Robin Phillips’ career has always marched down three paths simultaneously: Performer; Writer; Producer. As a performer she is a singer, actress, and narrator. As a writer she is a journalist, playwright, and screenwriter -- and as a producer -- she creates plays, films, and cabaret.
Robin’s professional career began in the unlikely venue of Princess Grace’s “British Drama Theatrical Troupe” in Monte Carlo in 1976. There she played the wide-eyed ingénue opposite visiting British stage and film stars and even landed a role in film at Victorine Studios in Nice. What started as a lark among friends, quickly grew to consume her. She loved performing in front of an audience, and they loved her. What followed was a decade-long journey across Europe, studying with the greats at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Webber Douglas Academy in London, being coached by the finest voice masters in Bavaria, mastering fluent French and German along the way, performing continuously both as a singer and actress in Brussels, Monte Carlo, London. Of course, the fact that she was raised the daughter of a prominent American Diplomat in Europe, and was educated in Embassy schools, ensured she had the experience and confidence to direct her own career.
After that, she was lured to Australia to join a production company for what was promised to be the next advance in her professional achievements. Well, after giving it a good try, she was forced to admit that the company had been oversold to her, and that it had neither the resources nor the skill be help her move forward.
Chastened, but not bowed she returned to her roots in Washington DC to begin anew. Playing endlessly the sophisticated Senator’s wife in the Woolly Mammoth Theater, she honed her on-stage timing, and upgraded her acting skills to match her alluring voice, and sophistication. This natural elegance translated into becoming a much-admired fashion and style journalist for Washington Life, Quarante, The Magazine for the woman who has arrived, and Washington Entertainment. She loved the part of this job that fused the visual imagery of the magazine page, with the lively prose of an engaging text, all the while reflecting for her readers a world of beauty and grace, and through a relentless focus on social betterment, made a difference in the life of the city. Maybe she wasn’t a male Senator, bombasting from Capitol Hill, but she was a vital and responsible contributor to her city.
She also created and produced a six-week course for the Panache Modeling Agency that taught prospective models how to present themselves on video to visiting New York directors seeking new talent. Following these successes and ready to go back to explore her acting, she was thrust into an unwanted professional crisis. Not an unusual one, but one for which she was totally unprepared. She was rejected for parts she auditioned for. Confused and outraged, she reacted not by slinking away, or redoubling her efforts to scale the same wall, NO, she opted to grasp the reins and choose a new direction: writing, producing and starring in her own commercial theatrical shows. Way off Broadway -- with such titles as “Love Makes World Bank Go Round!” and “Selling: You Gotta Have Heart!” She produced “An evening in Vienna,” at the Mayflower Hotel before President Reagan’s entire Cabinet.
She also appeared as the on-screen Social Reporter for Convention Network at the DNC Convention. The Creative Director of the critically-acclaimed Le Neon, the French American Theater Company tapped Robin to play three roles: a French, a Spanish and a German cabaret singer in their `World Premiere of “Jules & Jim.” Robin ran off with the rave reviews:
“Jules & Jim? Jules & Gem! A corner of the stage is the perfect setting for the show’s gem, Robin Phillips. She is the reason to go to this play. Her singing in French and German shows the passage of time and place throughout the play.” – The Review Magazine
“Jules & Jim manages to cast a spell thanks to chanteuse Robin Phillips’ darkly romantic tone in her skillfully rendered, melancholy music.” –The Washington Times
Sitting backstage she knew she could write a better play. This is when her shows evolved from industrial to full blown stage plays. She then researched, wrote and produced a stage play, a musical review of the greatest French artistes of the 20th century: “Les Papillons de Nuit: The Music Halls of Paris, 1900-1960.” It was a smash hit, sold out, success. The reviews tell the story:
“Tracing the century in Paris for us, Phillips weaves the stories of Colette, Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier, Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf in a pastiche of heart-warming melodies and soul piercing song. Through her eyes, we travel back in time to relive those early cabaret days and yearn wistfully for the days we missed.”
-- Verna Kerans, Intermission Magazine
“(T)he Lyceum was transformed into a Parisian cabaret in Phillips’ elegantly scripted show…She not only has a voice (actually a range of vocal styles), she is a polished actress who sings beautifully.”
–Music Critic, Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post
“(T)he lilting voice of Robin Phillips creates a perfect atmosphere for the play. Phillips nearly steals the show…with her brooding love songs.” --Intermission Magazine
For Robin, the important thing was that by taking full control of the entire process, as producer, writer and performer, she could more fully than ever before experience the magic, the force, the beauty and the sheer thrill of the theater –- by having full creative control of every detail, she could fuse with her adoring audiences and together they were all enraptured in worlds beyond imagination. Yes, it was an enormous effort. Yes, it was expensive and time-consuming and at times it seemed both foolish and irrational, but it was done. And as Robin looks back at her life, it was right. Her next critically-acclaimed success was “Agatha SINGS!”
“Researched and scripted by Robin Phillips, who also plays the role of Christie “Agatha SINGS!” is a theatrical and musical tour de force…In her portrayal of four stages in Agatha Christie’s life, her acting is even more impressive than her singing.”
--Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post, October 18, 2001
“There is no other show in town remotely like “Agatha SINGS,” a rich array of drama, comedy, mystery and music...It communicates its fascinating story with power and elegance...(Christie) considered singing her true vocation. This gives Phillips an opportunity to season the show with some 30 vocal numbers, keyed to the plot and including opera, lieder, folk music in several languages and popular songs from two thirds of the 20th century…(a) musical and theatrical tour de force.”
--Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post, March 11, 2002
“Phillips possesses a crystal-clear voice and a facile ability with various languages and dialects. The overall effect is marvelously engaging...The expression ‘tour de force’ accurately describes Phillips’ mastery of various musical styles but it does not adequately capture the intimate nature of the exploration of her subject...it is a one-of-a-kind evening of theater.”
--Michael Toscano, The Washington Post, Nov-Dec 2002
After these successes, her personal life also thrived in this period, and financial problems that were once so daunting, were now easily manageable. But, as usual, in any long career in entertainment, stuff happens. In this case, it arrived in the form of a new challenge –a severe, temporary, viral, neurological, event. Perhaps a typical woman would bow politely to what appears to be inevitable, and gracefully stride off-stage-left, smiling through the cough while blowing kisses at a vanishing audience, but not Robin. She did what any Alpha female would do, she started again.
This time, reborn as a filmmaker. She would make a film. She would do the research. She would star in it. It must be one that was important, one that pressed into new ways of engaging the minds of an audience, with new innovative techniques, and one that would synthesize all she had learned up to then. And with film, she could reach an audience that would not be measured by the number of seats in the theater. Rather, one that could potentially be unimaginably huge. But before she could reach them, she had to have a product. And the product had to be good, -- really, good.
By late 2016, she had found her topic, she had renovated her lower-level theater, site of many theatrical and musical events for local charities, into a near professional video and film studio. So, with the script written, a competent film editor hired and trained, she was ready to create “O Mistress Mine: The Secrets, Disguises, Loves and Wives of the REAL Shake-spear!”
By Sept 2018, the film was finished. The facts checked and rechecked. The costuming and dialog perfected. The footnotes assembled, the research completed. And now, at this moment, she confronts the challenge of marketing a controversial film to an international audience. And must do so in the face of intense opposition from an entire industry, built on the great profits that are generated by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust located in Stratford-Upon-Avon. An organization which rests on the dubious claim that an illiterate commoner wrote the courtly plays of Shakespeare.
She is now ready to be that Alpha Woman who can successfully challenge the Stratford Birthplace Trust.
Robin Phillips, Member, National Press Club; Founding Member, National Speakers Association, DC Chapter (1983); Member, Women in Film and Video; Narrator/Living-Breathing-Subtitle for Opera Camerata in Washington.
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