Amy Phillips

About Me

I want you to know, first, that I enjoy leading theatre workshops with homeless women as much as I loved coaching a client through her first powerlifting meet. I'm as proud of having sanded every gym floor in my son's school district as I am of writing a book. All of this makes me who I am today. 

But maybe you'd like to know a little more about my background. 

After earning a BA in Theatre Arts at the University of Pittsburgh, I enjoyed Pittsburgh's professional theatre scene as a stage manger for places like the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival and the City Theatre, and as a chorus manager for the Children's Festival Chorus. I directed plays, too, at elementary schools and churches and in smaller black box theaters. In Florida I had a regular gig teaching middle school drama and directed spectacles like Annie, but this was not really my thing--I enjoyed writing the curriculum more than the actual teaching. For a while I was ready to move to England after my experience with the Riding Lights Theatre Company in York, at their summer school, but settled instead in Iowa to raise my two kids. I began freelance writing for Northwestern College's marketing publications (a role I continue to enjoy) and occasionally traveled to Philadelphia to teach community artists as well as teens in juvenile detention centers as a visiting instructor for BuildaBridge International. It was while preparing for one of these trips that I opened Games for Actors and Non-Actors, a book I happened to pick up in a used bookstore some five years before. While sitting in my local YMCA flush from a workout, waiting for the kids to finish playing, I read about these "games" that moved the body in ways that weren't intimidating like many acting exercises, and that aimed to awaken social consciousness. I had only recently begun developing the parts of my own body below the brain, through exercise, and while I would go on to become a personal trainer, I also found, in Augusto's Boal's writing, greater meaning in my first field of theatre. To a rhythmic score of basketballs swishing through the ropes and bouncing off the old gym's cement wall, I googled Boal and learned he'd be in NYC days after one of my Philly gigs. I would attend his Theatre of the Oppressed workshops for the next three years at the Brecht Forum, sitting at his feet in the years before he died. I had no idea that he had been imprisoned and tortured for his art, nor that he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize--only that his theatre was world-changing. After a move to Michigan I taught TO at conferences and began a theatre program at a local women's overnight shelter. Partnering with organizations such as Safe & Just Michigan and Prisoners for Christ, I created plays with former prisoners  to raise awareness on housing and employment discrimination and to push for legislative change on the Clean Slate bill. Now, as a graduate student in Social Innovation and Criminal Justice at Grand Valley State University, my focus is on expanding the academic discourse on theatre as a disruptive force of social change.

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