Friday, August 28, 2015

Five Questions for Samantha Phillips-Norton, Actor & Fight Choreographer

We are happy to have Samantha Phillips-Norton teaching Theatre Appreciation for the Division of Theatre & Dance this fall while Professor Krupp is on sabbatical. Sam is a regular collaborator with the division. She taught Stage Combat for theatre students and was the fight choreographer for last fall’s BU Players production of Macbeth. We asked her five questions.

Fight rehearsal for Macbeth choreographed by Sam Norton.
How did you first become interested in theatre?
I first became interested in theatre in Rota Spain where my Father was stationed. My parents had a wild pack of friends, both military and native, who jumped on the idea to start a local community theatre. My Father was the leading force in this endeavour since he had more "theatrical training" than the others, meaning he had once dressed in drag to do a radio play when stationed in Antartica.  I remember the sensation of being bewitched watching my Mother and Father performing Shakespeare.

What is your favorite thing about theatre?
My favorite thing about theatre is Samuel Tayor Coleridge's coined phrase, "suspension of disbelief"- (1817 Biographia Literania): "[...] to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."  There is nothing like that moment we find ourselves 'inside' the story. It's a very elusive victory for the actor and their audience.

What's one of your favorite shows you have ever worked on?
I was cast in the American Repertory Theatre's national tour of Shlemiel the First. It was my first time working with an ensemble of real pros., Robert Brustein, Hankus Netsky, Robert Israel, Catherine Zuber, and David Gordon. David Gordon directed the musical to the break-neck tempos of Klezmer music. In addition to understudying the two female leads, my job was to replace, without interruption, any 'wise men' who left the stage with a stunt dummy. I loved the speed and precision of the exchanges. Also exciting was the opportunity to perform the lead female part for a weekend and being cast in the Broadway(bound), production.

What’s one show you would love to work on someday? 
Mrs. Peachum in Brecht's Threepenny Opera, (hint, hint). Any play Mark Rylance is in, (like his upcoming production, Nice Fish) or ANYTHING Dame Judi Dench is doing- like The Winter's Tale at the Garrick theatre in London. It's not so much the role that I desire, it's the dream of working with extremely talented artists.

If you were a fruit of vegetable, what would it be? Why?
If I were a fruit it would have to be the banana. As a banana, kids love you. It's also one of the fruits they often have a hard time pronouncing- which can be funny and endearing. Grown-ups think you're funny. They use your skin for pratfalls.The polar opposite of the popular banana is my favorite vegetable-the brussel sprout. It is one of the most hated vegetables in America. I am the brussel sprout. Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside with a surprisingly nutty flavor. Even the most ardent loather can be converted when they pay attention to we're prepared. We are secretly delicious.

Samantha Phillips-Norton holds an MFA in Opera and Theatre from the University of Maryland College Park, and is an Affiliate Artist with The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.  Recently at BTE, Samantha played Jean in Good People, Mrs. Billiams in A Very Special Christmas Special and the Musician/Judge in The Merchant of Venice.

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