unexpected side effects.||Premiered November 1987 at Long Wharf Theater in New Haven. West Coast premiere in December 1989 at Pasadena Playhouse. Performed December 1990 at Griffin Theatre in Chicago.|
|Alone at the Beach||Six single strangers share a summer house in the Hamptons.||Performed in spring 1988 at Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. Performed in summer 1989 by the Phoenix Theatre Company at the Masters School in Westchester. Performed in summer 1991 at Way Off Broadway Playhouse in Santa Ana. Performed May 1992 at Griffin Theatre Company in Chicago. Performed June 1993 as part of Bay Street Theater Festival in Sag Harbor.|
|Splitsville||One-act. A young Florida couple seek jobs in a sinister new theme park being built across the street from their home.||Performed May 1988 by Primary Stages Company at 45th Street Theater in New York City. West Coast premiere in fall 1993, along with Bed and Breakfast and Bait and Switch (under the title Splitsville) by Interact Theater Company at Theater Exchange.|
|Better Days||A depressed former factory town in New England is revitalized by a booming industry in arson.||Performed in 1986 by Levin Gheater Company at Douglass College in New Brunswick. Performed summer 1989 by Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts. Performed May 1990 by Renegade Theater Company at United Synagogue of Hoboken. Performed July 1990 by Dramatist Workshop in Chicago. Performed January 1991 at Primary Stages in New York City. Performed in winter 1992-1993 at Way Off Broadway Playhouse in Santa Ana.|
|Bed and Breakfast||One-act. Two American couples vacation near England's Stonehenge.||Performed May 1993 as part of Ensemble Theater's Marathon of one-act plays. West Coast premiere in fall 1993 by Interact Theater Company at Theater Exchange (see Splitsville).|
|The Road to Ruin||One-act. Two mechanics work on the broken automobile of a married couple.||Performed July 1993 by Renegade Theater Company in New York as part of "An Evening of One-Act Comedies."|
|Below the Belt||Three managers stationed in a bleak, rural manufacturing plant toil and conspire against each other.||Premiered April 1995 at Humana Festival. Performed in spring 1996 at John Houseman Theatre (off-Broadway) in New York (called "Best New Play of 1996" by the Wall Street Journal). Southern California premiere May 1997 at Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Performed summer 1997 at Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) in West Virginia. Over 40 productions in Germany.|
|Gun-Shy||A divorced couple and their new partners are stranded together in a snowbound house.||Premiered April 1997 at Humana Festival. Performed February 1998 at Playwrights Horizons. Performed summer 1998 at CATF. Southern California premiere in spring 2000 at Laguna Playhouse.|
|What Are You Afraid Of?||One-act (15 minutes long), written by the request of the Humana Festival's producing director Jon Jory, who asked Dresser to write a play performed in the front seat of an actual car while audience members sit in the back seat. A shy driver struggles with his attraction to an attractive female hitchhiker.||Premiered spring 1999 at Humana Festival in parked vehicle. Performed in Hamburg, Germany, where actors drove on city streets with the audience.|
|Something in the Air||A down-and-out man seeks to profit from the life insurance policy of a bitter, terminally ill patient.||Performed summer 1999 at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Performed summer 2000 at CATF.|
|Wonderful World||A mother attempts to connect with her two grown sons, both of whom are struggling with their own long-time relationships.||Premiered spring 2001 at Humana Festival. West Coast premiere summer 2001 at Laguna Playhouse.|
|Rounding Third||Two Little League coaches try to reconcile their very different approaches to baseball and to life. Dresser was prompted to write the play when he learned that his son's Little League coach was planning to cheat to win a game. In the original Chicago production, which starred George Wendt, the play's opening scene was moved from a bar to a ballfield to avoid audience identification with Wendt's Cheers character.||Workshopped summer 2001 at CATF. Premiered fall 2002 at Northlight Theatre outside Chicago.|
West Coast premiere January 2003 at Laguna Playhouse. Performed summer 2003 at Old Globe Theater in San Diego. Performed October 2003 at John Houseman Theater in New York (off-Broadway). Performed summer 2004 at CATF.
|Greetings From The Home Office||One-act (seven minutes long), performed with no live actors, only recorded voices emitted from a speaker phone. A solo audience member enters an office setting and finds that they are playing the role of a newly hired employee. The audience member interacts with the computer while the voices of a boss and co-workers come from the intercom, involving the audience member in a storyline of purported scandal and corruption. Eventually the audience member "must make a pivotal decision about whom to trust," based on the voices and their interactions with the computer. The play was written for a specifically detailed commission by the Technology Plays project, a joint effort by the State University of New York (SUNY) and the Capital Repertory Theatre. (Dresser said later that he had accepted the commission, with its strenuous demands for a play to be told without live actors to one audience member at a time, only because he believed "nothing would ever come of it", and was forced to follow through when the project received a grant.)||Premiered November 2003 with five other short plays (one commissioned from William Kennedy; four others the result of a university-sponsored script competition) in the New Atrium Library at SUNY. Appeared May 2004 at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany.|
|Augusta||The first play in Dresser's "Happiness Trilogy" about class in America. Two female housecleaners scheme with their shady manager to achieve a better life for themselves.||Premiered summer 2006 at CATF. New England premiere in fall 2006 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell.|
|The Pursuit of Happiness||The second play in the Happiness Trilogy. Unhappily married middle-class parents attempt to help their daughter win acceptance to college. Written on commission from the Laguna Playhouse.||Premiered January 2007 at Laguna Playhouse. Performed summer 2007 at CATF. Performed at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.|
|A View of the Harbor||The third play in the Happiness Trilogy. A young man brings his wealthy girlfriend to meet his eccentric family at the rural home where he grew up, and buried secrets come to light.||Premiered summer 2008 at CATF. New England premiere January 2009 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.|
|The Last Days of Mickey and Jean||A gangster on the run with his girl friend faces the same problems of communication and retirement as the rest of the world. Written on commission from the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.||Premiered March 18, 2010 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.|
|Johnny Baseball||The story of the Boston Red Sox mythical Curse of the Bambino (no World Series win since 1918): what really happened and how it was lifted in 2004. Dresser wrote the book for the musical.||Premiered June 2, 2010 at the Loeb Drama Center of the American Repertory Theater after previews starting May 14.|
|Trouble Cometh||Two executives throw around different ideas for a reality TV show, leading to the blurring between fact and fiction.||Premiered May 16, 2015 at the San Francisco Playhouse after previews starting May 12.|
- Boehm, Mike. "Adults and Little League: Fodder for a playwright." The Los Angeles Times, 2003-01-04, p. E1.
- Phillips, Michael. "Playwright visits workplace reality to create fantasy." The San Diego Union-Tribune, 1997-05-08, p. B8.
- Worssam, Nancy. "Richard Dresser's dark comedy "Below the Belt" opens at ACT." The Seattle Times, 2009-05-28.
- Boehm, Mike. "Seriously Funny; Playwright Richard Dresser's 'Gun-Shy,' Opening in Laguna, Looks Beyond the Laughter at People Unable to Commit." The Los Angeles Times, 2000-05-22, p. B8.
- Koehler, Robert. "The author of 'The Downside' draws his comedy from efforts to hide savage, primitive motivations."] The Los Angeles Times, 1989-12-23.
- Belisle, Richard F. "Playwright addresses Shepherd grads." The Herald-Mail, 2009-05-16.
- Jones, Chris. "Will a New Broom At Humana Sweep The Old Era Away?" The New York Times, 2001-03-11, p. 2.6.
- Horwitz, Jane. "Unnatural Wonders Abound at CATF." The Washington Post, 2006-07-04, p. C5.
- Miller, Daryl H. "The sad thing about joy; In `The Pursuit of Happiness,' the quest for contentment makes its seekers unhappy even as it draws laugh." The Los Angeles Times, 2007-01-08, p. E3. Cite error: Invalid
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- Shirley, Don. "'Rounding Third' a double-threat; Richard Dresser's two-man play satisfies in its West Coast premiere with funny lines and surprises." The Los Angeles Times, 2003-01-06, p. E2.
- Dresser, Richard. Better Days. p. 5.
- Freedman, Samuel G. "Theater Fare For The Daring." The New York Times, 1984-04-27, p. C1.
- Rich, Frank. "Theater: 'Parade' By Dresser." The New York Times, 1985-07-19, p. C3.
- Koehler, Robert. "Good Plays, Bad Endings." Los Angeles Times, 1993-10-29, p. 10.
- Fraser, C. Gerald. "Going Out Guide." New York Times, 1986-04-02, p. C21.
- McCulloh, T. H. "Keeping It Short and Sweet." Los Angeles Times, 1993-10-15, p. 6.
- Battista, Carolyn. "Introducing Playwrights To Television Cameras." New York Times, 1987-07-19, p. A29.
- Gussow, Mel. "Stage: Corporate Competition, in 'The Downside'." New York Times, 1987-11-08, p. A79.
- Sullivan, Dan. "'F.M.,' 'Downside' Beat the Odds in Long Wharf Theatre Premieres." Los Angeles Times, 1987-11-21, p.1.
- Christiansen, Richard. "'Downside' Offers Merry Marriage Of Realism, Ridiculous." Chicago Tribune, 1990-12-09, p. 5.
- Klein, Alvin. "Lunatics and Lovers in Airy Comedy." New York Times, 1989-08-06, p. A23.
- Gussow, Mel. "New American Plays Surface in Louisville." New York Times, 1988-03-23, p. C26.
- Warren, M.E. "Making Some Giant Footprints in the Sand Way Off Broadway Steps Far Beyond Its Past Achievements With 'Alone at the Beach'." Los Angeles Times, 1991-07-26, p. 24.
- Smith, Sid. "Time-Share In A Bottle: Griffin Theatre's 'Alone At The Beach' A Breezy Celebration Of Endless Summer." Chicago Tribune, 1992-05-21, p. 10.
- Klein, Alvin. "Off to the Hamptons for Urban 'Fugitives'." New York Times, 1993-06-27, p. A19.
- Holden, Stephen. "Laughter Amid the Ruins Of Kitsch and Junk Food." New York Times, 1988-05-28, p. 1.15.
- Klein, Alvin. "Renegade Troupe Returns With 'Better Days'." New York Times, 1990-05-13, p. A13.
- Smith, Sid. "Apocalyptic Vision No Laughing Matter In 'Better Days'." Chicago Tribune, 1990-07-27, p. 22.
- Gussow, Mel. "Comedy From Economic Devastation." New York Times, 1991-01-24, p. C22.
- Smith, Mark Chalon. "Way Off Broadway Production Will Make Anyone Feel Good About His Own Life, No Matter How Grim." Los Angeles Times, 1992-11-27, p. 1.
- Gussow, Mel. "A Couple's Life, in One Act." New York Times, 1993-05-15, p. 1.13.
- Klein, Alvin. "One-Act Comedies In Troupe's New Home." New York Times, 1993-07-25, p. A11.
- Winn, Steven. "Splurge of New Plays At Festival / Humana is Main Event in Theater." San Francisco Chronicle, 1995-04-05, p. E1.
- Lyons, Donald. "Theater: Best New Play of 1996." Wall Street Journal, 1996-03-20, p. A12.
- Swisher, Kara. "A Hit 'Below the Belt'." The Washington Post, 1997-07-19, p. F2.
- Sodergren, Rebecca. "Theater Fest Offers Plays and Puppets." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1998-07-08, p. D5.
- Phillips, Michael. "At The Dramateria, Small Bites Prove Best." The San Diego Union-Tribune, 1997-04-09, p. E7.
- Marks, Peter. "The Divorce Was the Easy Part." New York Times, 1998-02-04, p. E5.
- Newmark, Judith. "So Many Plays, So Little Time; But Humana Festival Is Worth It." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1999-03-28, p. F3.
- Rose, Lloyd. "New-Play Festival Raises The Curtain on Women." The Washington Post, 2000-07-11, p. C1.
- Klein, Alvin. "Tale of Two Lost Souls Finding One Another." New York Times, 1999-06-27, p. 14LI.10.
- Boehm, Mike. "Growing Into the Part; Barbara Tarbuck Confronts Issues of Aging for a Laguna Stage Role." Los Angeles Times, 2001-07-27, p. F24.
- Boehm, Mike. "'Rounding Third,' to Crowd's Cheers." Los Angeles Times, 2003-01-05, p. E42.
- Horwitz, Jane. "Thinking Big at Ford's; New Producing Director Wants To Expand Theater's Range." The Washington Post, 2004-05-25, p. C5.
- De Poyen, Jennifer. "Globe '03: Less Rooted, More Modern." The San Diego Union-Tribune, 2002-10-21, p. D3.
- Weber, Bruce. "Little League Fathers With Two Views Of The Field." New York Times, 2003-10-08, p. E12.
- McKinley Jr., James C. "Hey, That Big Computer Is Really A Great Actor." The New York Times, 2003-11-20, p. E1.
- Cantrell, Cynthia. "Season Of Optimism For Merrimack Rep." Boston Globe, 2006-09-17, p. 9.
- "Pros Tee Up Superstars." The Washington Post, 2007-07-06, p. T3.
- Kennedy, Louise. "Obstructed 'View': Mixed Intentions Blur The Third Entry In Playwright Richard Dresser's Class Trilogy." Boston Globe, 2009-01-19, p. G6.
- Kennedy, Louise. "Johnny says play ball! Fans will make the call to decide whether this musical is a big hit." Boston Globe, 2010-06-04.
- , Switzky, Lawrence. "Curtain Up Review: The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings: Johnny Baseball". (Seen 31-Mar-2011)