Todd Brian Backus is a new works director, dramaturg, illustrator, and literary manager based in Portland, Maine. He likes to work on "weird theatre" by which he means: Sci-fi plays about absentee voting, Chekhovian cavemen plays, time-traveling gentrification musicals for kids, and plays that combine poetry, swordplay, and ghosts. He'd be happy to talk to you about each of those projects, or the dozens nagging at his brain that haven't found a venue yet. Todd is a co-founder and Artistic Producer with PowerOut, one of the co-founders and producers of Hot Pepper Theater, and the official secretary of the #theatreilluminati.
Todd is interested in interpretations of the world instead of reflections. Theatrically, this has drawn him to the works of Sarah Ruhl, Moisés Kaufman, and Rajiv Joseph, among others.
Some of his favourite plays are: Ruhl's Passion Play, Kaufman's 33 Variations, Stoppard's The Invention of Love, Joseph's Animals out of Paper, Ruhl's Melancholy Play, Anouilh's Antigone, and George's The Zero Hour.
Favourite non-theatre writers include: Ruth Ozeki, Virginia Woolf, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, and the women of CLAMP.
Portland Stage - Literary Manager, Affiliate Artist
PowerOut - Co-founder, Co-Artistic Producer, Director, Illustrator
Hot Pepper Theater - Former Masochist, Theatre Critic, Spicy Co-host
Theatre Illuminati - Secretary
The more lengthy Bio...
Raised in Central NY, Todd has always been fascinated with storytelling regardless of medium: from books to plays, video games to comic books, and weird avenues in between. Trained at the State University of New York at Oswego in Theatre and Graphic Design, Todd was introduced to a number of artists both theatrical (Sarah Ruhl, David Henry Hwang, Moisés Kaufman) and visual (Chip Kidd, Takashi Murakami, Alphonse Mucha) that forced him to consider the ways form and content interact and how that can inform, support, or subvert a performance or illustration.
Immediately after college Todd spent three years at Portland Stage in Maine. In that time Todd got involved with the programming at the theater. After conversations between Todd and Artistic & Executive Director Anita Stewart, Portland Stage launched Studio Rep, a series which invited smaller theatre companies into Portland Stage's Studio Theater for a three-show, four-week repertory. Todd directed the PEER award-nominated For the Lulz in the first Studio Rep, and was on the selection committee for the second Studio Rep.
In addition to his work with Portland Stage he honed his skills as a producer, and director working with his own company, PowerOut, which operated in Portland for three seasons. In 2014 PowerOut reopened in New York City and produced seven shows from downtown Manhattan, to Brooklyn, to Williamstown in a short 18 months. Among those plays were: Let's Play Play (and its remount), Derek and the Sheep, and Todd's first-ever play Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator.
In mid-2016 Todd relocated back to Portland, Maine as the Literary Manager of Portland Stage. Since returning to Portland Stage he’s launched a new developmental series, the Studio Series Workshops, where he’s helped develop seven additional plays since early 2017 with more on the horizon. He’s helped refocus Portland Stage’s programming towards new work, and has helped shepherd four (of six) plays from the Little Festival of the Unexpected to Portland Stage’s Mainstage in two years of programming. In an effort to push the limits of what he can produce at Portland Stage he launched Too Strange to Live, Too Weird to Die, a reading series of bizarre and beautiful plays that test the limits of the theatrical imagination.
Interested in Todd's work? Shoot him an e-mail.