Drama Program graduate Philip Santos Schaffer (pictured above), Class of 2013, is currently performing with The Living Theatre in the world premiere of No Place to Hide at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center in New York City. The Living Theatre, now in its 67th season, is the oldest experimental theater group producing in the United States. Schaffer’s transition from drama student to working actor and playwright has been nearly seamless.
Schaffer, a California native, was introduced to the writings of Julian Beck, the founder of The Living Theater, when he was still in high school. “I was immediately struck by how brilliantly Julian phrased all of my dreams, hopes, and struggles;” he said, “his description of The Living Theatre as an anarchist, pacifist theater and a performing tribe encapsulated so well what I wanted to accomplish in my own life in the theater.”
He began typing up his favorite passages of Beck’s diary. “It became clear to me,” Schaffer said, “that Julian Beck’s text needed to be performed out loud. This led me to begin the beautiful and painful process of turning assorted quotes into a functioning script.”
Under the guidance of Hofstra Drama Professor Cindy Rosenthal, Schaffer worked on his script for The Life of the Theater throughout his time on campus. By senior year, he was ready to start rehearsals. He presented The Life of the Theatre in May 2013 as part of the Drama Program’s Student Rep, which gives students the opportunity to stage their original projects for an audience. In the audience were Julian Beck’s partner in life and work, Judith Malina, and The Living Theatre’s associate artistic director Brad Burgess. They were impressed by the play and its message that The Living Theatre continues to live on through a new generation.
Schaffer was invited to join The Living Theater after he graduated. Beyond that, Burgess and Professor Rosenthal brought The Life of the Theatre to the attention of Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, who agreed to help support a backers’ audition for Schaffer’s play – a rare opportunity for someone so new to the business. On June 19, 2013, Schaffer and his Hofstra peers performed The Life of the Theatre for industry professionals at 440 Studios in New York City.
Conversations continue between Schaffer and Burgess with potential producers at university venues and performance festivals across the country. In the meantime, Schaffer is living his dream with two of his Life of the Theatre cast members, Hofstra graduates Max Baudisch and Stefanie Harris. All three are featured in the cast of Judith Malina’s No Place to Hide, through this Saturday, March 29. For more information, visit www.livingtheatre.org.