Aubyn Philabaum is one of the original InViolets, a proud Yale grad and Marilyn Monroe re-incarnated with aspirations to be the next Ronald Reagan. (If that doesn’t pique your interest to read further, we don’t know what will!:)
InViolet: How do you identify in the theater world?
Aubyn: Actor, Collaborator, Lover of.
InViolet: You are one of our original members. How have you seen the company change over time?
Aubyn: The company has gone from a group of young, passionate, unsure but driven artists to an expanding group of mature, grounded, passionate artists with a lot to say. I am continuously blown away by not only the desire, but the overwhelming “HAVE TO” attitude of the members today, to create change through storytelling. This past election and the state of current affairs has driven every member in both individual and communal ways to take a stand. From the post-election Second Monday Social that focused on supporting each other during this confusing time, to our One Night Stand “Post It” Plays ( #invioletinsolidarity ), to company members gathering at marches, to so much more.
And the babies! We have so many precious InViolet babies now! Like, actual babies. I want to nibble them all.
InViolet: Do you have a favorite InViolet memory you can share?
Aubyn: Oh gosh, so many. Shucking corn with a (then) stranger Megan Hart at my first retreat, the entire rehearsal process of Melanie Maras’ Kiss Me On The Mouth (led by fierce women- Melanie, Angela Razzano, Sara Van Beckum), singing “Sweet Caroline” with the whole company to celebrate the birth of company member Annie Carlson’s beautiful baby Caroline, beers with Bernardo Cubria post-rehearsals for This Is Fiction, stealing cigarette breaks with Michelle David (Chicken), sobbing through the first read of Bixby Elliot’s “Sommerfugl” with Peter Graham at retreat, Angela’s dancing- anytime.
InViolet: When you were 8, you were convinced you were Marilyn Monroe reincarnated, and determined to become the next Ronald Reagan. Whaaaat? You gotta tell us what was going on.
Aubyn: Yeah, I was a busy little 8 year old. Or..imaginative. So the Marilyn thing- we weren’t allowed candy in my house growing up, so when I found a roll of fruit flavored tums I ate the whole thing in about 5 seconds, they were so sweet and delicious. I got scared that I’d poisoned myself, and my little friend told me that Marilyn died of a drug overdose. (I’d also recently learned about past lives, so was constantly searching for a sign of my own). The tums was my sign, and Marilyn and I both being actresses…well, I’m sure you can see the connection. Clear as day.
I was also the President of my student body in elementary, which, at that age, just meant I led the morning’s assembly – I stood on the cafeteria stage and led the school in the national anthem and various songs, etc. But since I was already on my way to fame…see this connection? Again, clear. As. Day. Like Ronald, I was going to be a famous actor and POTUS. (With a different platform, of course. :))
InViolet: You went to Yale for grad school. How was that whole experience?
Aubyn: Yale was a dream. I was allowed to be solely an artist for 3 years! I worked among some of the top professionals in our field and was challenged and motivated and inspired, daily. One of the greatest gifts Yale teaches its actors is to honor the unique self, and not only honor, but really flesh out what makes each individual unique. The professors help cultivate the light inside every actor to shine as bright as all the stars in the sky. I mean, I don’t walk around shining beams of light out of my eyeballs everyday- I struggle a lot and have been working hard these last few years on shedding the notion that I need to make myself like everyone else in Hollywood. But sometimes lessons we are taught take years to sink in. This one is finally showing up for me.
InViolet: You are an LA girl now. Thankfully we’ve stolen you back several times to do plays with us in NYC since you’ve moved, but we still miss you! How’s life different for you out there?
Aubyn: Oof. I never thought I would be called an LA person. I miss NYC everyday, and speak of it often. LA is….fiiiiiiiiine. It is easy. And by that I mean, living here is easy. The weather is easy. Grocery shopping is easy. I can hike into the mountains IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY in the middle of the day. But you know, it’s also Hollywood. Which is both magical and exhausting. Sometimes I wish I could go to a coffee shop or a party and meet someone who is a chemical engineer or a 3rd grade teacher or a plumber, get to know people who spend their days in ways different from me. But I have been very lucky- I met some INCREDIBLE people as soon as I landed who are grounded and kind and make me laugh and remind me to leave my apartment. Aaaaand, I am grateful that I have an artistic home (and the most amazing friends I call family) in NYC to go back to.
InViolet: We’re so proud of how you’ve taken the reins in your career and created your own projects. What are you working on now?
Aubyn: Thank you!! This last year I’ve spent co-writing a 1/2-hour comedy with one of my best friends of 20 years. We met in high school, and then both attended Boston University to study theater. She is a phenomenal writer and director. We were constant collaborators back then, and it feels so good to be back working with her again! We are so proud of the television show we have created. It is a show about women, for women- nah scratch that- it’s for everyone, but it honors women. You know, comedically. We also just shot a short, based off of the TV show. It is a proof of concept for the show, using the main character and themes from the show. I star in it. It is currently in post but I am so excited to share with you all when it is finished! I also shot a series a few months ago that was a blast, called Relevant. See link below for episodes.
InViolet: Depression has played a part in your life and work. Is that something you’d like to discuss? You talk about how the stigma against mental illness needs to change. What can we all do to help make that happen?
Aubyn: Yes, it’s played a huge part in my adult life. In my 20’s and into my early 30’s I was deeply ashamed and embarrassed, I tried to hide my depression. I thought it meant I was crazy or unstable or different. The more I started to share, the more I realized how not alone I was.
1 in 5 adults in America alone suffer from mental illness every year, whether mild depression or something more debilitating. That is a LOT of people. We need to be making it more of a topic of discussion, and not be so afraid of what it might MEAN about a person. Often those suffering hide, or worse- harm themselves or others. I think the most basic thing we can ALL do, is listen more. Stop, breathe, and listen to our loved ones, listen to those around us. There might be someone in a lot of pain, needing help, either scared or embarrassed to ask for it, or completely unaware that they are in need. Compassion compassion compassion.
InViolet: You come from quite a creative family. How has growing up in that environment shaped your own path?
Aubyn: My Mom was a potter and also wrote educational children’s books. Dad is a glassblower. My parents’ community of artists would often gather at our home, to sketch, talk politics, watch bball, eat, drink, make music. Lots of music. Dad on trumpet, Mom and her piano, my brother on guitar, some of the other guys would break out a harmonica or whatever, and jam. Those gatherings were powerful learning experiences for me, because they were about being free, about letting go and being silly and open and vulnerable and trying things that were out of your element—we had reclusive artists singing Louis Armstrong or picking up an instrument foreign to them- people taking chances for the sake of joy.
I think also being witness to my parent’s unwavering dedication to their individual art has certainly shaped me. I have and continue to be a student of my craft, always in awe of the impact of storytelling. And I am grateful I always was and continue to be, 100% supported by my family. Not only my parents and brother, but my whole extended family-I have a lot of amazing cheerleaders in my corner. Because of them, I never thought twice about pursuing acting. It is in my blood, and they honor that.
InViolet: You’ve mentioned that working on Bixby Elliot’s SOMMERFUGL changed your life. How so? (PS- you were fantastic in it!)
Aubyn: Thank you! I hope to have the privilege to speak those words again someday. It changed my life…in so many ways. I entered that rehearsal room believing I knew a lot. Believing that because I was a liberal, a self-professed humanitarian, that I was open, void of judgment, aware of the ways of the world. We had so many incredible conversations during rehearsals and wow was a mirror brought right to my face. I learned about spectrums. I learned that I, like most of society, have a hard time comprehending anything unless it has a label, fits into a box. And I am not just speaking of my understanding of the trans community. This realization opened me up to so much more. Really seeing my own racism. Really seeing my own sexism. Really seeing my choices, my judgments, my fears, where those all stemmed from…I mean, I am still wading through a lot of this and everyday I find something else. Work in progress. But seriously, compassion, compassion, compassion. The world needs more of it.
For my role in the play, I had to tap into a love so deep, so pure, that nothing would stand in it’s way- I myself live in fear of loving this deeply. Fear of the pain that might result from it. But this story, Bixby’s telling of it, taught me that sharing this kind of a love is more powerful than any emotion like fear or pain. And how glorious, to be able to live that! I wish for all of us, to share a love and understanding like Grete and Lily had.
InViolet: What’s next for you?
Aubyn: Getting this TV show made, making a load of money, breathing, laughing, traveling more. Not necessarily in that order.
IMDb: http://www.imdb.me/ aubynphilabaum
Philabaum Glass Gallery and Studio: http://www.philabaumglass.com/