I found this poster from the 1-Man Show I did Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway in 1987.

I’d originated the character of Johnny Suede in an acting class I took after graduating from NYU Grad Film School. The character was based on me and several men I knew who knew nothing about women and even less about themselves. Every week I brought in a different monologue I’d written and I was amazed at how people in the class responded; especially women.

Even with my MFA in Directing I was fascinated by acting and was seriously pursuing it as a career. But after years of auditioning I was nowhere. Sensing I had something with this Johnny Suede character, I wrote a 1-Man Show which compiled all the monologues I’d written into a single piece. I sent it to a small theater just below Canal Street and to my utter astonishment they said yes.

The next thing I knew I had three weekend nights booked at The Home For Contemporary Theatre. Opening night I sat in the broom closet that was my dressing room and heard the shuffling murmur of the audience coming in. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to keep from jumping out the tiny window and running far, far away.

The show went well; again the strongest response came from women. I think it was the honesty of this fool that resonated with them. When the tiny run ended I was exhausted but exhilarated. My final year at NYU had been tough and this unexpected validation was a nudge toward a new beginning.

I still had no idea what I was going to do with it. One night James Shamus, who went on to found the great Focus Features with Ted Hope, came to the show. He introduced himself and said how much he liked it and asked if I’d be interested in developing it for a TV series. I respectfully declined, even at that early stage envisioning it as a feature film.

Four years later, 11 years after I’d graduated from film school, I turned this collection of monologues into my first feature film, Johnny Suede.

Posted by:Tom

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