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Off Broadway

17 Border Crossings Flies Above the Walls

17 Border Crossings Flies Above the Walls

It’s a one man border crossing Times seventeen, giving a lesson in curiosity, acceptance, and adventure. The passenger, as he is so labeled by creator/performer/scenic designer Thaddeus Phillips (Barrow Street’s Capsule 33) takes us on a journey with a suitcase full of loving care, humor, and invention, jettisoning us back to our own memories of numerous similar border crossings and a few not mentioned. We get this empathetic and detailed voyage all from the comfort of our red cushiony seat at the New York Theatre Workshop, where 17 Border Crossings is lifting off right on time into this conflicted time in history.  The play, as directed with thoughtful attention by Tatiana Mallarino (NYTW’s El Conquistador!) has been making the rounds, hopping with determination about the globe with even more border crossings than the seventeen mentioned. It makes complete sense, as this captivatingly creative look into the walls and lines that separate cultures and countries is a much needed lesson in tolerance and loving acceptance. A lesson that should be required by all at this time of heightened fear mongering and immigrant paranoia.

5- Thaddeus Phillips in 17 BORDER CROSSINGS at New York Theatre Workshop, Photo by Johanna Austin
Thaddeus Phillips. Photo by Johanna Austin.

With little help from all those technological advances in theatrical design and projection, 17 Border Crossings sets forth encumbered carrying with it an assortment of people, places, and passports to engage and identify with. The startling strong and focused lighting by David Todaro is smart and low-tech for the most part, utilizing a movable strip of lighting with some adjustable desk laps filling out the form, they, alongside the impressively wise sound design by Robert Kaplowitz (NYTW’s Hadestown) magically find a way to tell a story with such intimacy and strength, that each of the seventeen crossings have a carry-on bag of different textures, qualities, and spirit. The details, courtesy of some fine work by dramaturg Patrick Kealey, have a surprising emotional weight far beyond the allowance, keeping you powerfully engaged and heavily invested.  From the historical lineage of the passport to the dynamic and meaningful ending of Phillips’ journey, his 17 Border Crossings have a spirit that makes you want to pack your bags and fly far and wide across the globe, experiencing all the cultural uniqueness and shared personal experiences that makes travel, and this play, such a rare joy and an airborne enlightenment.

2 - Thaddeus Phillips in 17 BORDER CROSSINGS at New York Theatre Workshop, Photo by Johanna Austin
Thaddeus Phillips in NYTW’s 17 Border Crossings. Photo by Johanna Austin.

Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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