The Thomas Derrah Award

The Thomas Derrah Award

In recognition of Thomas Derrah’s eternal dedication to teaching and the inspiration he provided to hundreds of students and young artists every day, SpeakEasy Stage Company – in partnership with Tommy’s husband John Kuntz – created The Thomas Derrah Emerging Artists Fund.

A gifted educator, actor, and director, Thomas Derrah believed in giving young artists opportunities to discover their potential and develop as professionals. SpeakEasy has always had this same commitment as part of its mission – to hire new talent and give them the support they need to demonstrate their abilities. The Thomas Derrah Emerging Artists Fund at SpeakEasy Stage Company will ensure that Thomas’ vibrant and influential legacy can live on, continuing to provide opportunities and inspire new talent for years to come.

All donations made through this page will be designated for The Thomas Derrah Emerging Artists Fund in memory of Thomas Derrah. Thank you for your generosity.

About Tommy

Grand Concourse (2017), photo by Glenn Perry

SpeakEasy is honored to dedicate our Artists Fund to Thomas Derrah, a dedicated member of the Boston theatre community, whose loss in October of 2017 lives heavily in the hearts and minds of those who knew him, as well as those who had the honor of watching his work onstage. 

Tommy’s history in Boston was wide-spread. Amongst his many acting and directing credits, he is remembered fondly for his many performances here at SpeakEasy, including in such memorable productions as Casa Valentina, The Drowsy Chaperone, Grand Concourse, Necessary Monsters (alongside his husband, playwright John Kuntz), and Red (for which he won an Elliot Norton Award). He was a founding member of A.R.T’s acting company in 1979 and appeared in 119 productions throughout his tenure as a company member and beyond. He was seen on stages across Boston and Cambridge, but he is also remembered fondly as a teacher – both formally with Emerson College and the A.R.T. Institute and informally throughout every show process of which he was a part. 

Thomas Derrah was a foundational pillar of the Boston theater community – well-loved, well-watched, and very lovingly remembered. It is his dedication to the craft, as well as his uplifting of the other artists with whom he worked that connect him to the mission of SpeakEasy Stage – which he called his “artistic home”. We honor his legacy with the Thomas Derrah Emerging Artists Fund.

Casa Valentina, with Kerry Dowling(2015), photo by Glenn Perry

From Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault:
“I remember how fiercely passionate he was about each and every play he did for SpeakEasy. And watching him work was a master class in humanity. He just knew how to get inside a character.

He also made directing easy. Some actors you have to guide and provide lots of focus. Tommy was in many shows, and I would always say to the director, ‘Just leave him alone. Just leave him alone, and you’ll know when he gets there.’ And to just watch him work things out — just watching him work things out and indirectly teaching so many people about the art. He was a mentor to so many of us.”

Past award recipients

  • April 2023 – Amanda Fallon: Lighting Designer, English
    Melory Mirashrafi: Director, English
    Victoria Omoregie: Actor, Fairview
  • May 2022 – Travis Doughty, Kees Hoekendijk, Mishka Yarovoy: Actors, The Inheritance
  • February 2022 –  Shanelle Chloe Villegas, Sharmarke Yusuf: Actors, BLKS and People, Places & Things
  • March 2021 – Dru Sky Berrian, Jordan Peterson, Tah-Janay Shayoñe, Dyce Stephens: Actors, TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever
  • October 2019 – Nathan Malin: Actor, Admissions
  • September 2019 – Malik Mitchell: Actor, Choir Boy
  • May 2019 – Abby Shenkar: Scenic Designer, The View UpStairs
  • April 2019 – Geraldine Bogard: Actor, School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play
  • October 2018 – Ellie van Amerongen: Actor, Fun Home 
  • May 2018 – Kendyl Yokoyama: Actor & Dance Captain, Allegiance

support the fund

A Lasting Gift

Please consider making a philanthropic gift to SpeakEasy Stage. Your donation will help us build and strengthen our community for the next 30 years.

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