Student Profile: Thomas Laub
Student Profile is a new column in which community culture writers interview prominent University students who are creating, producing and/or involved in artistic work.
I would be lying if I did not say that at first, I felt intimidated about the notion of meeting Thomas Laub, a Senior pursuing a BFA in Musical Theatre and a minor in Ross School of Business, to speak about his new production company, Runyonland Productions. Runyonland Productions has been extremely successful since it first took off. Its first production, “SHEL,” written by University graduate Noah Kieserman, who is the cover for Evan, Jared and Connor in the “Dear Evan Hansen” National Tour, sold out in just three hours. “SHEL” will do its first industry reading in New York City during the month of May. When speaking with Laub, it soon became apparent that he was a humble young man, who is trying to ignite change in the theatre industry that he wants to see.
“I wanted to produce live theatre and so I worked with Disney Theatrical Group on Broadway, and during that summer I was sitting in my little box on 136th and Broadway, and I was thinking: ‘I don’t know what the point of doing this is if I’m not doing this with my friends and cultivating our own creative cohort’,” Laub stated, speaking to his experience on starting a production company.
From there, Laub gave Kieserman a call about producing his original musical; the company and “SHEL” took off from there.
Laub takes advantage of the diversity of talent hosted on campus. He recruits Engineering students for stage, scenic design and lighting, benefits from the incredible business and creative talent at Ross and uses his fellow cohort’s talents in SMTD to create large scale and small scale productions of high caliber.
“We exist to fill the space that isn’t currently filled on campus,” Laub said.
Runyonland Productions is not a student organization. In fact, it is a for-profit theatre production company that is a great and accessible way for students of all different backgrounds to do professional work in the theatre industry, with a company that has a direct pipeline to the booming theatre industry in New York.
The mission statement of Runyonland Productions is “To bring the best live theatrical entertainment to the widest, most diverse audience possible. Runyonland Productions aims to both enrich the community through producing Broadway-level artistic experiences and providing educational outlets for young artists and creators at the University of Michigan,” Laub said.
“If you want to do the best work you get the widest group of people. It seems obvious but it’s stunningly not … Growing up, I was told, ‘you’re into theatre: You should be a producer,’ and my equally smart, brilliant, talented female friends will be told, ‘You’re into theatre, you should be a stage manager.’”
If the production world were filled with Thomas Laubs, who appreciated and strived for diversity in both casting and production, the world would be a better and more appreciative place. Women and people of color not only need to see their identities reflected on stage, but also in the creative and logistics part of live theatre.
Laub cultivates diversity in production to allow live theatre to reach new heights by passing the mic to performers of all different genders, races, ages and backgrounds. To make art and theatre inclusive and unhindered, he strives to make Runyonland Productions empower all different types of people into working in the theatre industry. He knows the only way to create great art is by having everyone have a creative say in the industry. Runyonland Production aims to be an example of the change that needs to happen in the industry.
Upcoming Performances for Runyonland Productions
“FOR THE RECORD”— December 6th and 7th at 7:00 p.m. in the Duderstadt Video Studio
A new play by Broadway veteran and U-M faculty member, Geoff Packard, about a young man whose father kills himself after learning he has Huntington Disease, a genetic disorder. World in HD and the Huntington’s Disease Society of America were major partners during this production, and representatives will be present for a talkback after the show.
“MERRILY WE RIDE ALONG” — February 28th and March 1st at 7:30 p.m. in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Written by Stephen Sondheim, a concert-style show, featuring some original Broadway cast members coming in.
“A NIGHT OF MYTHS & HYMNS” — March 30th at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. in the UMMA
A song cycle written by two time Tony Award winner Adam Guettel, who wrote “Light in the Piazza.”