We had the good fortune of connecting with Thomas Steward and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Thomas, what inspires you?
What inspires me as a playwright is the idea that live narrative storytelling is one of the great legacies of humanity, that we can solve big questions when we come together and tell stories about those questions. When I first began formulating the concept of Pop-Theatre I thought a lot about how Shakespeare often used stories already familiar to the audience when writing and always made sure his plays had a mixture of both comedy and drama on some level. I believe these resulted in Shakespeare, being able to present stories that could be relatable to anyone in the audience. Thinking about how Shakespeare gave the artform such a broad audience made me think about how the everyday person views the theatre. I believe that in our culture today to many people seeing a stageplay can be an intimidating prospect and my ultimate inspiration is to use theatre as a unifying tool by creating stageplays about accessible concepts but that play with those concepts and the artform in creative ways the same ways.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
For the past five years, I’ve been working to create a new genre of theatre that I call Pop-Theatre. I describe Pop-Theatre as a genre of theatre that takes an element of pop culture from movies, music, books, advertisements, etc., and puts those elements live on stage in a narrative play format. My goal is to draw everyday people to the theatre by telling new, inventive stories using characters and elements that are familiar to them. I’ve so far written, directed, and produced 3 full-length stageplays In this genre. The most recent being “A Long Time Ago” the story of an unruly soap star from the future who tricks a young playwright into writing a Shakespearean version of Star Wars after he finds himself stranded in Elizabethan England due to a Time Travel vacation gone wrong. “A Long Time Ago” has been produced three times, once in LA and Twice in Phoenix, and is currently slated to appear at Hollywood Fringe Fest this fall. We hope that our appearance at fringe next year will bring the idea of Pop-Theatre to more people than ever. Our goal at the end of the day is to inspire a theatrical culture where anyone feels like they can walk into a theatre and enjoy a play.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One place I bring everyone that comes to town is a sub sandwich shop in downtown Burbank that I believe is the greatest sandwich shop of all time. It’s called Submarine King and even though Downtown Burbank is not on most travel guides, their Beef Bulgohgi Sub will change your life. With Sandwiches out of the way, I love the bar scene in Hollywood and the art deco architecture of downtown LA.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ve been blessed to have so much support in my artistic journey so far but, I’d like to shout out two groups of people and one last individual in particular.
First, my family, now what you have to know here is that I’m from a big Arizona theatre family my twin brother Patrick acts, directs and writes, my sister Allison is a full-on triple threat, my youngest sibling Matthew the best audio designer under the age of 19, my Mom can and has created any prop or costume you can think of and then there’s my Dad who’s got a laugh that can light up a whole audience. With all of them by my side you’ve taught me that anything is possible whether it’s on stage or just getting Christmas dinner of a party of 12 together.
Second, the people who fanned the sparks of my flame for storytelling into a raging fire, The community theatre’s of my hometown Scottsdale, Arizona. Who would’ve known that hidden in the desert is an oasis of the arts like the theatre community like I grew up in? Though there are too many of you to name, so many of the people at Temple Studios, Greasepaint Youth Theatre, and Fountain Hills Theatre taught me the lessons of dedication, hard work, and love for my craft. I thank you all for those lessons and the continued love and support you give me, you’re stages will always be my theatre home.
Lastly, I’d like to thank my mentor Suzanne Kent, you not only taught me and continue to teach me everything I know about improv as an art form but shown me what true kindness and integrity is. I cannot thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me, how you’ve given me a home in LA and helped support me in art and in life .
Other: You can also find me talking about movies & TV weekly on my Podcast Quardouple Feature on Spotify and Apple Podcasts https://open.spotify.com/show/0j3T5yliNqtIHnkJ4Sq0Z4?si=jwZQNp9DTAarWXQsOCK2Cw