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Actor Thomas Martell Brimm dies

Had wide-ranging career onstage

Actor and musician Thomas Martell Brimm, who appeared on Broadway in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” and onstage across the world and also worked to broaden access to the arts, died from kidney failure in Los Angeles on Nov. 30. He was 75.

Brimm developed his skills as an actor with Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare Company. He later toured 16 European countries with the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men.” While in Europe, he appeared in “When the Chickens Come Home to Roost” and as Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” In Munich, he directed and produced plays written by African-American women and served as artistic director for the American Drama Group, Europe. During his career he also performed in Africa, Brazil, Haiti and Venezuela.

Thomas appeared Off Broadway in plays including “Mother Courage and Her Children,” “Coriolanus” and “Beclch.”

With a grant from Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Fuller Jr., he established Theater of the Streets to widen access to the arts in Greenwich Village. Also, as a.d. for Cellblock Theater, he directed plays and taught acting in New Jersey and New York prisons.

He directed and oversaw an ensemble of more than 100 creative artists for a group called Hospital Audiences, which toured hospitals and nursing homes.

Brimm’s television credits include telepics “The Temptations” and “Second Chances” and Thurgood Marshall story “Simple Justice” (part of PBS’ “American Experience.”

When he returned to California, he established a performing arts academy, called A Gentle Force. He also continued to perform himself, appearing as Cutler in August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Brimm performed with artists such as John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Richie Havens, as well as sang and played guitar in his band, also called A Gentle Force.

Thomas Martel Brim Jr. was born in Louisiana. He first appeared onstage in New Orleans at age 9 in minstrel shows written and produced by his father, a minister who was also a bandleader. He became passionate about performing in high school, but his aspirations were deferred when he volunteered for Army service during the Korean War.

Upon returning to the States, he began his acting career in San Francisco. He eventually moved to New York to seek greater opportunities and changed the spelling of his name.

Survivors include a son, a granddaughter, five brothers; four sisters and a large extended family.

Services will be held Saturday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m. at the Angelus Funeral Home, 3875 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles. Donations may be made to Amazing Grace Conservatory, 2401 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018.

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