Columbus Makes Art Presents: Behind the Scenes with Actor’s Theatre’s Amanda Phillips
Amanda Phillips is an actor, director and educator. She has worked in New York, Los Angeles, and in various regional theaters. Recent Columbus credits include Red Herring Productions’ DIRT, Columbus Civic Theatre’s Two Gentlemen of Verona and Actors’ Theatre’s 2018 production of Macbeth as Lady Macbeth. This year Amanda is in the director’s chair for ATC’s production of Romeo and Juliet (May 23 — June 16), William Shakespeare’s tragic tale of “star-crossed” lovers, and the most famous whirlwind romance of all time.
Scott: Describe your art and your creative process.
Amanda: I am an actor, director and educator. I spend a lot of time with the text. I try to fight the urge to jump to conclusions or to make assumptions, and I go line by line really looking at how the character (or characters) think and travel from one thought to the next. I then spend a significant amount of time building an imaginative bridge between myself and the character; writing, daydreaming on relationship and back story, making choices that illicit a psycho-physical response within.
Scott: How do you recharge and/or refine your artistic process?
Amanda: I’m a big fan of continued education. I love to recharge by seeking out a class; not only to learn a new skill, but as a refresher on the fundamentals of acting. I also take long breaks from performing and directing (sometimes for a year or more). It’s important for me to step away from time to time and regain perspective or pursue other interests.
Scott: How long have you been acting, and what is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself along the way?
Amanda: I’ve been acting for 20 years (give or take). The most important thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am not my art and my art isn’t me. I’m many, many things. An artist is only one of them. As a young actor I wrapped my sense of self tightly around my work as an artist. That was a mistake.
Scott: What role are you most proud of?
Amanda: The work I did with Jaq Bessell and Black Dog Productions, straight out of undergrad in Salt Lake City. I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for Jaq. We have a shared, obsessive love for Shakespeare, and found so much joy exploring and crawling around in his plays. Every member of the company was amazing, and we really adored and supported one another. Our space was an old pickle factory in the industrial part of town. It allowed us to create an immersive and provocative experience.
Scott: Describe the difference between acting and directing, and do you have a preference?
Amanda: Directing is a lot more work. And pressure! My job as an actor is to collaborate with the director to realize their overall vision. As a director, it’s my responsibility to not only bring the playwright’s voice to the stage, but to have a strong point of view. I find directing more challenging because it demands a constant eye on every spoke in the wheel. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but I have to give over more control as a director and strive to truly collaborate.
As an actor, that collaborative circle is small. It’s you, the director and usually just a few other actors. But when I’m directing, I want to ensure that not only my actors are able to bring their creativity and choices to the table, but that the same is true for every designer, dramaturge, stage manager, artistic director, company manager, etc. The list goes on and on. It takes diplomacy, trust and generosity of spirit to give everyone the space they need to create, while simultaneously keeping your eye on the overall vision of the project.
Which do I prefer? The one that I most recently haven’t been doing. Lol!
Scott: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Amanda: That no one gets to tell you what you can and cannot do. No one gets to tell you whether or not you are an artist, where and when you can create art, what kind of work you get to create or when to quit. You get to be in charge of your artistry… and your life, for that matter.
Scott: What’s the best advice you feel you can give?
Amanda: To really listen to, value and honor the artists that have come before you. I wish this is something I could have understood in my teens and 20s. I have gained so much insight into acting, directing and living from the mentors in my life. A good mentor is worth their weight in gold.
Scott: Describe one of your favorite moments working with Actors’ Theatre.
Amanda: When the cast of Macbeth let me think for the entire run of the show that the plastic swans in the pond at Schiller Park were real. I kept going on and on about how beautiful and graceful they were. No one said a word! My husband told me almost a year later.
Romeo and Juliet kicks off ATC’s 2019 summer season “Tainted Love,” May 23 – June 16 (Thursdays-Sundays at 8 p.m.) in German Village’s Schiller Park. Full show information available at www.theactorstheatre.org.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.