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Whoever said that TV could rot your brain never met Tommy Coleman, the Norfolk, Virginia native who credits “too much TV” for being responsible for his desire to perform. Every day was a lesson in the craft. Each character and story he would observe and absorb until he felt that he, too, could create what he’d seen on stage and screen. Though he’d performed in numerous school plays and talent shows in his young life, Tommy didn’t declare himself an actor until age fourteen. While a freshman at a Massachusetts private school, Tommy was faced with choosing between trying out for the basketball team or auditioning for a play in which only seniors were normally cast. After discovering that he was the only freshman cast in the play, he dedicated his future to performing.


It was that dedication that eventually lead him to Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Tommy would receive his Bachelor’s Degree in Theater. A chance graduate school audition in New York lead him to be accepted -on the spot- to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow, Scotland. It was there that Tommy received his Masters Degree in Musical Theater Performance. Whilst in the program, he also performed at the world renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Upon graduation, the next logical step for Mr. Coleman was to set his eyes on “The Big Smoke” also known as London, England.


Tommy Coleman’s London career became a myriad of diverse theatrical opportunities. Highlights include: Benoit in the 2010 Olivier Award-Winning La Bohéme, Booth in the Pulitizer Prize-Winning Topdog/Underdog, and Banquo in Macbeth. While in London, he assisted playwright Che Walker with teaching the plays of August Wilson at the Weekend Arts Center (WAC) in Belsize Park, culminating in student performances from every play in Mr. Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle.  Before leaving London to return to the United States, he performed in traditional pantomimes and would participate in workshops of a new show based on Euripides’ The Bacchae that would eventually change the course of his career.


After returning home to Virginia, Tommy landed roles on Investigation Discovery’s Wicked Attraction, and the Emmy-nominated PBS docudrama Souls on Fire: The Abolitionists, playing historical figure, Shields Green. One of his most important roles to date would come from his brief stint in New York City. Tommy originated the role of Kendall Pearce in Look Upon Our Lowliness: a spoken word elegy for a chorus of male voices. It was a role that changed his life and outlook on what theater is supposed to be and its ability to affect change. Following a successful run in Harlem, he received news that the workshop he did in London was going to be produced at the infamous Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.


The Globe’s 2013 summer season featured Tommy Coleman originating the role of Dionysus, god of wine and excess, in The Lightning Child by Che Walker and with lyrics by Arthur Darvil (of Doctor Who and Once the Musical fame), possibly becoming the youngest African-American man to perform a title role at the venue, though that fact is still under query.

In 2014, Tommy began working at The Virginia Stage Company. During his first year as a Cultivate Intern, he served as an actor on touring shows to schools around the Hampton Roads area, taught Shakespeare to high school students, and co-produced “Voices from the Margins” a series of staged readings of new plays. In 2015, he became a Resident Theatre Artist for the company as well as the Director of their new Urban Theater Project, for which he developed the curriculum. He also served as a panel member for Virginia’s annual Virginia Theater Association Conference.  His final project for VSC was “The Line: Art for Social Change”, a project geared towards deconstructing racial/economic boundaries in the Hampton Roads area. The project helped elevate him from artist to “artivist” and has influenced how Tommy will further contribute to the artistic community.


In the summer of 2016, Tommy began to dedicate himself to community activism. In response to the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, he became a co-founder of The Silent Mile, a community group geared toward protesting extrajudicial justice by police. As a co-founder of the short-lived group, he helped organize one of the largest peaceful protests in Norfolk, Virginia, garnering over 600 participants, all marching for police accountability, ally advocacy, and in defense of the right to due process and equal protection under the law. More importantly, the march was about unity and peace, which are messages he will always promote.

In January 2021, Tommy became a professor at Winthrop University, teaching "Audition Technique" to students at the junior and senior level. His course centered on what it looked like to audition during the pandemic landscape. He looks forward to more teaching opportunities in the future. He has also done private acting coaching in the past and continues to do so by request.  


Tommy is grateful for the journey that he’s experienced thus far and is certain there is more to be done. In the meantime he continues to be steadfast in his perseverance and -when possible- a beacon of hope to his family and friends. “My career isn’t over until there are no more stories to tell.”

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