Thaddeus Phillips – Artist Spotlight
The Kelly Strayhorn Theater welcomes back Thaddeus Phillips, a true vanguard in contemporary American theater. Phillips artistic practice has been presented worldwide ranging from FringeArts Philadelphia to the hit Netflix crime-drama NARCOS.
KST Communications Specialist; Duane Binion sat down with the acclaimed artist to learn more about Phillip’s latest piece INFLATABLE SPACE slated to premiere at the KST Alloy Studios, Friday, Aril 13 – 14, 2018 at 8:00pm. Tickets are Pay What Makes You Happy, and available online at www.kst.imagebox.dev.
This is your Pittsburgh/Kelly Strayhorn Theater return! How do you feel about coming back? What significance do you see in presenting the World Premiere of INFLATABLE SPACE at KST?
The Kelly Staryhorn Theater is an extraordinary place to present creative theatrical work. Performing ’17 BORDER CROSSINGS’ at KST was wonderful and the interaction with Pittsburgh audiences and members of the theatrical and artistic community was just fantastic. For me it is quite significant to be opening this new project in Pittsburgh, as I find the city to be a vibrant and vital place where very crazy ideas can be freely explored, presented and discussed.
How did the collaboration with yourself, Ean Sheehy, Juan Gabriel, and Spencer Sheridan come about for the creation of INFLATABLE SPACE?
The creative team for INFLATABLE SPACE consists of artists I have worked with extensively in the past – as the idea for this work is very challenging; it is key to have a team.
Ean Sheehy played E.A. Poe in ‘RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE’ a musical theater work presented by New York Theatre Workshop and my company Lucidity in collaboration with the Wilhelm Bros. & Co. Ean is an amazing performer and a great thinker.
Spencer Sheridan is an LA based video designer and all around digital/analoge renaissance man. A few months ago we realized projections could be used.
Juan Gabriel has created scores for many works I have directed including, ‘Whale Optics’ and ‘A Billion Nights on Earth’ – for this show he is coming on as a sound designer, working with us to select tracks from the Golden Rector and turn them into a score that is meant to really hold the show together.
The secret weapon behind the dramaturgy is my wife, Tatiana Mallarino who is responsible for keeping the ideas in check and has been the main ‘writer’ along with me in conjuring up the storyboard and developing the use of the inflatables.
Originally this project was titled “The Archivist”, why did you change the title? How did you come up with the name INFLATABLE SPACE?
‘The Archivist’ was the first genesis of this project. Perhaps now it is even an entirely different show – it was about a film archive. However, the ultimate archive, essentially of all life on earth, is the Voyager Interstellar Golden Record – that was launched on Voyager 1 in 1977. This probe, with the record strapped to it’s side, contains, of course, music and images from across the world. It is currently entering interstellar space and has a shelf lfie of about 100 Billion years. We are using this record and it’s songs to ground the ideas behind ‘INFLATABLE SPACE’, and therefore – that germ, that idea of an ‘archive’ now has gone galactic and remains at the center of this theatrical exploration.
The description of INFLATABLE SPACE currently describes the work as “Phillips weaves together idiosyncratic juxtapositions in a dramatic tale about possible extraterrestrial life, moments on earth and new interstellar discoveries.” Can audiences expect to see references to aliens, are there comedic moments, or any other underlying surprises we can expect?
This is a very crazy project that has been developing organically and morphing constantly and taking many surprising turns. The exciting aspect of creating work this way is you don’t know what road it will take you down, and in this case, ‘cosmic road.’ The danger of creating work this way is, well, you don’t know what road it will take you down. We are working as well in collaboration with the Creamos Inflatable Factory in Bogota, Colombia on the inflatable design elements for ‘INFLATABLE SPACE’. Working with air is a tricky and invigorating business, what you see on paper is not what happens when you inflate an object – therefore what we thought was one thing on the drafting table became something else in reality – and in this way the show has been ‘discovered’ or created by its own velocity – and we are along for the ride. The surprises audiences can expect are seeing a work emerge from nothing – and a very odd sequence of a simple journey of two, accompanied by the music from the Voyager Golden Record.
My team and I are inspired by old vuadvulle routines, Chaplin, Beckett and Keaton and there should be glimpses of inspiration in this work – as well as scientific principals of space and time. And yes, perhaps Ean and I are aliens the whole time. Or perhaps we are two NASA lab technicians installing the Golden Record on the Voyager 1 Probe in 1977 – or we are both in a time loop coming back on itself – like a black hole . . . our goal is to set up a fun dynamic work that leaves many of these questions very open but puts in the spectators minds and lets them play with the ideas we are putting out there.
It is also absolutely fascinating that the TESS telescope is launching the day after we close at KST – and will be searching for more exo planets – planets that could sustain life, which opens up the mind to the ideas we are playing with in ‘INFLATABLE SPACE’.
Tell me about the promo video being used for INFLATABLE SPACE. What is some of the imagery being shown and its purpose?
The video is made from research shots in Bogota in collaboration with the Creamos Inflatable Factory in Bogota and the deployment of some of these items at the Miami Light project during a residency in February. The images are of the inflatables in a theater, the golden record reprint we found as well as scale model tests of ideas for the final inflatable that we just finished last week.
What are you hoping audiences take away from this performance?
I am hoping this work will present and hour of time away from Earth – or away from the normal – a fun yet meditative space in which to reflect on what it means to be on this planet and also in the universe.
What’s next for Thaddeus Phillips?
Ill be creating and directing a new theater piece for Teateri, a company in Sweden in June. It will be an action adventure called ‘Midnight Train to Marrakesh’. Also, ‘A Billion Nights on Earth’ a work I directed and designed for 3 year olds and up – it will be presented at the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas in June.
True to Phillip’s reputation “INFLATABLE SPACE” takes us on a journey of intelligence, humor,
sarcasm, and wanderlust. Stay up-to-date with the latest happenings around Thaddeus Phillips by visiting him online at thaddeusphillips.com
Thaddeus Phillips :: INFLATABLE SPACE
Friday – Saturday, April 13 – 14, 2018
8:00pm / KST Alloy Studios
5530 Penn Ave :: Map
55 mins / No Intermission
“Protean, often funny, and somehow the audience’s ally. He typically offers a wry and compassionate, if sometimes barbed, take on contemporary issues.”—American Theatre
World Premiere KST Commission
For his latest work, award-winning director/designer/performer Thaddeus Phillips teams up with critically acclaimed actor Ean Sheehy to deploy an assemblage of custom-crafted inflatable scenery that expands, contracts and collapses as he explores a universe of creation and destruction. Starting with a reprinted edition of Carl Sagan’s legendary Golden Record—humanity’s most viable message to other worlds, launched into space in 1977—Phillips theatrically examines a selected archival history of life on earth.
Visually stunning, Inflatable Space features Phillips’ playful work weaves together idiosyncratic juxtapositions in a dramatic tale about possible extraterrestrial life, moments on earth and new interstellar discoveries. Colombian pop star, Juan Gabirel Turbay creates a sonic landscape using the tracks on the Golden Record while LA based video artist, Spencer Sheridan delivers a playful and evocative video design that launches this work beyond normal theatrical conventions.
Inflatable Space is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Miami Light Project and NPN. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Made possible with generous support from the National Performance Network’s Artist Engagement Fund. For more information: www.npnweb.org.
Pay What Makes You Happy! Tickets for this event are available at any price. Simply choose the level that makes you happy—or name your own! All seats are general admission.