Thomas collaborated with Iris Rainer Dart, the "Beaches" novelist who co-authored the screenplay to the popular 1988 film, to bring the musical adaptation to the stage. The production was staged last summer at the Chicago-area's Drury Lane Theatre. A Broadway transfer is expected, but no dates or theatre have been announced.
Thomas was a Pittsburgh, PA area native where in the 1960s and 70s he directed plays and musicals at Pittsburgh Playhouse, Civic Light Opera, Little Lake Theatre and his own summer theater – The Odd Chair Playhouse. In 1966 he became a member of the American Conservatory Theatre under the helm of William Ball. He received the Cameron Overseas Grant from Carnegie Mellon University to study in Europe where he joined the Young Vic theatre. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1967, he joined the faculty at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, where he led the theatre department from 1974-77. He became artistic director at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and was also the artistic director for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera in 1972.
His first play, The Interview, premiered at the Pittsburgh Playhouse starring Jose Ferrer and in 1976 had an Off-Broadway run starring Louis Edmonds.
He moved New York City in 1976 to concentrate on writing for the stage, and several of his plays were produced Off-Broadway and in London, including Without Apologies (Hudson Guild - NY; The Open Space - London); The Ball Game (Playwrights Horizons - NY); and Approaching Zero (LaMaMa ETC - NY).
In 1981 producer Steven Bochco, who had been Thomas' classmate in the playwriting program at CMU, asked him to come to Los Angeles to write several episodes for the TV series, "Hill Street Blues." That led to other TV writing gigs for series such as "Hotel," "A Day in the Life," "Tales of the Gold Monkey" and the TV movie "Private Sessions" (1985) starring Mike Farrell and Maureen Stapleton. He also was story editor for series in development at Universal Studios.
More recently, Thomas concentrated on writing plays. The drama A Moon To Dance By received several regional productions including a 2009 version starring Jane Alexander, Robert Cuccioli and Gareth Saxe, directed by Edwin Sherin at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and reprised at The George Street Playhouse with the same cast and creative team. The play was short listed for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Other plays that were produced Off-Broadway were Without Apologies and The Ball Game. In L.A., Set In Motion premiered in 1995 at the Group Repertory Theatre and was nominated for ADA Best Play. The Interview and Without Apologies are published by Samuel French, Inc.
Filming of Thomas' completed screenplay adaptation of the novel "Vanished" is expected to begin in spring 2016.
Thomas has been the recipient of a number of grants, including from the Ford Foundation (1969) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1978).
Mr. Thomas was born on August 31, 1935 in Lawrence, PA, a mining town west of Pittsburgh. He is survived by his husband, Janis Purins; memorial receptions will be announced in LA, NY, and Pittsburgh after the New Year. His works are represented by Nicolosi & Co. agency.