Meet WalkUpArts and odysseus tied to the masT

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Tell us about you. 
WalkUpArts is a theatre company founded in 2014. We are dedicated to exploring the audience-artist relationship through multi-disciplinary, intimate, and communal experiences and creating a space for people to make eye contact in. The core WalkUpArts team is Audrey Frischman, Matt Engle, Stefanie Harris, and myself, Philip Santos Schaffer. For odysseus tied to the masT, we are working with Sarah Stites (director) and Andres Santiago Pina (performer). We also have a team that has been working on all five shows, including Taylor Riccio (set), Jorge Olivo (sound), Christopher Cancel-Pomales (light), Maureen Freedman (costume), and Anna Woodruff (dramaturg). Our stage manager is Dan Kelly. I’m a theatre artist, and the writer of the five plays in this series. I am interested in creating theatrical events in which the audience’s participation is a vital part of the success of the production. I recently graduated with my MFA in Dramaturgy from Columbia University, and outside of WalkUpArts, I am the incoming Literary and Community Manager of Pipeline Theatre Company and an Artistic Associate, Associate Archivist, and Ensemble Member with The Living Theatre.
Tell us about your current project? 
odysseus tied to the masT is the fifth play in SMALL PLAYS FOR GIANTS – a five play series of highly interactive solo performances for intimate audiences, which we have been producing between February and July of this year. Odysseus is determined to hear the sirens’ song. But first, he needs the audience’s help to ensure he won’t jump to his death. odysseus tied to the masT is a play about the drive for immortality and the desire to control our own legacies. Can the blood-soaked Odysseus survive the experience of absolute beauty, and if he does, will he finally feel clean enough to return home? In the words of the director, “It’s like an Instagram Live story about what Odysseus is thinking before he listens to the sirens! It’s also like the “Blow winds!” monologue from Lear! It’s also like a Drake video (well, things to aspire to…)!”
Where are you performing your show and why is it a good fit for your production? 
3 of the 5 plays in SMALL PLAYS FOR GIANTS, including odysseus, have been or will be performed at The Tank (the other two tour to audience members’ bathtubs and closets). The Tank has been an ideal space for us to work in for this series. The folks at The Tank have always been incredibly welcoming, and have worked with us to make sure we are able to bring our plays to life in all the ways we envision. It’s exciting to be in the building, there’s a constant buzz and energy, and it’s thrilling to be a part of it all. I also have to mention that the design team for this series is absolutely doing an amazing job in transforming the theatre and world of the play with each performance we do. For this one, they’ve completely upended the “normal” layout and set-up of the theatre, and created a vivid and wonderful world for the audience to step in to. I’m really excited for enter into what they have created.
What’s next for you? 
This is the last play in SMALL PLAYS FOR GIANTS, and closes out our season. Our next step is to talk about the past five months, figure out what worked, and make our next plans. We’ve always got projects in the works, and at any time any one of them may spring up and become the next big thing, but we haven’t committed to anything just yet. Personally, I’m excited to have time to focus on some writing projects that I’ve had to put on hold as I focused on editing and producing the past few months. I’ve had a nice research and gestation period (which is to say, I read books that may be influential on the train and before I fall asleep), and I feel ready to begin putting that into action.
What is the name of the last show you saw? 
Outside of WalkUpArts, I’m also a part of Pipeline Theatre Company, and I saw five play readings that came out of the PlayLab, at the Jefferson Market Library. These plays came out of a year of development with Pipeline, and it was really exciting to see completed drafts of plays I’ve been seeing bits and pieces of all year!
Any advice for your peers?
My peers have taught me a whole lot of what I “know,” so I’m not sure what I have to teach them back. I will say this – a lot of my best projects have started off as my worst ideas. The WalkUpArts tagline is “Follow your what-ifs,” and I think this mentality has brought us far. We try to jump on the dream, and sometimes it works in ways that none of us can initially imagine. Certainly doing five plays over the course of six months seemed to be an impossible task when we first started talking about it. But here we are, about to open the last play in the series. And it’s definitely been exhausting, but also one of the best experiences of my life.

Show Information:

Dates: July 14, 2018, 9:30 p.m. July 17, 2018, 7 p.m. July 19, 2018, 9:30 p.m. July 23, 2018, 7 p.m.
Venue: The Tank 312 West 36th Street / First Floor / New York, NY 10018

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