Since 2002, theater artist Thaddeus Phillips has taken his audiences to Japan (Capsule 33), Colombia (¡El Conquistador!), Morocco (The Earth's Sharp Edge) and other disparate locations around the globe in pursuit of intercultural awareness and the human comedy. The works of his theater company, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, have been praised for their "wildly inventive" design and intensive storytelling. Locally, they have been eagerly devoured by audiences at Smokebrush, TheatreWorks and Colorado College (Phillips' alma mater).
Now, with 17 Border Crossings, which debuts tonight at the Manitou Art Theatre, audiences will discover a whole new side of Lucidity Suitcase. A behind-the-scenes look at 17 of the research trips Phillips has made for other productions, it's the perfect way for theatergoers new to the Phillips phenomenon to get up to speed.
"It's like all the different elements that were used to go into making a show are going to be put into this one show," he says. "For example, the trouble I had coming back into the United States from Morocco: I never put that in a show. The times I went into Croatia during the war, or Serbia when it was under sanctions, or Arab countries after 9/11: All these different kinds of interesting border crossing stories are being collected into a performance that's now called 17 Border Crossings. So in a way it's a [culmination] of many different shows ... or the outtakes."
With a stripped-down set and a plot that isn't so much nonlinear as nonexistent, the one-man performance only tangentially resembles the rest of Phillips' oeuvre. What hasn't changed is the theme. For Phillips, it's still all about peering into the far corners of the world and engaging every part of himself in coming to grips with what he discovers. That's his hope for the audience, too.
"[The goal is] to look at the world from an international perspective, which doesn't happen enough in this country, especially in theater in this country," he says. "Just to look at the world as a whole unit and our place in it."