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LilleLead actor Thomas Dillon sums up the 90-minute-monologue/play “Thom Pain (based on nothing),” thusly: “It’s about a young man who wants to share an epiphany he’s recently had, with whoever wants to listen to it. That epiphany is today is the day you start living your life,” he said.

An actor since he attended the Milwaukee High School of the Arts at 13, the UW-Milwaukee graduate has performed in other Boulevard Theatre shows, including “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”

For the role “Thom Pain,” Dillon says that while the sheer amount of text was daunting, the substantial challenge was how complex and varied the range of emotions portrayed were. In fact, playwright Will Eno said, “An actor must bring so much of themselves into the character.” To help Dillon prepare for the play, the 28-year-old used music.

“I’ve always used music to help me along the rehersal process … so I put all the music I love into a 260-song playlist and listened to it over and over in my iPod,” he said.

Here are 15 songs that best describe what Thom Pain is about, according to Dillon.

  1. “Biomusicology,” Ted Leo and the Pharmacists “I went through a period in college where it was the first song on every CD/tape mix I made. Ted Leo is a really clever songwriter, and there’s a play on words that you can see in Thom Pain.”
  2. “A Life of Possibilities,” Dismemberment Plan “It ties directly into the central theme of the play, that every day is full of possibilites.”
  3. “The Runner,” The Kings of Leon “There¡¦s a line that’s repeated in the song that goes ‘I talk to Jesus everyday.’ It’s not a religious song, so maybe that’s why it appeals to me — Pain doesn’t talk to God as much as he talks at God.”
  4. “Ain’t No Right,” Jane’s Addiction “One of my favorite bands.”
  5. “Vessel in Vain,” Smog “The opening line to the song is ‘I can’t be held repsonsible for the things I say,’ and Thom Pain really believes that. It’s not his fault that he is the way he is.”
  6. “In Hiding,” Pearl Jam “Another great line — ‘I swallow my words to keep from lying.’ I think that’s incredibly profound.”
  7. “Stupidity Tries,” Elliot Smith “Some songs on this list I picked because I love the songs and listened to them constantly while reading the play. This is one of those songs.”
  8. “Teenage Kicks,” The Undertones “It was recommended by Chris Ward, the business manager of Boulevard Theatre, by a pop-punk band from England Northern Ireland. It’s been covered by the Strokes and Sahara Hot Nights. It’s just a simple song about a guy wanting a girl.”
  9. “From Debris,” Matt Pond PA “It’s a song about a fire in a house next door and how it makes him think about starting over.”
  10. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” Bob Dylan “The song is very upbeat, yet it’s about a failed relationship. The whole play is about Thom Pain learning to deal with loss and a past relationship that failed and trying to think of it in a positive way.”
  11. “Blimps Go 90,” Guided by Voices “I listened to tons of Guided by Voices while working on the play.”
  12. “Old Man,” Neil Young “I put it in there after reading a certain review of the show. (The review) screamed to me that it was by an old man who didn’t get the show. … I think it’s appropriate.”
  13. “Help Me to Help Myself,” John Lennon “It’s just him on a piano, and it’s really raw and pared down. It’s another song that has a line that says God helps people who helps themselves — another connection between the song and the show.”
  14. “I’ll Believe in Anything,” Wolf Parade “Lots of lyrics in it made me think of the show. Plus it’s a slow build, until the sonic soundwave eruption in the end. The show is very much has the same structure.”
  15. “Moonlight Mile,” The Rolling Stones “It’s more as a metaphor for me as an actor — I didn’t think I would ever get through the show — it seemed like a long, long road. Now … I wish it would go on even longer!”

If you go
What “Thom Pain (based on nothing)”
When Through Sunday, Sept. 2
Where Boulevard Theatre, 2252 S Kinnickinnic Ave.
How much $20-$21
Info (414)744-5757; www.boulevardtheatre.com