Monday, June 3, 2013

Spotlight On...Renee Philippi

photo by Stefan Hagen
Name: Renee Philippi   

Hometown: Flint, Michigan

Education: University of Michigan–Flint (Class Valedictorian), City College/CUNY, Brooklyn College/CUNY. Education includes assistant directing with Frank Castorf, Deutsches Theater, East Berlin as well as Michael Rudman and Steven Berkoff, Public Theatre, NYC.

Favorite Credits: Co-Creator/Director/Writer, Bird Machine, presented May 2011 at the 14th Istanbul International Puppetry Festival & Bursa Ataturk Cultural Center, Bursa, Turkey, and September 2011 at PIERROT 2011, Stara Zagora & Small City Theatre, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Why theater?: As Nietzsche wrote in "The Birth of Tragedy" and this is loose quoting, “The best thing for man is not be born at all.  The second best thing is to die as soon as possible.  …Though through art, man can regain himself.”  I figure he meant women and men and that that was just too much for him to write out.

Tell us about Geppetto:
Geppetto is light-hearted and funny, while at the same time, about the human condition and coming to terms with change and loss. Geppetto incorporates puppets and is presented by a solo performer and solo cellist.

What inspired you to write and direct Geppetto?: Inspiration for writing Geppetto came from “The Old Man and The Sea” and “Pinocchio” and self-questioning:  How do I become a better person when faced with great adversity and despair?  How do I become a “bigger” person and not smaller?  In directing, I was excited by the challenge of making a puppet with prosthetics have value and meaning and progress the story dramatically.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Poetic, visual, mythic – Ingmar Bergman wrote in his autobiography Laterna Magica, in describing what he did while his Father preached:  "I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the colored sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire — angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans."  That kind of theatre! Ingmar Bergman, Peter Brook, William Kentridge, Thomas Mann, Jean-Michel Basquait, Pina Bausch and on and on….

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Suzan-Lori Parks and Gerhard Richter

What shows have you recommended to your friends?:
Fiona Shaw in Beckett’s Happy Days at BAM, Orson’s Shadow written by Austin Pendleton at Barrow Street Theatre, William Forsythe’s EIDOS : TELOS

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: “Time is on Fire” is what it would be called.  Gosh, I am so bad about that kind of thing…I don’t know…Doris Day?

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Candy

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be__________: To be President of General Motors was my childhood dream; note my hometown above.

What’s up next?: For Concrete Temple Theatre’s 10th Anniversary, I will be finishing two new plays to be presented in 2014: Alone in Triptych and Grey Canals Green. Both were begun as part of an artists’ residency at Dixon Place.  Both pieces stay true to Concrete Temple’s mission to create theatrical works that incorporate drama, dance, puppetry, music, and the visual arts, which focus on the individual's struggle for identity and society's struggle for cohesion. We like to think of our work as embodying visual narration, and these two new pieces will be no different; though, they will be more language driven than recent work. Alone in Triptych is a meditation on what it means to be alone and rape. How should we or how can we be with each other? Women and water are the subjects of Grey Green Canals: each being a metaphor for the other: flowing, connecting, giving life.  The piece contemplates water scarcity, declining feminism and the tension between conservation and regeneration. Linking boundaries of water to personal boundaries, we are creating a piece that focuses on mother and daughter relationships as juxtaposed against our and society’s stewardship of water. We are also in the very beginning stages of a new piece that will be created in three parts and struggles with romanticizing violence.