That’s Entertainment!

That’s Entertainment!

Award-winning author, screenwriter, filmmaker, and actor reflects on career

By Jeremy Hallock

Book signings, school and library visits are just a few ways a Garland-raised entertainer connects with his audience when visiting family and friends over the holidays.

Now living in New Jersey, Gregory G. Allen is an award-winning author, actor, producer, director, songwriter, screenwriter and playwright who hasn’t forgotten his roots.  

“I will always say ‘y’all,’” Allen said, looking back at his 18 years in Texas. “When I get on the phone with my mother or sister that Texas accent comes right back.” 

Allen’s career began as a teen acting in plays at Garland High School, but in his second year of theater camp he started writing musicals.

“I got very involved with the Garland Children’s Theater,” Allen said, adding his musicals were produced by the children’s theater in 1985. 

Allen said his family has always been supportive and believed “you can do anything you put your mind to.” So, after graduating high school, he left Texas and moved to New York City where he enrolled in the American Musical and Dramatic Academy with plans to be a Broadway star. After a year at the Academy, he enrolled at an art school in New York before dropping out in 1989 to become part of a popular media franchise known for its four anthropomorphic superhero turtles who love pizza, fight evil with martial arts and answer to a rat sensei.

Allen spent the next three years touring with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action show as Michelangelo, the fun-loving turtle with an orange eye mask whose weapon of choice is usually nun chucks.

“We toured all over the country,” Allen said. “I went to Guam and toured Canada. We played every theme park, malls and zoos. They were half-hour shows and we did three a day.”

Looking back at those years, Allen said the turtle’s voices were prerecorded, the plot had something to do with “mind control pizza” and the “massive costume stunk and constantly had to be sprayed with Lysol.” 

Following his Ninja Turtle stint, Allen lived the life of a struggling actor in New York often appearing as an extra in television shows, including background appearances on episodes of Saturday Night Live from 1992-1995. 

However, it was his data entry job that helped him pay the rent.

“It was better than waiting tables,” Allen said, adding that sometimes he would show up at work on a Monday and a coworker had seen him on Saturday Night Live over the weekend.

Allen eventually climbed the corporate ladder until he made project manager, a job he held for 13 years. In the meantime, he also kept writing and got into the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop.

“I thought I was going to write the next great American musical,” Allen said. 

Instead of being a musical theater writer, Allen moved to New Jersey in the early 2000s and got back to his roots, working as an actor with local theater companies. 

“I had forgotten how much being a performer feeds my soul,” Allen said. 

In 2006, Allen became artistic director of the Westminster Arts Center at Bloomfield College of Montclair State University. He left the job in 2014 to become theater manager for Irvington Theater in Irvington, New York, a position he still holds.

“I’ve always had a day job,” he said. “But my day job has been in arts management.”

Allen is an award-winning author of four novels, one nonfiction memoir, two shorts and four children’s books. 

His writing career began in 2011, writing novels for an independent publisher. When a filmmaker expressed interest in adapting one of his books into a film, Allen took a film course and decided he wanted to be a filmmaker. 

He made his first short film, “Mother,” in 2015. His 2019 short film, “Hiding in Daylight,” was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Along the way, Allen unexpectedly became a children’s book author and an advocate for autism awareness. 

“I never knew it was going to happen,” Allen said. “I have a godson with autism. Every Wednesday night I would take him and his mother and sister out to dinner. And I would notice how the people in the restaurants would look at him and point and he made sounds. One night, I imagined him as a superhero who made those sounds as a battle cry.”

Allen wrote a short children’s story and sent it to the boy’s mother. He didn’t expect anything to come of it until he came across a contest called the MeeGenius Author Challenge. Allen entered his story, won the contest and the prize was a publishing contract. “Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero with Autism” was published as a children’s book with illustrations in 2012. 

“Instantly my life changed,” Allen said. “I became this speaker and advocate for autism awareness.”

A sequel, “Chicken Boy: A Super Hero with Autism Deals with Doctors & Dentists,” was published in 2014. Over the past decade, Allen has spoken to thousands of students at schools all over the country about autism awareness.

“It really became my jumping off point,” Allen said. “I want to write about inclusion and diversity. It is great to tell these stories to children and let them know that it’s okay to be different.”

Allen published his latest book, “The Monsters of Marymount Mansion,” in October 2023. He said the book was inspired by one of the musicals he wrote as a sophomore at Garland High School. 

“I’d written about monsters and vampires that lived in a basement and they only got to come out once a year,” Allen said. “They are different but fit in with everyone on Halloween. I wanted to write that story as a children’s book, but it ended up being a chapter book.”

Allen is currently working on his first young adult novel — and he still wants to be a Broadway star— or at least see one of his plays performed on Broadway. His acting career saw success last year, and included an appearance on the Emmy Award-winning series, “Succession.” 

Like many individuals, the writer/performer has career aspirations that remain elusive.  

“I have never worked on Broadway,” Allen said. “That dream did not happen. I tried. I auditioned. It wasn’t meant to happen for one reason or another. But sometimes we look back and realize that one thing didn’t happen so something else could happen. And I’ve had a really amazing life.”

Considering his varied career so far, it wouldn’t be surprising if Allen’s upcoming young adult novel somehow puts him on an unexpected path to becoming the toast of Broadway.