I’ll bet a lot of people don’t want to act alongside Michael Phillis.
The actor/writer/director/producer is a scene stealer so when he’s in a show, he manages to get the lions share of attention. And rightfully so.
Phillis first made a name for himself in one man shows he wrote, produced and starred in including a fringe favorite “Dolls.” It’s easy to get the best reviews when you’re the only actor in a show.
But then other theatre troupes starting noticing Phillis so they’d cast him in different shows including the award winning “Wish You Were Here” and “Nicholas Nickelby.” But actors don’t need to be fearful of working with him as he’s also a creative person behind the scenes.
Writing and directing shows, Phillis has found a way to showcase other actors, allowing them to bask in the limelight.
The upcoming “Friends Live!” at Oasis in San Francisco is a perfect example. A show he’s very involved in but not part of the ensemble.
He’s taking the iconic 1990s sitcom and dragging it up and spoofing it in front of a live audience. “I adapted several episodes from seasons two and three,” he says, “It’s an amalgamation of a bunch of iconic moments from several episodes all wrapped up in one.” He adds that “it’s always a fun challenge to adapt television material to the stage,” pointing how how you need to add humor specific to the stage, adapt jokes for a live audience, and capture the essence of all the characters and relationships in one fast, funny show.”
Part of the joy of the live “Friends” in drag is isn’t not just men playing women but also women playing men.
It’s hard to believe that Phillis is actively in rehearsals for “Friends” considering he is also performing one of his “Patty from HR” this weekend at SF Oasis.
For those who don’t know Patty, she is a character Phillis invented when he was working on his gay all-male revue “Baloney.” He says, “Baloney is fun, frisky and very inappropriate, so we needed a character that was a good foil to that environment— a ‘straight man’ who could represent the corporate PC culture where so many of our audience members spend their time.”
He adds that Patty started as a sort of audience callout. “As the MC of the show, I would mention Patty from HR and the audience would join me in saying ‘Fuck Patty!’ The idea of doing a full-length Patty show came after years of her being on the sidelines of Baloney.”
Always on the move, Phillis’ year is pretty planned out. “I’ll be directing and hosting three Baloney shows this year at Oasis (March, June, and September) in addition to creating a series of Baloney short films for online,” He says, adding, “I’m directing two comedy shows this spring/summer – ‘Murder by Drag’ at Oasis and ‘The History of Everything Queer’ with Killing My Lobster, the Bay Area’s premiere sketch comedy troupe.” Wait there’s more. He will also be back onstage as Buffy in October at Oasis and Patty from HR does her first ever touring show in December.
Some how, between all of this, Phillis has done a movie – “The Bride of Death,” which features all Bay Area talent, just finished post-production. So Phillis now is actively prepping the show to go on the film festival circuit. Actors of the film don’t need to worry about Phillis stealing the spotlight. Although he did act in the stage version, he’s relinquishing the movie role so he can focus on writing and directing. It would have been a good match-up of talent though as the Bride in the movie is April Kidwell, another enormously talented performer that could go toe-to-toe with Phillis in an acting smackdown.
To get tickets for any of his Oasis shows, go to www.sfoasis.com.
To follow what else’s he’s up to, check out www.michaelphillis.com.