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December 12, 2011

Thomas Martell Brimm, Actor and Tireless Advocate of the Performing Arts

In addition to numerous stage credits, Brimm worked in television and established both theater companies and arts organizations.

Thomas Martell Brimm, an actor and musician who performed in stage productions throughout the world, also worked in television, and was a devoted advocate of the arts, died November 30, 2011, in Los Angeles. He was 75.

According to news reports, the cause was kidney failure.

A native of Louisiana, he was born Thomas Martel Brim. He got his first taste of performing at age nine, in New Orleans, when he participated in minstrel shows written and produced by his father, a minister who was also a bandleader.

During the Korean War he volunteered for the Army. Following his discharge from the service, he began his acting career in San Francisco. In pursuit of greater opportunities as a performer, he eventually relocated to New York and changed the spelling of his last name by adding an extra M.

He became active in the New York Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare Company, an 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.

At other times in his career, he also performed in Africa, Brazil, Haiti and Venezuela.

Brimm appeared in Off Broadway plays and in a Broadway production of The Iceman Cometh.

Brimm’s television credits include the made-for-TV movies The Temptations and Second Chances, and Simple Justice, an installment of PBS’ American Experience about Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

In addition to his work as a stage performer, Brimm used a grant from Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Fuller Jr., to establish Theater of the Streets to expand access to the arts in Greenwich Village. He also became artistic director for Cellblock Theater, where he directed plays and taught acting in New Jersey and New York prisons.

He also oversaw a group of more than 100 creative artists for the organization Hospital Audiences, which toured hospitals and nursing homes.

After returning to California, he founded a performing arts academy, called A Gentle Force. He used the same name to a band in which he sang and played guitar.

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

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