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I don't look the type, but I like to find trouble. Too much free time = too much mischief. I write to express what I can't say outloud. Don't ask too many questions, if you don't want to hear the truth.

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HIGH DRAMA IN THE HIGH DESERT by GWYNEDD STUART
Inland Empress is a powerful female story first and a crime drama second

            Although we never see far beyond the cozy confines of a modest home’s dated living room, it’s apparent within the first few minutes of local playwright Tom Cavanaugh’s Inland Empress that the greater environment in which the home exists is hugely impactful in the lives of its denizens.  On a horse farm somewhere in the farthest reaches of Southern California’s remote Inland Empire, we meet a family of women – mother, June (Monica Martin) and daughters Kayla (the terrific Alexa Yeames), Jolie Beth (Di Koob) and Sierra (McCready Baker) – who’ve adapted to their harsh environment in different ways but who’ve all been drawn into a home-fried criminal enterprise that keeps them afloat.  However, some are sinking faster than others.

            The status quo, however tenuous is thrown into a tailspin when Louise (Lily Knight) – June’s sister, the girls’ aunt and the former chief officer of their “business” – arrives home after a seven year prison stint.  In her absence, Sierra, the most ruthless and definitely the most dangerous of the sisters, has taken the reins, and she isn’t eager to relinquish control.  But Louise hasn’t returned to reclaim her spot at the top; she found Allah in prison and wants to help her sister and nieces free themselves from the cycle of crime as well as the grip of kingpin Butchy (yes, there’s a fox in the henhouse).

            If the women are reluctant to turn their backs on a “good” thing, they’re even more reluctant to take Louise at her word.  But who could blame them when she made them what they are to begin with?

            Inland Empress could be received as a hard-boiled crime drama with a mostly female cast, but really it’s a powerful story of female relationships with crime-drama window dressing.  When it comes to dropping bombs, Cavanaugh pulls no punches, but strong performances by the women – Knight in particular – prevent it from devolving into melodrama. 

            For a small black-box theater, the set design is terrifically evocative.  Old table lamps affixed to the walls look silly at first but wind up casting the set in a soft, yellowish glow evocative of a room where lots of cigarettes have been smoked over the years.  It feels as honest as the story itself, which builds to the conclusion that there are only two ways out of it all – and neither leads to a happy ending.

INLAND EMPRESS
The Lounge Theatre              323-960-7787              plays411.net/empress
6201 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA

LA WEEKLY LOVES INLAND EMPRESS BY TOM CAVANAUGH by TOMCAVANAUGH
LA WEEKLY LOVES INLAND EMPRESS BY TOM CAVANAUGH
You have to be a subscriber to read the full online article at...
www.laweekly.com/event/inland-…

I'd like to share my AUTHORS STATEMENT that is in the playbill....

I like to open my life up to many different people from all walks of life.  By doing this, my art is influenced, immensely!  INLAND EMPRESS is inspired by two women, two friends and a place.  The first a beautiful, smart and talented twenty-three year old friend who was either murdered or committed suicide and the second, her mother, a woman who went into prison for Home Invasion Robbery and now, seven years later is about to come out with a new found faith as a Muslim.  The third inspiration, “the place” is where they were from, the High Desert of California.

I wanted to know why!  I wanted to know why these ladies that I cared so deeply about had to have such a hard life.  One, I couldn’t ask questions to anymore and the other I could only ask if I ventured to the prison where she was incarcerated and that was very limited.  In my mind, the only place I could get answers was an hour away, so I would drive to the towns of Victorville, Little Rock, Palmdale and Lancaster regularly and I would try to get a feel of what the world was like there.  I’d stare out into the desert and look up at the grey snowcapped hills that surround it and wonder “What stories are really out there?”  I combined that wonder with the stories my friends had told me and the legends and secrets that were out there hiding in the desert.  

INLAND EMPRESS also deals with the current climate of the United States, economically, politically, religiously and socially as all five of the female characters represents another aspect of growing up in a permanent underclass in California’s High Desert, better known as the “Inland Empire”.  Only in theater can so many issues be presented and wrestled with until the audience is moved and educated at the same time.  This is the theater I was raised in and the theater that I believe in, my idea of true theater art.

I had finished the first scene of this play and introduced it to the Fierce Backbone Theatre Company of Los Angeles where I am a member.  Their Writers Unit was run by Paul Elliot who moderated readings of new works in front of the entire company and after the actors read the first twenty pages, his response was “I have only said this once before to one other project, but I have no notes.  KEEP WRITING!”  Special thanks to Paul Elliot, Fierce Backbone and all the members.

I am a firm believer that an artist creates their art from an inspiration within and then molds and perfects their art through a conglomeration of opinions from observing artists and mentors.  My three years working on my M.F.A. in Playwriting at The Actors Studio Drama School in N.Y.C. I learned to take criticism and use the insights to unlock the play.  Many thanks to the theater artists that have helped guide me to this place in life! 

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INLAND EMPRESS by TOM CAVANAUGH ANOTHER HIT REVIEW by TOMCAVANAUGH
INLAND EMPRESS by TOM CAVANAUGH ANOTHER HIT REVIEW

GIA ON THE MOVE by Tracey Paleo

In Tango it has been said that despite the sensuality of the movements, all the bravado, the steps, the music and technicality that is housed in the study and performance of the art, the dance itself, really happens in the pause.

Such a statement can be said about Inland Empress, the new play now showing at the Lounge Theatre on Hollywood Theatre Row, by Tom Cavanaugh.

The mind of Cavanaugh is so detailed that at worst, embodying tragedy born of legitimate real life experience within a heightened theatrical fiction is not such an easy affair.  Inland Empress is so jammed packed with hyper-paced direction and extenuating threads, that the audience barely has time to breathe, mostly gasping for air throughout.  But when it does finally sit still, it lands.

There is a payoff in the quieter moments that arrives smack in the middle, which although doesn’t entirely cure the  frenzy of this “truth is greater than fiction” tale, but is thoroughly refreshing.

And given the evolution of Cavanaugh since his 2014 Hollywood Fringe debut, Inland Empress is mostly a departure, from his earlier black box, fourth wall, monologue style of writing.  The repartee of dialog is often “hysterical” but it mostly serves the meth storyline and sometimes the characters.

It cannot be overlooked, however that there is an unevenness in the symmetry of acting styles on stage and the overwhelmingly fast clip, which satisfy the length of the play and enhances the emotional content, but often gets in the way.  While the story is grounded in all the action, what is occasionally lost is critical and that is the relationships.

It is not until all the physical “stuff” and occasional awkward stage direction, is shorn away, that this piece reaches a crest and also manages to justify a lightning finale.

Never-the-less, there is something here.  Cavanaugh has written a larger than life narrative based upon real events, persons and personal relationships and that part of it sounds loudly clear. 

What’s most interesting here is witnessing Cavanaugh‘s development as a playwright, moving carefully from a short storytelling format to full length narrative.  

Heading up the cast of Inland Empress is veteran performer Lily Knight, who has appeared in films (Touch, The Artist, Dahmer, AI), TV shows (American Crime, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, True Blood) and countless stage productions on Broadway and Off Broadway. Ms. Knight pulls this entire show to center merely by walking on stage and speaking (incredible!) and allows the rest of the cast, McCready Baker, Di Koob, Monica Martin, Jeffrey Wylie and Alexa Yeames a lot of room to explore. 

Inland Empress

Written by: Tom Cavanaugh

Directed by: Jessica Hanna

Produced by: Mutant Collective in association with Theatre Planners 

SYNOPSIS:

Returning home from a seven-year prison stint, Louise finds she’s lost her place as matriarch of the family, and boss of the family business. Running meth on a mostly defunct horse ranch seemed like the perfect setup. As Louise has come back from prison a very different woman, she now wants to change things—make them better for the sister and three nieces she’s done nothing but scam, lie and corrupt their whole lives. What she didn’t count on was that they were doing just fine without her. At least, that’s what they all want to believe.

 

NOW PLAYING UNTIL FEBRUARY 28

Fridays and Saturdays – 8 p.m., Sundays – 7 p.m. 

LOCATION:

Lounge Theatre 2, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038

TICKET PRICES:

General Admission: $25

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Call – (323) 960-7787

Online – www.plays411.com/empress

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INLAND EMPESS by TOM CAVANAUGH HIT REVIEWS! by TOMCAVANAUGH
INLAND EMPESS by TOM CAVANAUGH HIT REVIEWS!
MY FIRST FULL LENGTH PLAY OPENED IN LOS ANGELES ON THEATRE ROW, JANUARY 23rd 2016 to hit reviews... 5 good... 1 bad... (don't have to lie...it's out there), but here's the first 3 good ones.... starting with EDGE MEDIA!!! losangeles.edgemedianetwork.co…

Southern California's oddest counties are its most rural: Riverside and San Bernardino, labeled "The Inland Empire." Plenty of open agricultural land and horse farms, with conservative-leanings. Playwright Tom Cavanaugh knows something of the folk who populate this land of food and dope, which he has put to great use in his first produced play, "Inland Empress."

Louise (the ever-astonishing Lily Knight) has just been released from a woman's prison after seven years, taking the dive for the corrupt man she believed in. Her younger sister, June (Monica Martin), and her three daughters: young and idealistic Kaylah (Alexa Yeames), believer-in-Christ Jolie Beth (Di Koob), and embittered eldest, Sierra (McCready Baker), await Louise's arrival, which she does by foot -- forty miles overnight from the bus station -- so that she could take in the beautiful surroundings once again.

Louise was the matriarch of the family, and the family business: distributing methamphetamine for shady Butchy (Jeffrey Wylie). This is a lucrative business with several major downsides, including death. There was another daughter in this family who, we learn, had committed suicide -- the quicker kind over the slow death from addiction.

To be polite, these are not folk you would want to meet in any alley, light or dark. Except for Kaylah and, sometimes, June, the major reasons for the family's existence is not one most of us would care to hang with. But that's what Cavanaugh's play deals with. For one thing, Louise has changed her outlook on life. She converted to Islam while in prison and now wears the male head-gear and a desire to praise her god by not continuing the past wretched things she now is trying to atone for. But Sierra, who now calls herself the matriarch, doesn't want her around, atoned or not.

There's a major surprise Louise has in store for the surviving daughters, but it won't be revealed here. Instead, one of the few horses left on this ranch -- one they're paid to take care of -- is injured by accident and the debate is sharply yelled over to 1) put her down, out of her agony, or 2) to mend her and care for her for the many years to come. A spirited debate it is, too.

Director Jessica Hanna has taken Cavanaugh's solemn play and given it excellent pacing and a lively look at dysfunction-junction, especially in her actors' character behavior, well supplied. We may not like this family and their evil business, but you have to admire the artistry that went into portraying it.

A world premiere by Mutant Collective, in association with Theatre Planers, all the actors acquit themselves terrifically, on the rustic set-design of David Offner and inhabiting Jackie Gudgel's costumes.

"Inland Empress" plays through Feb. 28 at the Lounge 2 Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, 90038. For tickets and information, call 323-960-7787 or visit www.plays411.com/empress.

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WHY NEW YORK? by TOMCAVANAUGH
WHY NEW YORK?
My first WRITTEN WORD piece of writing.  A theatre company in New York City posed the question "WHY NEW YORK?  WHY ARE WE HERE?" as there monthly writing competition.  This is what I wrote and submitted.
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HIGH DRAMA IN THE HIGH DESERT by GWYNEDD STUART
Inland Empress is a powerful female story first and a crime drama second

            Although we never see far beyond the cozy confines of a modest home’s dated living room, it’s apparent within the first few minutes of local playwright Tom Cavanaugh’s Inland Empress that the greater environment in which the home exists is hugely impactful in the lives of its denizens.  On a horse farm somewhere in the farthest reaches of Southern California’s remote Inland Empire, we meet a family of women – mother, June (Monica Martin) and daughters Kayla (the terrific Alexa Yeames), Jolie Beth (Di Koob) and Sierra (McCready Baker) – who’ve adapted to their harsh environment in different ways but who’ve all been drawn into a home-fried criminal enterprise that keeps them afloat.  However, some are sinking faster than others.

            The status quo, however tenuous is thrown into a tailspin when Louise (Lily Knight) – June’s sister, the girls’ aunt and the former chief officer of their “business” – arrives home after a seven year prison stint.  In her absence, Sierra, the most ruthless and definitely the most dangerous of the sisters, has taken the reins, and she isn’t eager to relinquish control.  But Louise hasn’t returned to reclaim her spot at the top; she found Allah in prison and wants to help her sister and nieces free themselves from the cycle of crime as well as the grip of kingpin Butchy (yes, there’s a fox in the henhouse).

            If the women are reluctant to turn their backs on a “good” thing, they’re even more reluctant to take Louise at her word.  But who could blame them when she made them what they are to begin with?

            Inland Empress could be received as a hard-boiled crime drama with a mostly female cast, but really it’s a powerful story of female relationships with crime-drama window dressing.  When it comes to dropping bombs, Cavanaugh pulls no punches, but strong performances by the women – Knight in particular – prevent it from devolving into melodrama. 

            For a small black-box theater, the set design is terrifically evocative.  Old table lamps affixed to the walls look silly at first but wind up casting the set in a soft, yellowish glow evocative of a room where lots of cigarettes have been smoked over the years.  It feels as honest as the story itself, which builds to the conclusion that there are only two ways out of it all – and neither leads to a happy ending.

INLAND EMPRESS
The Lounge Theatre              323-960-7787              plays411.net/empress
6201 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA

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TOMCAVANAUGH's Profile Picture
TOMCAVANAUGH
Tom Cavanaugh
Artist | Professional | Literature
United States
Tom Cavanaugh was born in Newark, New Jersey. He received a B.S. in Computer Science and Business Administration from Seton Hall University in 1987. In May of 2000, he received an M.F.A. from the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Cavanaugh’s playwriting professors at the Actors Studio Drama School included: Romulus Linney, Jim Ryan, Jeffrey Sweet and Laura Maria Censabella. In 1999 while at the Studio, Tom was a semi-finalist in the Chesterfield Films Writers Foundation Project in Los Angeles.

Cavanaugh’s one-act play THE CIRCUS STILL COMES TO TOWN was produced as part of the Thesis Repertory Season at Circle in the Square Downtown (NYC). Veteran playwright Jonathan Reynolds and director/actor Carlyn Glynn mentored the production.

Cavanaugh served as Associate Producer for Ensemble Studio Theatre (NYC) in 2000 and his short plays 50TH & 8TH and AMEN were produced there in special presentation. 50TH & 8TH was selected a few months later for a showcase production by the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City.

Under the guidance of playwright Edward Allan Baker, Cavanaugh wrote the one act play DINER TALK in a workshop at Ensemble Studio Theatre. DINER TALK was awarded first prize in the Jersey Voices One Act Play Festival and was produced that summer in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Cavanaugh won his first screenplay competition in 2002 and was featured as a “Writer to Watch” in the March/April 2006 issue of “Script” magazine. HARVEST, a short erotic thriller, won third prize in Toucan Films Short Screenplay Competition in Burbank, CA. THE HEROES OF ’76, a coming of age screenplay about a boy growing up in Asbury Park in 1976, was a semi-finalist in the 2003 Sundance Institute Feature Film Development Project.

In 2005, Tom’s one act plays, ICONS and STARS IN CEMENT were produced for one month of shows in the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s, Hollywood Boulevard Playwriting Competition at the Actors Playpen in Hollywood, California.

Tom received his first commission for writing the one act play, ACE OF HEARTS in 2009. Twilight Productions produced ACE OF HEARTS during the summer of 2009 in Gilbertsville, Kentucky and has commissioned Cavanaugh to write two companion one act plays for a trilogy production in 2010.

Tom’s full length play BEHOLD was a 2010 finalist in the New American Playwrights Development Program at the Utah Shakespearean Festival and was one of three winners of the 2011 Pickering Award for Excellence in Playwriting. His one act play, WONDER won the Irene Bashore Award for Playwriting from Firstage Los Angeles.

Cavanaugh’s “coming of age” screenplay, THE WILDNESS TREATMENT was one of twenty scripts to receive Honorable Mention at the 2012 Los Angeles Movie Awards. THE WILDNESS TREATMENT is about a group of teens that are court ordered to attend a wilderness Boot Camp in the Utah desert.

Tom’s full length play ADAM & YOSHI is a finalist in The 2nd Annual McKinney Repertory Theatre New Play Competition in McKinney, Texas, one of three finalist for the 2013 New American Playwrights Development Program at the Utah Shakespearean Festival and won the 2012 Make the House Roar Prize for Comic Plays at the Lionheart Theater in Georgia.

Cavanaugh has been a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc. since 1998 and is currently living in Hollywood.


Current Residence: Hollywood
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Favourite style of art: Surrealism
Favourite cartoon character: Marvin the Martian
Personal Quote: "Sleep sweet, dream bigger!"
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Thank you so much for the watch! :D
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My pleasure! Great work!!!
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