written, directed and
starring: Thaddeus Phillips
adapted from the original text by William Shakespeare
June 7 - 10, 2001
Thursday - Saturday 10:00pm
Thaddeus Phillips returns to
The Club at La MaMa June 7 to 10 in his kiddie-in-a-swimming-pool solo version
of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." After the four shows at La MaMa, the
production is going to the Arcola Theater in London, where it will play from
June 27 to July 14.
The smallish 28-year old with a furrowed brow and visionary's gaze performed "King
Lear" out of a suitcase as his La MaMa debut in September, 1997 and followed
with "The Tempest" in January, 1998.
Phillips begins "The Tempest" bare-chested, sitting in a trunk in the
middle of the pool, pulling ropes to raise the ship's sail (throughout the play,
the trunk serves variously as the island and a ship). As Caliban, Phillips drops
the sail and it becomes a screen so the character can appear as a shadow behind
it. The sail also becomes a cloak for Prospero. All the other characters are
objects: a rapier is Ferdinand, a hat is Alonzo, a dagger is Antonio, a doll
is Miranda, sunglasses are Gonzalo, a wine bottle is Stephano and a stick puppet
is Trinculo. Phillips wears waders throughout much of the show. At the play's
conclusion, as Prospero disintegrates, he throws books into the water. Finally,
Phillips removes the waders and Prospero lies helpless in the pool. The play
is accompanied by a continuous sound score by Phillips and Jeremy Wilhelm.
The production has been revised since 1998, but is still played in water. Phillips
has kept the running time of the show inside of an hour, but has re-edited the
text, adding some scenes and creating a large curtian made of book covers.
In "Lear," which Phillips also conceived, adapted and directed, Lear's
daughters were played by a red satin pump, a silk scarf and a flower. Phillips
played Lear and the fool was played by a Polchinello stick puppet. Shakespeare's
text was used throughout, but to fit the evening into 75 minutes, several subplots
had to go, as did a few characters including all Lear's sons-in-law. In "The
Tempest," Phillips works from the notion that the play is about a creator
and his puppets, or in Jungian terms, about a man and his shadow selves. Phillips
plays Ariel as Prospero's own reflection in a mirror and Caliban as Prospero's
The diminutive performer/puppeteer, who reminds you more of a Puck than a Prospero,
was born and raised in Denver. He attended Whittier College (Nixon's alma mater)
and Colorado College, where his stepfather, Gresham Riley, was president. He
has studied puppetry in Prague and served as stage manager of David Sedaris' "Stitches"
in The Club at La MaMa. When he went to Philly in the summer of '94 to help his
mother and stepfather move into new lodgings, he found himself serendipitously
close to the Quarry Street Cafe on North Third Street, whose then-owner, Doron
Kutnik, encouraged Phillips to stage his first puppet shows there. Phillips earned
particular notice as a tap dancer in Robert Lepage's "The Geometry of Miracles"
at BAM in 1999 and subsequently developed a show, "Lost Soles," based
on a hapless tap dancer in exile in Cuba. He debuted the piece in The Club at
La MaMa this past January, where it was extended twice due to popular demand.
The Village Voice (Francine Russo) called it "one of the few too-short hours
He is also co-artistic director of STATELESS, a multi-disciplinary company whose
"The Filament Cycle" debuted at La MaMa last season and more recently,
represented the USA at the 4+4 Days Festival in Prague.
"The Tempest" is conceived, directed and performed totally by Phillips.
Collaborators in the creation of the piece have included Teller (of Penn &
Teller), Patrick Kealey, Jeremy Wilhelm, Pam Riley and Sodja Zupnc.