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Archive for the ‘Thaddeus Phillips’ Category

A Good Balance of Comfort and Discomfort: An Interview with Steven Dufala

Posted September 12th, 2017

This week, two Philly Fringe favorites are returning to the Festival with two very different shows. Absurdist theater artist Geoff Sobelle will mount HOME on September 13, an ambitious new piece that ruminates on the transitory nature of dwelling, the impossible structural demands of a house, and the absurdity of making a home. Meanwhile, on September 14, theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips will premiere his latest work, A Billion Nights on Earth, a fantastical show for all ages that dives into the realms of parent–child relationships, as pair stumble through alternate realities in search of a beloved stuff whale. Though both of these shows are starkly different, they do have one thing in common. That would be artist Steven Dufala.

Dufala has been creating work in a variety of media for decades now. He has regularly collaborated with his brother Billy, under the name The Dufala Brothers, and together their work—often humorous, hyperbolic reimaginings of everyday or iconic items—has been exhibited widely. They’ve also organized absurdist artistic happenings, including a toilet-trike race through Old City during the 2005 Fringe Festival.

Recently, Steven Dufala has lent his exceptional talents to some ambitious works of theater, designing sets and making some larger than life visions a reality. Perhaps most notable among these collaborations was his work on Geoff Sobelle’s widely lauded show The Object Lesson, which had its premiere during the 2013 Fringe Festival and has since been taken all over the world. Turning theaters into storage spaces with boxes stacked high to the ceiling and filled with the usual household wares, the kind of miscellanea that does little but collect dust but somehow stays with you for years, as well as some more surreal keepsakes—”moss to mystic” designated actual moss with a strong whiff of incense, “acorn collection” ought to be self explanatory—his design and installation work on the show was critical to achieving its uncanny yet strikingly down to earth vibe.

We recently caught up with Dufala to learn more about his artistic practice and what it’s been like splitting his time between these two aesthetically divergent shows.


FringeArtsTell us a bit about your background. 

Winslow Fegley in A Billion Nights on Earth

Steven Dufala: I grew up in south Jersey, the middle of five boys in a creative household. Our parents were pianists and teachers, and all the brothers make things. So I’ve always been making things.

FringeArtsWhat was the Philadelphia arts community (or communities) like when you first arrived at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts? 

Steven Dufala: I used to like to say the scene was mostly living rooms and basements, and I guess that’s still kind of true, but everything was really DIY. Pig Iron was making shows in basements, the best music was at peoples houses, the best parties, the best art shows didn’t really look like shows, but were kind of one or two night show/parties. Old City was kind of too fancy, and no one really went north of Spring Garden. 

When I got to Philly, I didn’t go straight to the academy, I was at UArts for two years in film and animation. That basically cracked open a whole world of creativity I’d never really explored and that’s why I went to PAFA—to try and get a better foundation for making things in general.

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Living a Billion Nights: An Interview with Michael and Winslow Fegley

Posted September 10th, 2017

This week sees the premiere of A Billion Nights on Earth, the latest work from acclaimed theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips in collaboration with artist Steven Dufala. The show—appropriate and ideal for audiences of all ages—follows a father and son as they venture into their fridge in search of a beloved stuffed whale and find themselves on a spectacular quest through space and time. With stunning scenic work by Dufala and Phillips, taking inspiration from the shapeshifting nature of Kabuki theater design, the piece is a dazzling, ever-evolving work of visual art and a touching, imaginative dive into the realms of parent–child relationships, exploring their varying perspectives on reality.

If you find the relationship between the father and son characters deeply palpable, it might be because stars Michael and Winslow Fegley are father and son. And also exceptionally talented performers. Michael Fegley has been working in theater and film for decades now, as has his wife Mercedes, and now all three of their children are following in their footsteps.

I caught up with Michael and Winslow to learn a little more about their experiences performing, how this collaboration with Phillips came about, and what it’s like living in the fantastical world of A Billion Nights on Earth.


FringeArtsTell us a little about your performance backgrounds.

Michael: I’m a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and have been working professionally for over twenty years. I’ve performed extensively in New York and Philadelphia in works ranging from classical to the avant-garde, including the Off-Broadway production of Small Potatoes.

Winslow: I’ve been doing plays and movies for a while now. Plus my whole family acts, and I watch them working all the time. I’ve learned a lot, and I like working with my dad.

FringeArtsIs there a strong theater or performance community in Allentown?

Michael: Allentown has the wonderful, talented people of the Civic Theatre of Allentown, where our family has been a part of productions for years. Winslow, like his sister August and brother Oakes, have all taken many turns on that stage. However, it is a non-equity house, so I have to find work in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Last year I was in the world premiere of The Ballad of Trayvon Martin at Freedom Theatre here in Philadelphia.

Winslow: I like working in Allentown, but it’s cool when we get to go to new places and work in different theaters.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Family Friendly Fare, Part 1

Posted August 25th, 2017

Just because it’s at the Fringe doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home. Check out some of the Festival’s productions appropriate for all ages. Bring the whole family! Check out Part 2 here.

 

A Billion Nights on Earth @ FringeArts
Thaddeus Phillips + Steven Dufala

A  journey into an alternative universe for audiences of all ages. A treasured stuffed whale goes missing and a portal to another dimension though the kitchen fridge sets a father and son off on a spectacular quest through space and time. Objects on stage appear to come alive and the father and son must rely on their creativity, and each other, to survive wild landscapes that open like giant pop up books. Taking from classic children’s books, kabuki stagecraft, and spellbinding theatrics, A Billion Nights on Earth is an imaginative dive into the realms of parent–child relationships, exploring their varying perspectives on reality. More info and tickets here.

 

Edge of the Rock @ The Rock School for Dance Education

The Rock School for Dance Education

Exciting, energetic young talent from around the world perform classical and contemporary vignettes that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Alumni from The Rock School go on to join the most prestigious dance companies worldwide. See the dance stars of tomorrow, today! More info and tickets here.

 

Aunty Ben @ William Way LGBT Community Center
ReNew Theatre Company

Aunty Ben is a play for children 8+ (& Adults). The story revolves around 9 y/o Tracy and her relationship with her favorite Uncle Ben, who happens to be a drag queen. Aunty Ben is a playful exploration of gender issues, acceptance, and is a celebration of diversity, dignity, and marching to the beat of your own drum. More info and tickets here.

 

Photo by Charley Parden.

 

PRIDE PARADE! @ Rittenhouse Square
Wesley Flash

PRIDE PARADE! is an interactive walking tour featuring historic hot spots in Center City Philadelphia. During this immersive storytelling adventure, we’ll dance, sing, and chant as we honor and celebrate out & proud ancestors who marched before our time. Join the movement — Remembering is resistance! More info and tickets here.

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Explaining those billion nights: Interview with Thaddeus Phillips

Posted July 25th, 2017

A Billion Nights on Earth is at the same time an adult work for kids and a kids work for adults—or in simple terms, it is for three year olds and surrealists.”

In a Thaddeus Phillips production, nothing stays the same for too long. Using anything from projections to puppets, everything is malleable, from characters to inanimate objects to time and space. Innovative and spellbinding, his works have a fantastical edge and American Theater has called him a “shape-shifter.” For A Billion Nights on Earth, a co-creation with Steven Dufala coming to the 2017 Fringe Festival, Phillips uses kabuki stagecraft, bending assumptions about physical space and the stability of time. The story centers on a father and son who enter into new dimensions after discovering a portal in the back of the fridge. We got the chance to ask him about his process and the inspiration for this magical new work, which is for all ages.

FringeArts: How did the title A Billion Nights on Earth come about?

Thaddeus Phillips: The title references a loose idea of every night we have ever had on earth—perhaps not a billion but many many many nights of humanity and all animal life on earth has lived under the stars and looking up wondering what is actually happening and in awe of the awesome beauty of it. When you become a parent, for me you are reminded more than ever as you explain to your child about the stars and planets, about the fantastic and sheer shock of how amazing and unexplainable it all is. The show is inspired by being a parent and the desire to create not a work for children but a work that would be equally engaging for children and adults. A Billion Nights on Earth is at the same time an adult work for kids and a kids work for adults—or in simple terms, it is for three year olds and surrealists.

FringeArts: Can you briefly describe the set up?

Thaddeus Phillips: The instance that brought it all together was the playing with my son at the amazing Astrid Lindgren’s World Park in Sweden—on a play ground made from a roof with a window. This image is the basic for our design and the entire show. This roof is a magic box that slides and reveals interior and exterior spaces—as the show is constantly referencing minute details of life and huge questions of existence at the same time. The framework for the performance is greatly inspired from Japanese kabuki theater—in that each corner of the playing area is activated and able to change slowly and with transparent magic into wildly different locations. There will also be many large scale inflatables.

Model for set design.

FringeArts: How will the two performers be encountering the scenic and design elements? 

Thaddeus Phillips: Michael and Winslow Fegley are a real father–son acting duo. The Fegleys are an acting family based in Allentown and we are very exited to be able to draw on their real relationship to create the father son for A Billion Nights on Earth

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Thaddeus Phillips Brings the Drug Trade to FringeArts

Posted April 29th, 2015

“I was fascinated by the way TV is made: the way you shoot out of sequence and how it actually feels more fake, even with real planes, for example, than being on a theater set.”

Barry Seal 1The Incredibly Dangerous Astonishing Lucrative and Potentially TRUE Adventures of Barry Seal comes to FringeArts May 14–16, the newest theatrical creation from Thaddeus Phillips of Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental. Thaddeus, whose been splitting time between homes in Bogotá, Colombia, and Philadelphia  these past few years, was inspired by the TV show he has been acting in in Colombia about drug smuggling in the 1980s. In the TV show he plays Barry Seal, a pilot who was one of the most notorious drug smugglers in US history. He became fascinated with the process of making the show and the history of these characters. Barry Seal will be followed in September by ALIAS ELLIS MACKENZIE at the 2015 Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: Where did the idea for this show come from and why did you want to make it into a show?

Thaddeus: I got this job, out of the blue, playing Ellis MacKenzie on MundoFox’s Alias El Mexicano, a Spanish language TV show about Rodrigo Gonzalez Gacha, one of Colombia’s most notorious drug kinpins. Ellis MacKenzie was the alias for Barry Seal, who is the USA’s most notorious drug smuggling pilot. Playing

On the set.

On the set.

this role and being thrust into the crazy world of Colombian TV production is where the idea for these new projects came from. I was fascinated by the way TV is made: the way you shoot out of sequence and how it actually feels more fake, even with real planes, for example, than being on a theater set.

I loved seeing what the cameras were filming and imaging what the final shots would look like—and thought it could be really cool to stage a work as if it is being filmed for TV, but with the film crew as part of the staging, and a theatrical language could be developed by creating this world onstage and leaving it up to the audiences’ imagination what the show would look like. This was the initial idea: to take the aesthetics of a TV set and a TV filming schedule and apply it to the stage. The project idea was to make two shows, one small scale work that would give a history of the drug trade and the life of Barry Seal called The Incredibly Dangerous Astonishing Lucrative and Potentially TRUE Adventures of Barry Seal [coming to FringeArts May 14–16] and two, a large scale work with to be created in collaboration with Colombian actors who starred in the TV show I was on, called ALIAS ELLIS MACKENZIE [coming to the 2015 Fringe Festival].

FringeArts: How has the show developed from idea to production?

Thaddeus: As I developed the idea we began to research Barry Seal and then very soon we were dropped into the Grand Central Station of conspiracy theories spanning fifty years of US history. We also researched extensively the stories of Barry Seal relating to the drug dealers and the DEA and CIA.

Barry Seal Grave.

Barry Seal Grave.

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The Weekender: What You’re Doing and Why

Posted August 24th, 2012

Rest up and recharge, boys and girls, because we’re only two weeks out from opening weekend of the festivals, holy crap! Here are a few things to get up to this weekend:

>>>All weekend: Explore Edgar Allen Poe, his death, and production documentation at the new most excellent tumblr for Red-eye to Havre de Grace, which opens September 7 at the Live Arts Festival.

>>>All weekend: More exploring. Next week, you’ll read intrepid blog contributor Julius Ferraro’s report on Museum Without Walls, a new way to explore the remarkable collection of 51 sculptures along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive. Go this weekend, and compare notes with Julius on Monday.

>>>Saturday: The first of two must-do Saturday shows, Megan Mazarick presents DBDP, AKA the David Bowie Dance Project, an informal showing of work set to David Bowie songs at the Mascher Space Cooperative. Dancers include Bethany Formica, David Konyk, Beau Hancock, Lindsay Browning, and others. 8:00 pm. (And don’t forget to check out Megan’s Philly Fringe show, Mining the Mine of the Mind for Minderals.)

>>>Saturday: After DBDP, bust down Frankford Avenue to Johnny Brenda’s. Martha Graham Cracker turns seven, yikes, she’s old stately and handsome. What a dame! Dame Martha. Pre-Martha performances include a special pre-festival performance from the dames of Bang!, who, according to JB’s website, “promise a naked karaoke keytar extravaganza.” Sets start at 9:00 pm.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Science on Tap with Thaddeus Phillips

Posted July 26th, 2011

What do humpback whale songs and fiber optic cables have in common? Before you cry out “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING,” watch Thaddeus Phillips speak about his 2011 Live Arts Festival show WHaLE OPTICS at July’s Science on Tap event at National Mechanics. The show is Thaddeus’ fourth Live Arts Festival offering and connects worldwide telecommunication systems, humpback whales, Carl Sagan, and dinner at Applebee’s.


Thaddeus Phillips’ WHaLE OPTICS runs September 1-4 + 6-11 during the 2011 Live Arts Festival at the Prince Music Theatre, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. 7:00 pm, $25-$30.

–Jason Magnes

Travel 17 Borders This Weekend With Thaddeus Phillips

Posted March 30th, 2011

Thaddeus Phillips brings his new work 17 BORDERS to the Painted Bride this Friday and Saturday nights. It’s a solo piece that draws on his experiences as a traveling artist, particularly from the fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11. With a deceptively simple stage he takes audiences to the frontiers of Bosnia, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, Bali, Czech Republic, Israel, Jordan and Mexico. We asked Thaddeus, who brings WHaLE OPTICS to the 2011 Live Arts Festival (and was seen in ¡EL CONQUISTADOR! in last year’s Festival), a couple of questions about the origins of 17 BORDERS.

Q: Is this your most personal work yet?

THADDEUS PHILLIPS: YES, this is actual border crossing events that have been converted into a theatrical monologue. It is great to create a show in this format—throwing out the structures I normally use for story and characters—this one is literally 17 mini-plays with footnotes in between and subtle links between them. Since the crossings are based on real events, in a way, I just am myself, not playing it. Often people have said that my stories of what a show will be are often more interesting than the shows themselves, 17 BORDER CROSSINGS gets to the raw material directly, from the source.

Q: How long as this show been incubating?

TP: Last year I had this idea. Created it at a studio in Bogota, Colombia in January and February, 2011. The idea came from nowhere. Absolutely. And the framing points were the fall of the Berlin wall (11/9/89) and the twin towers (9/11/01) but since I was creating the piece in January, the events of 1/11/11—the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, etc., have come into play in world events that change borders, societies, etc.

April 1 and 2 at 8pm / $25 / Tickets
Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA

Watch this nifty trailer!

And yet one more from Colorado performance!

–Josh McIlvain

Live Arts presents LAB Test shows (and they’re free!)

Posted March 4th, 2011

LAB Test

Geoff Sobelle (all wear bowlers, Amnesia Curiosa) and Thaddeus Phillips (¡EL CONQUISTADOR!, Flamingo/Winnebago), are both long-time Live Arts Festival participants based in Philadelphia. They’re both working on shows that are slated to premiere at the 2011 Live Arts Festival in September. And they’re doing so diligently in the LAB at the Live Arts Studio as the first two Production Residency artists.

As Geoff and Thaddeus move their works-in-progress from the studio toward full-scale Live Arts Festival productions, they want YOUR help to complete the work. At the free LAB Test series, audiences have the uncommon opportunity to play a direct role in the creative development of new works, before their debut in the Live Arts Festival. Participants will see the artists’ works as they begin to come together with lighting, set pieces, sound, video, and other production elements and can offer feedback and ask questions in post-showing discussions.

The showings are free and open to the public by advance reservation at livearts-fringe.org/lab/lab-test.cfm, by phone at 215-413-9006, or at the door on a first-come, first-serve basis. Complimentary beer and snacks are provided. LAB Test showings take place at the Live Arts Studio at 919 N 5th St in Northern Liberties.

“It is our hope that by providing support during this crucial stage of creative development, we can elevate the quality of Festival presentations by local presenting artists,” said Nick Stuccio, Producing Director, Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe. “Geoff Sobelle and Thaddeus Phillips were chosen for Production Residencies based on their continued artistic excellence and maturity. The Live Arts Festival feels a commitment to assisting these two artists, along with their respective collaborators, in further developing the work they began as LAB Fellows in 2010.”

The Production Residency program was designed to offer support and resources for the intermediary stage of creative development. Live Arts Brewery Director, Craig Peterson explains, “Often in the trajectory of an artist’s project, there are resources available for presentation and production costs, but support for the long-term creative process and incubation of work continues to be vastly under-resourced. Our Production Residencies represent a comprehensive investment in all phases of the artistic process, combined with affordable or free access to rehearsal and studio space. Without this, Philadelphia artists will remain under-resourced in our community and under-represented in the field of contemporary performing arts at large.”

Elephant Room
Saturday, March 5 at 7:30pm: Chapter 1
Saturday, March 12 at 7:30pm: Chapter 2
Saturday, March 19 at 7:30pm: Chapters 1, 2, and 3

“Hello. Room service. Was someone looking for a minor miracle? It’s on its way… c/o Elephant Room.” Illusionists Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Daryl Hannah invite audiences into a most secret society. A realm where mind and sense part ways. A trio of illusionists will entertain, distract, confuse, confound, amaze and mystify. This is Elephant Room.

Directed by Paul Lazar and written by Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford, and Geoff Sobelle (previous Live Arts Festival shows: all wear bowlers, Amnesia Curiosa), Elephant Room stars Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Darryl Hannah.

WHaLE OPTICS
Monday, April 11 at 7pm: Chapter 1
Monday, April 18 at 7pm: Chapter 2
Saturday, April 23 at 2pm: Chapters 1, 2, and 3

WHaLE OPTICS is a new scientific/theatrical epic that explores world-wide communication systems, sub-oceanic fiber optics and humpback whale songs. The production, which begins at a Venice Beach record shop, will feature cinematic score, an epic homage to exploration, adventure, and the ultimate question.

Directed and designed by Thaddeus Phillips (previous Live Arts Festival shows: ¡EL CONQUISTADOR!, Flamingo/Winnebago); created by Brian Osborne, Makoto Hirano, Lee Ann Etzold, James ljames, Emily Letts, with Tatiana Mallarino and Christina Zani, original score by Juan Gabriel Turbay. Visit whaleoptics.tumblr.com to learn more.

Location
Live Arts Studio
919 N 5th St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Free onsite parking + abundant neighborhood street parking
Info: (215) 413-9006, www.livearts-fringe.org

Reserve your seats in advance here or call (215) 413-9006

– Dan Comly

Thaddeus Phillips Acts With Recordings

Posted August 18th, 2010

How does a two-week project turn into a four-year puzzle? Ask Thaddeus Phillips. In 2004 he began filming for a new play, ¡EL CONQUISTADOR!, that would blend his live acting with video recordings of famous Colombian telenovela actors. Thaddeus, who is the only live actor in the show, improvised with the soap stars based on a rough outline.

“What’s extraordinary is we worked on the outline for about two weeks, and all the actors that are in the show currently were filmed in two days,” says Thaddeus on the phone from Colombia, where his wife Tatiana Mallorino is from. He and Tatiana worked with her uncle Victor Mallorino—who starred in Colombian versions of Survivor and Desperate Housewives—to create a script from the improvised footage. Thaddeus performed it in 2006 at the New York Theatre Workshop, but says, “Even then we weren’t totally happy.”

After the jump: working with telenovela stars, touring Spain, and Pony Malta.

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Tatiana Mallarino on Colombia, America, and the Making of ¡EL CONQUISTADOR!

Posted June 14th, 2010

You won’t see Tatiana Mallarino onstage in this September’s Live Arts presentation of ¡EL CONQUISTADOR!—but you will spot her onscreen, thanks to the show’s seamless blend of filmed and live performance. And there’s much more of Tatiana’s creative touch to be found behind the scenes, where she serves as co-creator, co-director, and the link to a brilliant inner circle of Colombian performers who appear in the show. ¡EL CONQUISTADOR! is usually billed as a one-man show, since theatrical Renaissance man Thaddeus Phillips performs as the sole live actor within the intricate set of his own design. But it wouldn’t be the same without Tatiana, his wife and artistic collaborator at Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, whose Colombian heritage shines through this performance.

The show is in part an homage to the Colombian doorman, a symbolic underdog of society. The service industry is where many of the country’s poor find work, and in downtown apartment buildings, the doorman is at the bottom of the food chain, catering to the tenants’ whims. In a way, though, these workers run the city. People can’t come and go from their homes without them. ¡EL CONQUISTADOR! casts the dreams of the overlooked into the spotlight.

The show also draws on the international popularity of the telenovela—we might translate “soap opera,” but it the Latin American version is a different animal than our General Hospital fare. Much of the telenovela’s appeal as a genre is that it holds out the promise that society’s downtrodden can somehow make it to the top. Usually that means escaping poverty, but there are variations. In Betty La Fea, for example (where American hit Ugly Betty got its start), the protagonist is ugly, not poor. Still, explains Tatiana, “it’s a way of telling people it’s possible.”

And it’s not just a Latin American thing–Tatiana describes a time in the 90s when the Venezuelan series Kassandra had quite a fan following in eastern Europe. Apparently, Serbian programming was 20 episodes ahead of neighboring countries’ Kassandra schedules. So, Serbians would cross the border with signs that proclaimed their knowledge–by heart–of entire episodes of the show. Like ancient poets traveling to perform the works of Homer from memory, these modern storytellers met with audiences eager to hear what happened next.

(What does happen next? Click for more!)

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Thaddeus Phillips Prepares Something New: See it this Thursday at the Live Arts Studio!

Posted May 10th, 2010

This Thursday night, May 13th, Thaddeus Phillips, artistic director of Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, will show off some in-progress work from his in-progress show Whale Optics. The showing will take place at the Live Arts Studio, 919 North 5th Street (at Poplar) at 7pm.

“I’m usually just forced to act in things,” explains Thaddeus, so he is thrilled to be directing a cast that includes his wife and artistic collaborator Tatiana Mallarino, Makoto Hirano, Brian Osborne, and Christina Zani. For Whale Optics, underwater imagery, stage design, improvisation, story-boarding, music, video, and random bits of information all play a part in developing the show. He utilizes a “whatever works” approach, though he eschews being beholden to any particular technique or school of improvisation. “The key to the process,” says Thaddeus, “is how to intuitively and naturally find the material.”

Thaddeus is a native of Colorado, where he went to East High School (other alums include Don Cheadle, Pam Grier, Hattie McDaniel, and Douglas Fairbanks) in Denver and later attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs. While his mother likes theater and his father is a film buff, Thaddeus’s real introduction to the performing arts came in the form of high school musicals. Luckily, in college his theater interests turned away from South Pacific, and toward an entirely different direction.

“I got introduced to a more European way of making theater,” says Thaddeus, specifically “action design,” in which the design is intertwined and developed along with the story. There are very few passive elements in such theater–everything plays a part, everything has the potential to come to the fore. Seeing director Robert Lepage’s The Dragon’s Trilogy also help coalesce Thaddeus’s ideas about the type of work he would like to do. In fact, Thaddeus would soon be working for Lepage.

After the jump, learn about Thaddeus’s continued journey and his upcoming show.

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