The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The World Premiere of “Cul de Sac” the play (press release)

Artwork by Richard Thompson

Encore Stage & Studio Proudly Presents the World Premiere of "Cul de Sac"

Arlington, VA – Encore Stage & Studio is delighted to present Cul de Sac, the world premiere play adaption based on the nationally syndicated Cul de Sac comic strip by Richard Thompson. Thompson and his comic strip won the 2010 Reuben Award, the highest honor given by the National Cartoonists Society. The play follows four-year-old Alice Otterloop and her older brother, Petey, as they learn about friendship and the importance of being yourself. When Alice decides to help Petey become more exciting she risks sending Petey further into his shell. With the help of their parents, teachers, and new and old friends the Otterloop children just might be able to learn something from each other.  This production runs June 3 through 12 at Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre (125 S. Old Glebe Rd. Arlington, VA 22204).

He never wanted to be anything other than a cartoonist," says playwright Amy Thompson in describing her husband Richard Thompson. Richard, a long-time Arlington resident, had created thousands of illustrations and cartoons for dozens of magazines and newspapers before Cul de Sac debuted in The Washington Post Magazine in 2007.  Thompson drew on incidents from his own childhood ("there's a lot of him in Petey, the withdrawn artist" says Amy), and the lives of his family, including two daughters, Emma and Charlotte. Everything from Charlotte's unbounded exuberance, to Emma's discovery that a manhole cover made a great stage, to the reluctant introduction of a guinea pig in their home was fodder for Thompson's re-imagined suburban Washington.

Thompson's Cul de Sac drew the attention of comic fans worldwide including some very famous fans. Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson was so impressed that he wrote the introduction to the first Cul de Sac collection.

"[The comic strip] is one of those rare visions that shows how surprising the ordinary world really is.  Richard Thompson's wonderfully peculiar Otterloop family is closely observed with deep sympathy and rings absolutely true," stated Watterson, "I'm a huge fan."

Children's book author Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Elephant & Piggie series) wrote the introduction to the second collection. "If Cul de Sac isn't French for 'wonderfully loopily sincerely life-affirmingly stupendously hilarious' then there is something wrong with the French language," stated Willems.

Pixar director Pete Docter invited Thompson to collaborate on character development for his most recent film, Inside Out. 
"Cul de Sac is the funniest strip to appear in decades," writes Oscar-winner Docter, whose other films include Monsters, Inc. and Up. "It's full of great characters, well-observed truths that most of us have forgotten about, and is so beautifully and funnily drawn that it is an absolute joy to look at even if you can't read.  (Of course, if you can't read, then you'd better stop right now.)"

 In 2009 Thompson was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and began treatment. Thompson's friend Chris Sparks solicited other artists to contribute to a book collection, Team Cul de Sac: Cartoonists Draw the Line at Parkinson's, to raise money for Parkinson's research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Encore Stage & Studio will hold a special fundraiser in the theatre lobby in to contribute to this effort.

On September 23, 2012, Cul de Sac ended its run of original strips, and Thompson retired. He kept up his Cul de Sac blog for some years afterward, but otherwise, published no new work.  An offer was made to buy the rights to Cul de Sac and continue the strip with a new writer and artist, but Thompson declined. It seemed the world had seen the last of Alice, Petey, Madeline, and Peter Otterloop, as well as their friends Dill, Beni, Andre, Loris, Miss Bliss, and all the others.

Encore Stage & Studio, with efforts to build its performances highlighting local and original work, approached Amy Thompson about writing a play. Amy Thompson has worked for Encore as a drama teacher and director for some years, and has written several shorter works for summer camps and classes. Amy's Encore show credits include direction for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2013 and Much Ado about Nothing in 2015.   She was eager to write a full-length play, and suggested that Cul de Sac would make a perfect choice for children's theatre. Over the years, Richard had turned down all requests by other writers to adapt the strip for the stage, while asking Amy why she didn't do it herself. Encore accepted, debuting Cul de Sac's for its early summer show of the 2015/2016 season.

We are excited to announce Chuck Leonard as director for this production.  Production staff also includes Matthew Heap (Composer), Thomas Boudreaux (Technical Director), Amy Thompson, Kristen Jepperson and Marji Jepperson (Set Designer/Builder and Props), Debra Leonard (Costume Designer/Builder and Make-up Designer), Gary Hauptman (Lighting Designer), Caitlin Orzechowski (Assistant Lighting Designer), and Drew Moberley (Sound Engineer). 

Performance Dates and Showtimes:
Fridays, June 3 and 10, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays, June 4 and 11, 2016 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Sundays, June 5 and 12, 2016 at 3 p.m.

Every effort has been made to preserve the look, feel, and heart of the original strip. Fans of the strip will recognize the Otterloop house, Mr. Otterloop's tiny red car, Dill's kiddie car, and Alice's manhole cover. Young audiences who have never seen the strip will recognize the world of some typical (but dramatic) preschoolers and third graders. And everyone, no matter his or her age, will get to experience what it's like to be a child. We recommend this production for ages 4 and older.

Tickets are $15 for Adults; $10 for Children, Students, Military and Seniors. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased at or by calling our box office at (703) 548-1154.

About Encore Stage & Studio

"Theatre by Kids, for Kids!" Founded in 1967, our mission is to build a lifelong appreciation for live theater by involving young people in all aspects of theater arts --onstage, backstage, in the classroom, and in the audience. Encore strives to educate and entertain by offering productions each season that are by and for young people, and through enriching classes and workshops with qualified, enthusiastic teaching artists. We believe that participating in live theatre builds problem-solving skills, teamwork, creativity, literacy, and self-confidence. We are cultivating the next generation of active and engaged art lovers.

Encore Stage & Studio's 2016 season is sponsored by Fairlington Dental and  
 is supported in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts.

For more information visit | (703) 548-1154 | PO Box 969 Arlington, VA 22216

Richard Thompson & Bill Watterson in French?

Bill Watterson's conversation with Richard from The Art of Richard Thompson has been translated by Stephane Beaujean, a French Cul De Sac fan, and is apparently now available. Bonjour!

The rest of the magazine looks good too.