Phillip Brown: Changing the World & Students’ Lives Through Theater

Kathy Smith
Phillip Brown, Upper School Theater Director, teaches what he loves. His expansive professional life writing, directing and performing in theater informs every aspect of his teaching. "I love bringing real world experiences into the classroom," he says, "not just sharing principles, but demonstrating how those principles are applied in real time, in real life performances, and in productions that I'm currently involved in."
Most recently, Phillip collaborated with Karl Dice Raw Jenkins to present The Last Jimmy, a hardcore hip hop musical about mass incarceration. "I was excited to use my creative gifts to tell a story that could shed light on the predatorial justice system, and the responsibility of people of color, specifically at-risk black males, to take back their power—to exercise their self-will to make good choices vs. bad choices that will steer them out of and navigate around the injustices."
As an educator, Phillip parlays his experience with The Last Jimmy and his recent play, Henry Box Brown, being produced at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, to connect with theater students both about performance art and about current issues. "When I come back from an interview with Sway in the Morning, a popular radio show, and I walk through the Shipley doors, students say, 'Mr. Brown! I just heard your interview on Sway,' there is an immediate connection that translates into the classroom. They see that I understand the culture that they're in. And hopefully, I provide them with an opportunity to use their artistic gifts to fight the injustices of the world and to be relevant to their peer group and to their generation."
Each year, a tremendous excitement surrounds the Upper School musical. For some students, their biggest concern is what role they will play. "That takes up so much emotion and air space for a time," smiles Phillip. Over time, the conversation eventually transitions to colleges, and eventually, to agents and headshots. "It goes from the Upper School stage, to the conservatory, to the professional industry," says Phillip. "To be a part of the lives of my students to that degree, and at the most pivotal points in their lives, is remarkably rewarding to me. I'm so proud to see them own the creative gifts that I've believed they've had since I first met them."

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.