By Bill Landauer

Dwayne Alistair Thomas’ ’01 career path doesn’t look much like a straight ribbon of sidewalk; instead, it meanders and drifts in different directions like a spider web.

You might wear out the slash key on your keyboard writing job titles Thomas has been accumulating over the 17 years since he graduated. Call him an  actor/artist/writer/musician/filmmaker/comedian/photographer/etc.

Over the course of his career, he’s fought tooth and nail with other back actors for a limited number of roles. He’s lost gigs to big names. He’s also won a few big ones, like a stint on the TV show The Americans with Keri Russell.

And sometimes, to get where he wants to go, Thomas has had to learn and create.

“I had to shift my way of thinking,” he says.

Thomas’ drive to create has paid off in unexpected ways. He recently finished Jokes, a sketch comedy film series derived from his work as a stand-up comedian. The previous sentence contains at least two mediums Thomas has picked up on the fly– filmmaking and comedy.

He became a comedian one night during a variety show that included fashion models at the Rotunda in Philadelphia. He was supposed to perform two songs. The first didn’t go over so well. “I didn’t want to come and do a second song and suck,” he says. “I saw something funny the models were doing and wearing.” So he told some jokes.

Like so many things in Thomas’ life, he went with it. He started appearing at open mics and honing his craft.

In 2017, Thomas’ classmate Stafford Levy ’01—also his teammate on the Leopard football team—collaborated with Thomas to create Jokes. “I’d been writing a whole bunch of depressing stuff,” Thomas says. “We just started putting some jokes together.”

Thomas learned filmmaking by necessity. “I didn’t take filmmaking at Lafayette,” he says. “I learned what I learned from being on set.”

In 2013, he’d learned enough to write, direct, produce, and act in his own feature film titled The Real.

 Then filmmaking spurred another new passion. When scouting locations for his various productions, he shot photos of various locales.  “These are pretty good,” Thomas told himself. He began posting them on his website,

He heard from friends that his images were so good they should be hanging in a gallery.  “Friends” includes Thomas’ wife and mother. “You know, that’s your mom,” he says. But his mom once told him she didn’t care for one of his performances.

His wife helped him connect with the Charles County Art Alliance, which arranged for a showing of his photos at the Waldorf West Library Gallery and other venues throughout Maryland.

Each new milieu informs the other. For example, thinking about the composition of his still photographs has informed his work in the director’s chair on a project like Jokes. “Everything doesn’t have to be so crazy,” he says. “Every shot is a painting in its own right.”

All of it—music he’s recorded, the filmmaking, the art—is therapy, Thomas says. “You get to work things out under the veil of what’s accepted,” he says. “I’ve always told people that acting is hiding in plain sight.”

He did the same as a football player. “I could go out and hit someone,” he says. “But I had to do it between the whistles.”


In this issue

More From Spring 2017