Dramatists Guild of Americ
Los Angeles, CA, United States

About TOM


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'sone-act play THE CIRCUS STILL COMES TO TOWN was produced as part of the Thesis Repertory Season at Circle in the Square Downtown (NYC). 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. 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 won the 2012 Make the House Roar Prize for Comic Play from the Lionheart Theatre in Georgia's and is a winner in The 2nd Annual McKinney Repertory Theatre New Play Competition in McKinney, Texas. ADAM & YOSHI went on to be a finalist at the New American Playwrights Program at the 2013 Utah Shakespeare Festival. In 2014 Tom's short play THE LAST REMNANTS OF COPS, ROBBERS & HOLLYWOOD COWBOYS was part of the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival where it received great reviews. His one act play THE ACADEMY OF SUPER HEROES has been chosen for production as part of the 2014 Pittsburgh New Works Festival. Cavanaugh has been a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc. since 1998 and is currently living in Los Angeles.

An idea worth spreading

I picked up the phone, bought 100 cups of coffee and changed the world... it's still a work in progress, but it's happening!!! I think I'm on to making this movement of kindness into a full time, pro-active charity... still a work in progress happening as you read this! TED has inspired me to make more from what happened.

I'm passionate about

Life and writing, but writing about life experiences is what I am really about. Creating something from nothing!

Talk to me about

Creating things and being inspired because "You have to be a BATMAN and a BRUCE WAYNE to make things happen in this world!"

People don't know I'm good at

Not wasting time. Writing and Creating!!!!

My TED story

I found TED by accident. I was working from 10pm-6am on the graveyard shift and needed something to keep me up... some way I found the site while looking for video to keep me awake and haven't stopped watching yet!

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

Posted about 3 years ago
Do we Ignore incarcerated men, women and juveniles or help Restore them back into community?
We ignore them! I met a nineteen year old girl who had just come out of prison on a fellony drug charge and because she could not afford to have her record expunged, she could not get a job for over two years, she was only given $100 a month from the state to survive on, when she got out she was placed in large skid row half way house where she lived within restrictions like curfews, was forced to live with men and women some life time professional fellons that knew more about the system and how to abuse the system and the weaker people in it. Her room was broken into and all her clothes and belongings stolen, a month later she was beaten and raped in that same room. That's when they removed her curfews and let her stay with friends on the outside. I helped her do her resume and get a job. Took 2 and half years. She eventually started to go back to school, but her one and only felony conviction that she got at 18 haunted her every step foward until she eventually committed suicide at the age of 23. She taught me many things, but what she taught me best was that one mistake you can make as a teen... can destroy you and unless you have family to help... everyone turns their backs on you!I believe you can restore them by making them feel like they are worth something! Not throw people away that have amazing potential. She would tell me "Why are you helping me? I'm nothing!" and I'd say "You're amazing someone should've told you that all along... you're talented and smart!" I have more to say, but am out of room.... I am now working with her mother who is doing 9 years in Chowchilla... yes... her Mom and that opens a bigger convo on the creation of a Permanent Felon Class in the U.S.
Posted over 3 years ago
Cannabis legalization; Are we in the middle of a global paradigm shift?
Had an interesting thing happen... I am a supporter of legalization... living in Los Angeles... feels like I'm living on "the front" of this battle and well... I'm all for it, but this week... my neighbor, the business that shares the parking lot just outside my bedroom window went from being a Spa & MAssage places to a Cannabis Dispensary... so now... before was a long line of strange men seeking "happy ending" massages... to a long line of strange men seeking "happy ending" massages and a coupl eof ounces of Orange King Kush... so now it's literally on my doorstep. The place is run by a convicted felon who walks with a limp due to a gunshot wound and has been arrested (my neighbors and I have witnessed it) several times. Soooo legalize it and CONTROL IT because right now... there's no agency really enforcing any law to the fullest on these places... they come and they go... is there a paradigm shift... I think so, but it's in with a profit motive either way. Now for me... the only shift I'm making is to find a new place to live... I don't want to be living next to the business of it, but I still believe in the legalization of it.
Posted over 3 years ago
In what small ways in life, do you make sure each day is worth remembering?
1. Do one thing a day that you want to do and let nothing interfere with it. 2. Stop for any amount of time and take what ever amazing nature you can.... I time my dinner break with sunset and watch it for one minute at least. 3. Look at things you can't do and wish you could do in amazement and awe! 4.Think about the best moments of my past even just for a few seconds a day. 5. I've recently lost a friend to suicide and my Mother. suddenly 2 months later so this is a big one I learned when I lost my Dad, suddenly back in 1985 so since... I say every goodbye to all my loved ones with an I love you and the thought that I might not ever see them again. I try to do all those things daily.. I consciously think about it and plan them sometimes. 6. Write at least 1 page daily.
Posted over 3 years ago
The danger in the proscenium.
The Proscenium is just the frame to a work of art. Should the work be built with "fake magic" or truth that's the style and the technique of the creators at hand. I've been working in theater over 30 years and I call the space between the Proscenium and the audience (what might be called the orchestra pit or pit area) I call that "The Great Unknown!" I call it that because the creators throw their creation out into "The Great Unknown" and they never really know what will come back. The magic that is created is "real", but how far does the creation go? That depends on the creators. I've seen the bravest of souls deliver the most honest and truthful creations in the smallest of spaces for the smallest of audience, but it was truthful. Yes, sometimes it's a deception, but if it's done right, it's truth. Either way it might not be theater to you or me, but it's theater to someone.
Posted over 3 years ago
How would you describe your role in society? And how do you think that role has affected other people?
To supplement my life in the arts (writing & Directing, I have been working as a 9-1-1 Operator. I have saved lives. Ihave delivered life. I have changed lives. I know that for a fact! I also know that when I was working with kids as a High School Drama Director that I also changed lives there. I know that for a fact. I know that when my writing has been produced for audiences... I know that has touched lives, but has it changed lives, that's yet to be proven. I know that all this has to have an affect on society as a whole, but how I don't know? Working 19 years as a 9-1-1 Operator, I have only received 1 thank you phone call from someone I helped. An electrician was stuck in a ceiling space of an apartment building wedged between the beams, he managed to reach his cell phone and called me. He didn't know the address of where he was, but through hs decription we figured it out. He started to panic and freak out, I calmed him down and talked him through till they cut him out through the roof. He called and his son called to thank me the next day. I know when I was working as a High School Drama Director I changed lives and have letters from the kids or some of them, but I know it has helped. I also wrote a play about what happenes when a family loses a son in a school shooting. The play was in developemnt and during the Q&A a woman stood up in tears and announced "I want to thank you for writing this play, I'm from Columbine High School. This is what it is like, this is what happened to our community!" I know that moment my creation touched her life, did it change it.... probably, maybe? Have I changed lives... yes definitely, but what and how it affected people? I'm not sure...