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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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