is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

SummerFest's Tom Phillips on Pride & Prejudice ... and Perspiration

When Tom Phillips made the decision this past winter to return to Lexington from California, the news caused a buzz among theatre circles. Everyone wondered if he would be auditioning for SummerFest - it seemed like it had been forever since we'd seen him onstage at the Arboretum.  After all, Phillips is no stranger to Shakespeare, Dumas and other great authors' works that have been performed there during the hazy days of summer. "I believe the last time was 2003, as Robin Hood. I've always had a fantastic time there, it's always been very rewarding. Plus I like to sweat." 

In PRIDE & PREJUDICE, which opens next week, he will be once again mixing it up with some of Lexington's best, like Walter Tunis, Trish Clark, Timothy Hull, Stephanie Peniston and Ellie Clark who plays Elizabeth.  "I play Mr. Darcy, who's the foil for Elizabeth, the female lead. When I came back from LA, I was eager to get back on stage, and Darcy's one of those archetypal roles that any man would want to play."

Phillips' approach to his character portrayal is insightful, and as always, his focus has to do with sincerity. "I always try to see what my character and I have in common, and what's different about us. Darcy has genuine goodness, honesty, and dignity about him, but it's often thwarted by his pride and lack of social skill. He's a rather shy, at times awkward man who masks it by posturing. When it comes to real, honest conversation with Elizabeth for, he drops the ball repeatedly, because he has no idea what he's doing."


He does have a proper measure of distaste for Darcy, and explains, "Well, he has a lot more money than I do, and hasn't worked a day in his life. He belongs to a society that makes an ordinary person today roll their eyes. Were he an American today, he'd live in the Hamptons, and I'd never get an invite. If we met, of course, he'd find me pretty cool, and we'd likely see some commonality between us."

Tom is straightforward about SummerFest's choice of all women in the directorial roles, and doesn't necessarily view it as a bold move on the part of SummerFest's powers that be.  He has worked with PRIDE & PREJUDICE director, Sully White, but "She's never directed me before, although she has been involved with the Shakespeare festival, back in the Woodland Park days. She stage managed a production of Hamlet I was in."

Well, as a lady, I do think it's a courageous move, not a gimmicky one, but one that is going to make this year's SummerFest memorable -- for me, it adds a new dimension to the festival that is intriguiging.

However, when I asked Phillips how he felt about the SummerFest placement of three ladies to direct all three shows, he replied, "While it's interesting, I don't see any particular 'bravery' in it; it simply is what it is. The differences I've seen in all the directors I've worked with have had little to do with gender. I honestly didn't take note of the fact that all three directors were women until a couple weeks ago. I know Sully and Ave, and they're both top-notch."

After watching just one act of PRIDE & PREJUDICE in rehearsals, I must agree with our newly returned friend.  Sully White is obviously having a good time with the task at hand, she laughs a lot at the antics of her cast as they interact and weave the storyline, and that translates into the audience.

Although there are deep and profound messages throughout the play, it was a treat to watch - there was a lot of laughter, a comradery among the cast and crew that immediately made me feel as if I were part of the fun.  Trish Clark, for example, is impossible to ignore in her role; when she takes the stage, your eyes focus on her, and she wraps you into the story with her delightful presence as her character pours herself into the mechanics of matchmaking Mom.  With her daughter, Ellie, who is a fine actress as well, on stage with her - the two of them are quite compelling -- the apple has not fallen far from the tree and Ellie's portrayal of Elizabeth is nearly flawless.  Her voice is rich and she doesn't miss a beat, she's well prepared and shines as she shares the stage with Phillips' Darcy.

Phillips now has longish muttonish chops, and he's beginning to take on the countenance of Darcy versus the role he played in Actors Guild's TOMMY: THE CONCERT last month, when his hair was short and his facial hair was non-existent.  He doesn't look markedly different, but it did pique my curiosity about the most drastic change he's had to make to his appearance for a role.  "I used to have long hair, which was great for Romeo or Richard III, but then I'd always have to cut it for a modern show. I grew a full beard for Lion in Winter...well, I tried to, until I realized that certain parts of my face had under-achieving hair follicles. Thank goodness for stipple!"

Does Tom Phillips have a secret talent?  "I do a great trombone impression, and can improvise jazz with it, and can throat-sing like a Tibetan monk. Still wondering how that last one's going to bear fruit. In the meantime, it makes me great fun at parties until I'm asked to please leave and not come back."

Welcome back, Tom.  Hail, hail, the gong's all here.



 Ellie Clark's Invitation to
Pride & Prejudice: 

Sully White is directing an adaptation of one of the most beloved novels of our time, Pride And Prejudice adapted by Jon Jory. The cast is AMAZING!!! Not to mention my mother and I will be on stage together for the first time as mother and daughter. The show is ripe with Paul Laurence Dunbar & KCTC alumni. I hope you come out. Your support means a lot! All the information is below...

Pride And Prejudice will play July 14 through July 18, 2010.

Pride And Prejudice Cast & Crew Includes:

Mr. Bennet | Walter Tunis
Mrs. Bennet | Trish Clark
Elizabeth Bennet | Ellie Clark
Jane Bennet | Holly Hazelwood Brady
Mary Bennet | Annie Barbera
Kitty Bennet | Erin Cutler
Lydia Bennet | Avery Wigglesworth
Mr. Darcy | Tom Phillips
Mr. Bingley/Colonel Fitzwilliam |G.B. Dixon
Sir William Lucas/Mr. Collins/Mr. Gardiner | Timothy Hull
Miss Bingley/Mrs. Gardiner | Vanessa Becker
George Wickham | Drew Davidson
Charlotte Lucas/Housekeeper/Georgiana | Sarah Levy
Lady Catherine De Bourgh | Stephanie H. Peniston
Chorus | Laura Campbell
Chorus | Jesse Hungerford
Chorus | Wilson Shirley
Chorus | Thea Wigglesworth

Director: Sullivan Canaday White
Stage Manager: Gretchen Shoot
Assistant Stage Manager:
Laura Campbell
Assistant Stage Manager:
Thea Wigglesworth
Choreographer: Vanessa Becker
Set Design: Dathan Powell
Costume Design: Missy Johnston
Lighting Design: Jeff Fightmaster
Properties: Kirsten Aurelius
Dialects Coach: Patti Heying

All SummerFest 2010 performances will begin nightly at 8:45 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, at the Arboretum: State Botanical Garden of Kentucky on Alumni Drive. SummerFest tickets are on sale in June 2010 and will once again feature very affordable single ticket prices of $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Season Passes to see all three shows will also be available at $25 for adults and $12 for kids.

For more information on SummerFest, or the Conservatory programming, please visit us on the web at 

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