Philip Santos Schaffer is the performer for The End of The World Bar and Bathtub, and the playwright of SMALL PLAYS FOR GIANTS. We asked him a couple questions to get to know him better.
What's your favorite part of working on a new show?
The first time I hear something I’ve written out loud, I start being able to find out what’s wrong with it, and what the play inside the text actually is. It’s really thrilling - like looking at one of those magic pictures and FINALLY seeing the hidden image. I’m a firm believer that my scripts are just suggestions for scenarios, as opposed to being laws (unless it’s a punchline). Because of this, the script we start with at the beginning of rehearsals goes through lots and lots of changes by the time we open the show, and this mutual discovery of the play inside the script is, I think, my favorite part of the process. Everyone I work with is really, really smart, and brings so much to the excavation. Plus they’re fun to hang out with. Sometimes I think the best scripts are just really good reasons to hang out together all the time.
When has art helped you overcome something in your life?
Three things come to mind.
First: I’ve often found that the act of creating is the attempt to give a name to something otherwise not yet named. I think great art gives people the opportunity to feel seen in a new way, and helps to create language around intangible feelings/experiences/etc.
Second: I believe that the theatre is a space in which people are able to practice the actions of their ideal selves. This is something we talk a lot about in The Living Theatre, and I think it is true of most participatory theatre; you are invited to do something that you would not do in any other circumstance, but due to the fact that you’re in a theatre, and it isn’t real, you are able to overcome yourself and ACT - proving to yourself that you are able to elevate.
Third: Theatre is like yoga for your empathy. A theatre is a space to stretch out the capacity to feel, to practice deep compassion for strangers.
What are some what-ifs you're following or hope to follow soon?
I am about to graduate from grad school; essentially just reading and talking about plays all day long for three years straight. Between college and grad school, I spent two years in a job that made me miserable because I was terrified of the possibility of failure and because the idea of quitting a job makes my stomach ache. This time around, I want to challenge myself to pursue the ideal job, the ideal life, and get used to the free fall that comes with reaching for and not attaining those things. That’s got to be better than the constant slight discomfort of a dead end job. Because… what if it really does work out in the end?
I think many or most of WalkUpArts best projects have come out of us saying “what if we did such and such performance,” and then doing it. Right now, with all my energy and time dedicated to SMALL PLAYS FOR GIANTS, I do still feel eager for the percolating what-ifs to come. What if we write a musical some day? It's going to blow everyone away.
What other artists inspire you?
Oh all I do is quote people I like so this is tough. Here's some:
Judith Malina, Julian Beck, David Cale, Morgan Jenness, Cindy Rosenthal, Taylor Mac, Robert Anton, Bob Baker’s Marionette Theatre, George Grosz, Chris Burden, Valie Export, Otto Dix, Laurie Anderson, Maggie Nelson, Charles Ludlam, Brandon Jacob Jenkins, Ruben Dario, Ernesto Cardenal, Brotherhood Dance, Gioconda Belli, Spalding Gray, Zachary Schomburg, David Altmejd, Morey Amsterdam, Bob Flanagan, Claudia Rankine, Daisy Zamora.
All my friends and collaborators. Audrey’s clarity, Stef’s compassion, Matt’s openness, Anna’s joy.
What projects do you have coming up next?
This is taking us all the way through to the end of July. After that, I will tell myself I am going to rest for a bit, and then take on something new anyway.
I’m writing a play about a fictional meeting between Ammon Hennacy and Ammon Bundy, which I am pretty excited about. I’m entirely stuck on it right now, but that’s fine.
Philip Santos Schaffer is a multi-disciplinary theatre artist. Philip is one fourth of the creative team behind WalkUpArts, which he co-founded in 2013. WalkUpArts credits include Alone With Living Creatures (adapter, director), The Life of the Theatre (adapter, director), and A PLAY ABOUT DREW CAREY (playwright). Philip is an artistic associate, associate archivist, and ensemble member with The Living Theatre, since 2013. Producing and associate producing credits include The Anthropologists Save The World! at the New Ohio's Ice Factory, Between the Seas - a Mediterranean theatre festival, HAIR (Columbia University and WalkUpArts), and Burning The Living (The Living Theatre). Other credits include Os Confederados (director, prod. Columbia University), and Genius, Inc. (adapter, prod. The Segal Center). Philip is currently in his third year in Columbia University's MFA Dramaturgy program.