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Kyle Thomas ‘plays’ with theatre success

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 7/15/23

Shelbyville native Kyle R. Thomas remembers becoming fascinated with theatre at the age of four years old.

His father had brought home a copy of Phantom of the Opera; watching it opened up the …

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Kyle Thomas ‘plays’ with theatre success


Shelbyville native Kyle R. Thomas remembers becoming fascinated with theatre at the age of four years old.

His father had brought home a copy of Phantom of the Opera; watching it opened up the stage for him. From there, Thomas recalls going to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to watch “Phantom” throughout his childhood. It encouraged him to perform in theatre at Shelbyville Central High and a minor in it at Middle Tennessee State University.

“There’s something very familial about putting a production together. You spend months together at a time. There are fights and relationships and breakups. But when the lights go down, we’re all rowing in the same direction,” he said.

Though Phantom is Thomas’ “OG” (original gangster, not Opera Ghost), he has grown in his tastes to include some of his favorite playwrights such as David Mamet, Simon Stephens, and Jez Butterworth, as well as watch plays like “Red” by John Logan.

And today, Thomas has seen his own play, “This House is Not a Home,” hit the real-life stage in Murfreesboro. The first performance is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Walnut House Event Venue in Murfreesboro. The second will be Saturday, Aug. 19, at Oaklands Mansion. Tickets for the August performances are available at mltarts.com and the Murfreesboro Little Theatre Facebook page.

Thomas has been writing plays for eight years and has produced other works such as “Portrait of a Young Man.” It’s a character study about a father and son taking a journey to Florence for a long-lost Renaissance artist.

It will also be performed this weekend in Murfreesboro at Mills-Pate Art Center this Saturday by Ghost Light Studios production.

As the father-son characters may reveal, Thomas said his own father is his hero. It’s just one of many characteristics of his life growing up in Bedford County that inspire his works today.

You could describe his plays as modern, minimalist, close-set, and full of witty retorts, though not really comedic.

For his newest play, “This House is Not a Home,” Thomas writes about two characters—an older man who owns a shoe repair shop and a younger man who is the son of his former business partner.

The setting is key. Thomas explained wanted to find a “dying business.”

“It’s really the hatred of all things Amazon, because art and craft matter,” he joked.

Thomas says he has a fascination with the past. The first play he wrote was about the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy.

And as someone who grew up in the Walking Horse industry, which has seen its share of trials and decline in participation through the years, Thomas said he wanted to look into the question “Is there a place for someone? Or, are those who rendered their craft now considered antiquated?” Like a shoe repairman.

“In a lot of ways, I write about family and relationships…it seems to me in this area there’s a lot of family-forward thinking. The dynamics of that are one of the driving forces of drama,” Thomas explained. Think arguing around the dinner table.

There’s a strong paternal connection in these two plays. Thomas wrote early versions of “Portrait of a Young Man” through the lens of a son. But then he became a father himself and rewrote it as a father.

Thomas explained writing a play is a “very slow process.”

“By the time I get an idea, I wait a long time before I put pen to paper because I like to let the idea stew,” he said. The most fundamental question running through his plays is, “What does each character want and why can’t they get it?”

“Some writers can start and don’t where it ends. I have to know where I’m going because I like to sprinkle in easter eggs.”

With a legal pad and pen, Thomas said he doesn’t make his first edits until typing it. The process can often take up to two years or more.

But what happens when the play goes from the page to the stage?

Once he hands the play over to the director, the room becomes the director’s room. If the director changes stage directions, Thomas often goes along with it. He said his job is to make sure the lines are correct and that they flow and hold a musical quality to them.

“There is something about the live experience you can only get in a theatre. It’s one of the only places you have to turn the phone off,” Thomas said.  For Thomas, a scene is more impactful being in the same room as the character crying on stage, versus viewing them on screen. This is something he recalled after seeing a play called “Morning Sun” in December 2021. “I couldn’t talk after watching it,” he said.

But like the dying business of a shoe repair shop, Thomas said he doesn’t know the exact future of where playwrighting and live performance is going. With AI like ChatGPT threatening the writer’s room, Thomas said, “I don’t know. No one knows…But I think theatre is going to survive. Even with people who don’t have a relationship with it. I believe in the power of theatre.”


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