University of Minnesota Duluth
Department of Theatre




Biography of Tom Isbell

TOM ISBELL is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and spent his professional career acting in theatre, film and TV, working opposite Robert DeNiro, Ed Harris, Helen Hunt, Lynn Redgrave, Rosemary Harris, Hal Holbrook, Anne Bancroft, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Turturro and others.  He has taken two productions to the Kennedy Center as part of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival:  Dear Finder in 1999 (co-written with seven students), and The Movie Game in 2002 (written by UMD alum Adam Hummel).  In 2007 he was honored to receive the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion, presented for “extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre."

A Professor of Theatre at the University of Minnesota Duluth, he has received four teaching awards: the Albert Tezla Scholar/Teacher of the Year, the Jean G. Blehart Distinguished Teacher, the UMD Outstanding Faculty Award, and also named a Horace T. Morse Distinguished Teacher, the highest undergraduate teaching honor given within the University of Minnesota system.  His book, Lessons: The Craft of Acting, was released in April, 2006, published by Meriwether Press. 

His most recent play was an adaptation of Rodman Philbrick's Newberry Honor-winning book, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, produced by the Theatre for Young Audiences at the Kennedy Center November 17 - December 9, 2012, directed by Gregg Henry.

Other plays include Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major and Teddy Roosevelt and the Ghostly Mistletoe, both directed by Gregg Henry with songs written by political humorist Mark Russell.  The first opened at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theatre in October, 2006, and finished a four-month national tour in May 2008.  The second ran for 45 performances at the Kennedy Center in December, 2009. Simon & Schuster published a book based on the first play, with Ronald Kidd writing the adaptation and First Lady Laura Bush writing the foreword.

He has twice collaborated with noted French composer Louis Dunoyer de Segonzac, creating musical adaptations of Homer's Odyssey and The Secret of the Talking Bird, with productions directed by Ann Bergeron and Kathryn A. Martin, respectively.

Mr. Isbell's first novel, The Fifth Codex, has been published in both Germany (Der Letzte Kodex) and Spain (El Quinto Codice Maya). The thriller focuses on one man's attempt to find the Mayan Fifth Codex in Mexico.

His debut American novel, The Prey, will be published by HarperCollins in the summer of 2014. It's the first of a trilogy of Young Adult fantasy books about a group of 16-year-olds who have been branded Less Thans and must escape to freedom in a post-apocalyptic West. Foreign rights to the trilogy have been purchased by publishers in Great Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece and Brazil.

Directing credits include: Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing, Our Town, Doubt, The Bourgeois Gentleman, Twelve Angry Men, The School for Scandal, The Factory Girls, The Mousetrap, Handing Down the Names, Target Behavior, Dear Finder, The Movie Game and many more.

He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois, where he studied with David Knight, John Ahart, Steve Pearson and others. Before that he attended Carbondale Community High School, and in August 2010 he was honored to be an inaugural inductee into that school's Hall of Achievement. (Go Terriers!)

He was recently awarded the Depot Foundation Lifetime Artist Award.

He is married to Pat Isbell, with whom he shares a life of love and laughter.