Remembering Thomas Derrah (1953-2017)
Renowned actor and beloved member of MIT Music and Theater Arts


Photographs: American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.)

"I remember how fiercely passionate he was about each and every play. And watching him work was sort of a master class in humanity."

— Paul Daigneault, producing artistic director, SpeakEasy Stage Company


The SHASS community is deeply saddened by the death of Tommy Derrah, renowned stage actor, inspiring teacher, and beloved member of MIT Music and Theater Arts, who died October 5, at 64. A founding member of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, where he performed in 120 productions, Derrah was honored with Elliot Norton awards for best actor and sustained excellence, and was an extraordinary and acclaimed teacher as well. In collaboration with Tommy's family, the Music and Theater Arts community is planning a memorial event for Spring 2018 to celebrate Derrah's life.


Thomas Derrah, the Boston actor everyone wanted to see
Appreciation by Ed Siegel and Louise Kennedy

"In many ways, Thomas Derrah was the heart and soul of Boston-area theater. His death [on October 5, 2017) devastated the Boston theater community, many of whom did not know he had been diagnosed with cancer at the end of June.

If you attended theater in Boston and Cambridge, you knew Derrah’s work....he was an actor who made theater lovers go to a production just because he was in it. His emotional range was as broad as anyone’s in the area, commanding the stage as the scabrously comic Captain Trash in 'Ubu Rock,' or the suicidal 'Uncle Vanya' in one of the darkest adaptations of Chekhov ever staged locally (both at A.R.T.). You wanted to mark down any production on your calendar that Derrah was in."


Thomas Derrah, award-winning stage actor, dies at 64
Obituary at The Boston Globe

"Paula Plum, who appeared in productions with Mr. Derrah at the ART and elsewhere, said he was 'an utter chameleon, unrecognizable from one character to the next. He had kaleidoscopic range. And as a person, he was magnificent in his generosity to everyone in the theater community. He was generous and humble.' Mr. Derrah 'was a genius – so far above everyone that knew him and worked with him,' she added. 'He was theater royalty. He was so beloved.'"


Celebrating a Life | from MIT Music and Theater Arts

We mourn the sudden passing of our dear colleague, teacher, and friend, Tommy Derrah. Tommy leaves an indelible spirit that we will forever cherish; he was brilliant, kind, intelligent, funny, artistic, compassionate to his very marrow, and unfailingly brightened the lives of every person he encountered. Our students were blessed to have him as their teacher, and we at MTA knew how lucky we were to have him as our compatriot in theater and in life. Tommy's contributions to the theater community were tremendous. A distinguished, award-winning actor, he appeared on Broadway and Off Broadway, and regionally with the Alley Theatre, the American Conservatory Theater, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and the SpeakEasy Stage Company, among other renowned theaters in the United States, Asia, and Europe. He was also a founding member of the American Repertory Theater, where he performed in 120 productions. We are working with Tommy's family to plan a memorial to celebrate his life in the Spring. We invite you to share your stories and memories of Tommy with his family by emailing


MIT Theater Arts
Thomas Derrah Profile


Photographs: American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.)
Photo top right: Thomas Derrah in “R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe," a one-man show staged by the A.R.T. in 2011