In the summer of 2007, a group of playwrights, actors and directors gathered to solve a problem: How do we develop new plays while also developing as artists?

We studied theater companies across the nation—Steppenwolf to Chicago Dramatists to Playwright’s Horizons to many companies right here in Los Angeles. We made charts and diagrams and talked through different formulas that could create work. We debated the value of what we do in the theater and how we do it. We contemplated a system that would equally serve writers, directors and actors.

After six months of careful planning, Fierce Backbone was launched in January 2008. We are a company dedicated to developing plays and people. The fulcrum of our mission currently rests in our weekly Monday night workshop where we develop the work from our writers.

Each play graduates to further levels of development: staged readings, workshop productions, full productions…all with the support and talents of Backbone members leading the way. We guide projects with a supportive “peer-review” process keeping the writer’s vision in mind while supporting with people-power and financial fuel.

Our process takes a play from a first reading through every intermediate step until it is ready for a full production. Our actors receive priority in casting and all opportunities to grow their craft. Backbone takes pride in creating a safe environment for directors to experiment with different approaches on unfamiliar material. We champion the work of all our writers, no matter how experimental or mainstream.

Our structure is such that it evolves as we do. Just like our own artistic development, our process is ever changing and always improving.

As a company, we strive to support the work our membership is inspired to create. We believe some of the very best theater is yet to be discovered. Above all else, we endeavor to collaborate with fierce integrity and a tough backbone.


FOUNDERS: Lori Allen Thomas, Stephen Blackburn, Tom Cook, Morris Nash, Jan O’Connor, Amy Tofte & David Watkins, Jr.

Our Mission

Fierce Backbone is a collaborative organization committed to writing, developing and producing new dramatic works. We endeavor to provide opportunities where the skills and artistry of our membership can flourish.

How We Work

Our organization consists of three Units: writers, actors and directors. We designed the Units to complement each other in the development of new works and productions. The Units focus on the needs of the individual artists. The units are self-governing in terms of rules and membership selection. All Units serve the development process. The board oversees serving the mission statement.

Core Values

  • The Play’s the thing. Our foundation and focus is dedicated to stage plays.
  • We will continuously evolve and grow a viable development process that supports diverse artistic disciplines and creates new work through a peer review process; We believe Artistic Excellence is a worthy goal but process can be its own reward.
  • We strive to balance the goals and needs of individual members with those of the group.
  • We create a collaborative atmosphere that fosters a safe home and structure for experimentation; We encourage communication and healthy debate in all matters.
  • We value building connections and working relationships with other theater companies and our community at large.
  • We believe in transparency in our decision making process as well as our finances and governance
  • We want to attract and develop artists who command attention; We want to attract and develop artists who know when to put their ego aside and allow others to shine.
  • We expect our members to share the burden and joy of production.
  • We are never afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Then strive to figure it out.
  • Above all things, we adhere to integrity in our personal, business and artistic relationships. We place the highest value on respect, tolerance, acceptance, honesty and accountability.