Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spotlight On...Erika Phoebus

Name: Erika Phoebus

Hometown: Glen Burnie, MD

Education: University of Colorado, Boulder

Favorite Credits: I workshopped this new musical in college called Knock Out by Raechel Sherwood. It was a commentary about body expectations put on adolescent girls. It may not be a head turning credit but I’ve never felt so strongly about something I was working on, other than my own pieces.

Why theater?: Connection. Communication. The opportunity to really look at the world we live in. It’s much easier to reach people when they are sitting in a dark room being entertained. It’s an exchange, everyone in that room is affecting one another on some level. That’s pretty special. There is a chaotic stillness, or a still chaos, that simmers out of the theater. I think it’s both of those things actually. I desperately need that in my life, that grounded pulse.

Tell us about Kiss It, Make It Better: Kiss It, Make It Better is about childhood best friends who run away to live in an abandoned fairground in order to create a safe place for coping and healing after they are both assaulted in very different ways. It has a lot of colors that hint at a Peter Pan and Wendy story, as we watch these adolescents run down all the confusing avenues of puberty while dealing with the aftermath of trauma. It’s about finding a way to communicate with each other when you weren’t given any sort of genuine language. It’s about making your own rules and deciding for yourself what is good and healthy for you and how that lives in a relationship.

What inspired you to write Kiss It, Make It Better?: I started realizing more and more that the majority of my friends had some kind of experience that lacked consent. I heard how it affected their lives and the inner workings of their relationships. I watched the way their reality shifted. I noticed the altercations of my own reality. I wanted to try to humanize life after sexual assault and the journey of discovering your sexuality.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that tells stories I didn’t realize I needed to hear. I love stories that remind me how naive I am. I so desperately want to learn about human experiences that aren’t my own. Hearts get too hard without that. As far as inspiration goes, anything that keeps me honest and anyone who approaches life with a sense of reckless abandonment. I’m inspired by anything that gets my brain to shut up, whether that’s poetry or my kitten or drinking wine with my mama.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Anne Kauffman, Rajiv Joseph, Sam Gold, Leigh Silverman, Rachel Chavkin, there’s too much brilliance out there to pick just one.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Fun Home and Curious Incident are definitely my Broadway choices (unless of course you can get in to see Hamilton then uhh...go). Years later I still think about Smoke by Kim Davies that went up at The Flea. I also still think about The Honeycomb Trilogy by Mac Rogers on an embarrassingly regular basis.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Alison Pill. It would probably be called “It’s Hard to See in this Darth Vader Helmet.” When I was little, our basement was Star Wars themed and my dad had a Darth Vader replica helmet that we weren’t technically allowed to play with... and I would ALWAYS trip or run into things when I was wearing it. I think that is the PERFECT symbolism for my life. Clumsily doing things I’m not supposed to and just, you know, hoping I don’t break anything.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Both the original production and the revival of Top Girls, back to back. I would really love to experience the evolution of that piece.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: SoulCycle

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Some kind of female rights advocacy. Or I’d probably be in the field of research/therapy focusing on either mental illness or trauma.

What’s up next?: I just started writing a play based on Khutulun, the female warrior. Theatre 4the People is also workshopping a few new plays right now with some other young playwrights that I’ve got my hands in. I’m hoping Kiss It, Make It Better has a future as well.

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