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Savvy Secrets of Successful Mistresses

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Lisa Faith Phillips
July 3, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Writer, performer, producer.

What is your show about?
A wildly entertaining self-help seminar, with a riding crop, maracas and witty original songs such as “How to Be a Bad Girl” and “The Fellatio Tango,” Lisa as Dr. Faith, with Ellen Mandel as Mistress Ethel on piano, show how to be “a powerful woman, one with a whip, one who asks for a raise, one who leans in.”

Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
Born in Columbus, Ohio while my father was at Ohio State Law School, I was raised in Findlay, Ohio, a test site for cable television and a great place to grow up, 49 miles due south of Toledo, Ohio. I have a BA in Economics and French from Wellesley College, a Certificate from Institut D'Etudes Politiques in Paris, France, and a M.Sc. in Economics from the London School of Economics. Ellen Mandel, my collaborator and composer, has a philosophy degree from Harvard.

What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
I have been a participating artist with theaters in New York (including the Cherry Lane Theatre and Manhattan Punchline), London, Barcelona and Findlay, Ohio (where I wrote and performed my first show in the 3rd grade and have been putting on shows ever since.) I have done lots of stand-up and one-woman shows, including Faith in Love and How to Be Bad Girl, at Joe's Pub, Cornelia Street Cafe, The Duplex and Don't Tell Mama. Sued for my last show 7 1/2 Habits of Highly Effective Mistresses, I wrote a solo show All-Nude College-Girl Revue or Why I Can't Pass the Vetting, which received 5 stars and Best of the DC Capital Fringe in 2012. My first full-length play At All Times opened the Director's Festival and my second All-Nude College-Girl Revue had a sold-out run at Soho's Synchronicity Space before moving to the Samuel Beckett Theatre on 42nd St. Growing up I co-wrote and starred in The Student Show, on local Ohio cable TV show, and was in Mame, Cabaret and Spoonriver Anthology in summer stock at the Fort Findlay Playhouse. I worked as a stripper to pay for graduate school at the London School of Economics and that was some role! I helped start a drama society at graduate school in London where my favorite roles were Wendy in Peter Pan and Lucky in Waiting for Godot.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
I had been writing and performing funny solo shows and plays for other actors, and felt next I wanted to write a musical comedy with original music. So I asked a comedian friend if he knew a pianist and he raved about Ellen Mandel. I went to meet her and was a bit intimidated. She had gone to Harvard and had composed music for theater, dance and films as well as written beautiful songs with original lyrics and set poems of such poets as Yeats and cummings to music. But immediately we hit it off and our collaboration and rehearsals are filled with laughter. We did our first show at Cornelia Street Café on Valentine’s Day 2000 and have been working together ever since.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Audra McDonald?
Maggie Smith. She is an inspired character actress. Although I have tapped into the power of the female sexuality in my shows, I always felt that deep down I was just a funny little old lady waiting to get out.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Yes. The theater allows us to talk and explore ideas in a safe environment. Humor allows us to say things we might not be able to say otherwise and laughter is a great solace.