Meet Tom Attea & The Folk Singer

Name: Tom Attea

What is your current project?

“The Folk Singer,” a new musical, which is being premiered by Theater for the New City on October 9th and is scheduled to run through October 23rd.

Where are you performing it and why is it the right fit for your piece?

I wrote it because I was thinking about, as I frequently do, a new work for the theater that would, in a character-based way, reflect the times in an intelligent and entertaining way. I realized that today folk music isn’t as popular as it was in the 30’s and 40’s and again in the 60’s and 70’s. Given the multiplicity of problems afoot in the world today, I found the relative absence particularly ironic. I wondered what character would embody the problem and imagined a young folk singer, struggling to reach a wider audience. In his idea to get together other local folk singers, write all new folk songs with contemporary relevance and stage “A Folk Festival for Today,” I had the occasion to write new lyrics that would reflect the text and subtext of the times and allow the audience to share the content in the unique communal forum the theater provides for consequential thoughts and credible eloquence.

What’s next for you?

I often say that the more sensitive and logical you are, the more a generally insensitive and illogical world is likely to upset you. I’ve learned over the years that I’m only able to withstand the stresses of the premier of one new show a year. Between writing them, I write poetry or philosophy. For example, after my last show, I wrote a sonnet sequence and one of the sonnets was published by the literary magazine Poetica Victorian. Philosophy has also been a lifelong interest of mine. For example, I’ve subscribed to The Philosophers Magazine for years. I’ve developed a personal philosophy over time and, when I get an idea that develops it, I make a note. The philosophy informs all of my writing and is primarily about the need for humans to make a commitment to this life our primary devotion. For instance, in the show, there’s a song about sitting in a railway station, watching people drop things on the floor, leave them on their seats, etc., treating the station like the stopover on the way to their destination. The singer wonders how they’d treat it if they realized the station might be their destination. It’s sort of a variation on Aristotle’s thought that the way you can tell the difference between a public fountain and a private fountain is the private fountain is clean.

Who is your biggest inspiration right at this moment and why?

I’m inspired by people who have valued life itself in an intelligent way, by which I mean the thoughtful, mutually considerate care and fulfillment of its finest potential. These include the following: Chekhov, the exquisitely tender playwright of human interaction, who, as a physician, could write in one of his letters, “My holy of holies is the human body.” Albert Schweitzer, for his ethical principle of “Reverence or Life,” or, as he casually stated it, “What is good for life is good and what is bad for life is bad.” Bertrand Russell for, in the book Principles of Social Reconstruction, “New thought will be required … the world has need of a philosophy, or a religion, which will promote life…. Through the spectacle of death, I acquired a new love for what is living.” Contemporary philosophers include A. C. Grayling, who often writes about “human flourishing,” and Peter Singer, who advocates for the rights of all species. Unfortunately, thoughts like these are sometimes caught up in the so-called Right to Life movement, which makes no room for the life of the would-be mother or the would-be father. I believe that a fundamental aspect of the dignity of life is to be able make our own choices, hopefully, wisely, and, in fact, that the freedom to choose is necessary for the conduct of human life as it has evolved.

Want More?


Tom Attea has written thirteen other produced shows, beginning with “Brief Chronicles of the Time,” which was presented as a showcase by The Actors Studio, where he was a member of The Playwrights Unit for 10 years. Since then, he has written the book and lyrics for ten musicals and two plays that have been presented by Theater for the New City. Tom received a TNC/Jerome Foundation emerging playwright grant and is a member of The Dramatists Guild.

Show information (venue, dates, ticket info)

THE FOLK SINGER began previews on September 29th, opens on October 9th at the Theater for the New City (155 First Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets,
New York, NY 10003) and will play a limited engagement through October 23rd. Tickets are $15 ($10 for seniors and students.) Box office: 212.254.1109, SmartTix: 212.868.4444 or purchase online at

The performance schedule for THE FOLK SINGER is as follows: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm, with matinees on Sundays at 3pm.