Cornell alumnus recognized as Chicago’s best playwright

Chicago’s largest free weekly newspaper has recognized a Cornell College alumnus for his work on the theatre scene.

Gabe Caruso ’08
Gabe Caruso ’08

After a public vote, the Chicago Reader recently named Gabe Caruso ’08 as Best Playwright of 2017 and awarded him the title for Best New Play. Both centered around the development of his hip-hopera called “Dundee.”

Caruso said he was inspired to do a more in-depth project following his work with a sketch comedy group. “Dundee” started coming to life in early 2016. The Cornell graduate taught the cast the hip-hop skills needed for the production.

“In our early stages, I would assign the cast monologue exercises to develop the characters in our play,” Caruso said. “We would have meetings that started off as hip-hop history, moved into rapping exercises, and then we would share our character work. All in all, we spent two full months creating these characters before even starting to focus on plot. From there it took about a year to get the rest of the script ironed out.”

According to the Chicago Reader, “From practically the first scene, Gabe Caruso’s hip-hopera sets up like a ‘Hamilton’ clone gone berserk. A group of college friends reunites after ten years for what turns out to be an elaborate kidnapping in which the kidnapees find themselves at the mercy of a former classmate wielding a samurai sword.”

Caruso enjoyed his time at Cornell College, especially his English courses.

“I really would love to thank Glenn Freeman for always encouraging me to write often,” he said. “Professor Freeman was the most inspiring professor I had at Cornell.”

Caruso was born and raised in Dundee, Oregon. He moved to Mount Vernon, Iowa in 2003 to attend Cornell College, where he was a double major in English and philosophy. In 2010 he settled in Chicago to study and perform comedy and hip-hop.  He is a graduate of the Second City Conservatory and The Second City Musical Conservatory. He has been an ensemble member for Theatre Momentum and Under The Gun Theater and was the Artistic Director of Dark Humour Productions. He now teaches and performs improv around Chicago. He is currently producing “Improvised Black Mirror,” which is inspired by the Netflix show, “Black Mirror.” It is set to open in the fall of 2017.