Saturday, January 11, 2014

Playwright bio - Philip Anastassiou

Our final playwright from 2013 is Philip Anastassiou.

Philip Anastassiou
11th grade, Bergen County Academies
1) What inspired you to write Good News!?

Good News!, like a lot of my plays, is an absurdist farce, exploring materialism, wealth, and etiquette. I was definitely influenced by the aesthetic of playwrights I admired at the time (and still continue to love,) such as Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco. I was also fascinated by the idea of gallows humor and making an audience laugh at otherwise terribly depressing subjects. It was actually initially written for an annual student-run 24 Hour Play Festival at my high school that I helped produce several years ago, so it's also the product of a whole lot of fatigue and a whole lot of coffee.

2) You have won awards for your acting as well as your writing. Which do you prefer more: acting or writing?

I fell in love with theatre through performance first. It still is an extremely important part of me and I can't imagine ever letting go of it. However, since high school, I've become more intent on pursuing dramatic writing as a career. I'm currently an intern at the Off Broadway theatre company Playwrights Horizons, where I've been exposed to a huge amount of excellent (and not so excellent) plays by the young writers who are out and about living my dream as we speak. I've also had an invaluable glimpse at how new play development works at a professional level. This experience has greatly inspired me to follow writing to the next level and see where it takes me. Acting is enormously fun, but there is something exhilarating that can't accurately be put into words that comes with creating story. Writing gives me the opportunity to share my ideas and opinions with the world in a way that acting simply does not. Ideally, I'd like to be able to do both professionally and simultaneously. So basically, in a perfect world, I want to be Tracy Letts when I grow up.

3) You went to the Atlantic Acting School's Summer Teenage Ensemble program this past summer. What did you gain from this experience?

Through the sequential acting curriculum at the Bergen County Academies, I've been introduced to a few different schools of thought on performing. As a young actor, I'm still interested in experimenting with as many different techniques as possible and was attracted to this program because of Atlantic's own technique known as "practical aesthetics." It postulates that method acting is utter bull (for example, one needn't pretend to be Abraham Lincoln for the entirety of a filming, even when off-camera, to give a sincere performance) and what the actor must really expend their energy on is playing an action to achieve an objective despite obstacles. It's a modern spin off on Stanislavsky. I used to be very romantic with the idea of being method (whatever that means) and trying to put myself through similar conditions to somehow replicate the exact emotions that my characters were feeling in a play. This program really helped me realize what style of acting I prefer for myself and has simplified the process for me. 

4) Tell us a little about your responsibilities as co-artistic director of Studio 216, the student-run theatre company at Bergen County Academies.

I've been involved with my high school's student-run theatre company Studio 216 since freshman year. I became one of the two co-artistic directors the following year and have found the experience to be very worthwhile. Our mission is to provide the students of BCA with an environment where as artists they can explore, experiment, and showcase their work to the rest of our community. As everything we do is entirely student-produced, I help brainstorm and coordinate events for the future, manage our social media, design advertisements, and correspond with school administration while planning a show. The most recent example would be our 2013 Winter Playweek, where a student-written play was given a staged reading each day of the week during school hours. Anyone who was free during the same hour was welcome to see our daily performances for free. Ultimately, these responsibilities are shared between many of my friends who are also a part of Studio 216 and it has been a lot of fun over these past three years.

5) If you could have any super-human power, what would it be and why?

Flying would be pretty neat! Think of all the things you'd see! Then again, I guess that's what Google Maps is for. 

You can find Philip's bio, as well as bios for the other high school playwrights from 2013, on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival at