Before a recent rehearsal, I had the opportunity to sit down with Philip Hays at Studio 101. He is directing Classical Theatre Company's upcoming production of Alfred Jarry's UBU ROI. Walking into Studio 101, the first thing that struck me was the elaborate and large set. Even in its unfinished state, I could tell Philip Hays and Classical Theatre Company are in the process of creating something impressive and a theatrical experience that simply should not be missed. Sitting in sight of the expansive set, Philip Hays took the time to talk to me about his career, directing, and UBU ROI.
Me: How did you get started in theatre?
Philip Hays: I got into theatre when I was in middle school. No, well, I was in shows in elementary school. I wasn't really a class clown, but I was a teacher's pet. So, I got picked to be in a show when I was in first grade. I played the King Mole in this little song-and-dance routine. We were all moles, and I enjoyed it. I wasn't really involved through elementary school, but in middle school I had friends who were and wanted to get in theatre. I just kind of tagged along. By the time I got into high school, I was hooked. The rest is history. I just never stopped.
Me: At what point did you realize you wanted be involved in theatre professionally?
Philip Hays: I think it was in high school. I was one of the few people who decided I wanted to keep doing it in college, and I wanted to see if I could make a career out of it. I was pretty sure at that point that there was not much else I would have rather done.
Me: When did you become interested in directing?
Philip Hays: High school, again, was the first time I got to direct. I did a production of SALOME by Oscar Wilde because my teacher told me I couldn't. [Laughs] I was like, "Oscar Wilde's funny. Let's find something." And he said, "Oh, that's not a funny one. Let's find another one." And I said, "Well, why not?" So, I kind of got into it then, and I had that subversive instinct even then. I went to school in Saint Louis for a couple of years, and I ended up at University of Houston. I studied directing and got some opportunities to do it there. So, every couple years now in Houston I try my hand at it.
Me: Recently Houston audiences have seen you on stage as Dog in DOG ACT and as Leonard Lightfoot in LOVE GOES TO PRESS. What is the transition like from actor to director?
Philip Hays: There's a lot more to think about. I enjoying acting because I learn my lines, I figure out where I go, I do my work for me, and I follow the instructions. As a director, I have to create the instructions, and I have to decide many more things. And I think the biggest thing is communication. You have to [Pauses], you know, as an actor you communicate with the audience and you communicate with your director, but a director has to communicate with everybody. Everybody's different. Everybody has a different process. Everybody has a different kind of style and approach to things. And you have to be able to tap into that and figure out what it is people are bringing and how you can communicate with them to get the result that we're after.
Me: What attracted you to direct UBU ROI?
Philip Hays: I've been a fan of this play since I was in college. I discovered it sometime in 2001 or 2. It was part of the curriculum in a theatre history class I was taking because it's really a kind of groundbreaking play as far as vulgarity and breaking with concepts of stylistic continuity, realism, and classicism. It kind of throws all that out the window. It's sometimes called the first absurdist play, or the first surrealist play. So, I discovered it then, and I thought it was amazing. It's great, and [Alfred] Jarry, the author of it, is a really, really interesting guy who kind of lived his art. He wasn't just an artist who created things and went home and lived a normal life. He was an artist at every moment of his life. So, I enjoyed the play because it's funny, dark, kind of twisted, and it has this kind of nasty, gross view of reality that for some reason kind of got me excited. So, I did a school report on it in college. Then, I found other people who knew about when I came to Univeristy of Houston. We would always talk about some day we're going to do this. And then, one day, JJ [John Johnston], of Classical Theatre Company, said, "Hey, I'm thinking about putting this play in one of my seasons, and I want you involved." It was serendipity because it just so happened that it was something I always wanted to do, and I didn't even have to pitch it to him. He was already ready for it.