Big Apple says yes to 'Good Morning, Miss America'
Theater success doesn't follow a particular script. Just ask Phyllis Yes.
Yes, a well-known Portland artist and former Lewis & Clark College art professor, wrote her first play that made the stage at CoHo Theatre in March 2018. It was a big deal to see "Good Morning, Miss America," about a woman taking care of aging parents from afar, make it to a stage. "It's kind of exhilarating to have this dream, and see it come true," she said at the time.
Then, Yes met a Luther College alumni representative, Katie O'Regan, a longtime theater director/producer and actor who also runs a theater company, Sacred Noise Society. The two talked about how Yes might support a scholarship for her alma mater in Decorah, Iowa — and, at the same time, O'Regan heard all about the Yes play, and it intrigued her.
So, "Good Morning, Miss America" was staged in Decorah, not far from Yes' hometown of Austin, Minnesota. And, now, O'Regan has set up a run at the Theater 80 St. Marks, an Off-Broadway theater in New York City, Oct. 2-12, and then possibly will arrange a national tour (and a sequel).
It's been quite a whirlwind for Yes, 78.
"It was meant to be," she said. "Quite a miracle.
"It's taken off on a life of its own. It's a blast."
Oh, and Gert Boyle, her friend and former president of Columbia Sportswear, provided a "generous" amount of money to put the play on in New York City.
O'Regan can't say enough good things about the play and Yes.
"I had just lost my mother when I met her, and this wonderful woman Phyllis wrote this amazing play about end of life," O'Regan said.
O'Regan, another Midwest native, said it was a great play to bring to the big city. O'Regan has directed about 70 plays and played parts in about 90. She'll play Jane, a character patterned after Yes, who works through family issues to care for her aging parents.
"She's so brilliant, because a great play is meant to be seen and not read," she said. "The brilliance in her writing is she wrote a play that had to be staged for you to really get the essence of it.
"She's a great artist, and art translates. I have so much respect for her. She's been doing art her whole life, and she's a rock star and wild at heart."
Yes' original version of "Good Morning, Miss America" was about an Oregon woman (Jane) taking care of her aging parents in Minnesota from afar, and the inherent struggles of dealing with people who need help — without much help from her young sister. It's pretty much a true story, she said, and "it's very much about love."
Artists Repertory Theatre named "Good Morning, Miss America" one of its semifinalists in the "Table/Room/Stage" competition in 2016. CoHo staged it, and the play also received some readings and the Iowa staging.
In New York City, O'Regan plays Jane, equity actor Henry Packer plays stepfather Lou and Gloria Jung plays the mother, Doris. Other actors play siblings. The play has been tweaked, but the story remains the same.
Yes taught at Western Oregon and Oregon State universities and, after moving to Portland in 1978, she taught painting and drawing at Lewis & Clark College for 26 years. She also served as chair of the art department and dean of arts and humanities on Palatine Hill.
Yes showed about 140 exhibits of personal work. One of her famous works was painting her Porsche to proudly display her feminism, during a phase of wanting to "feminize" objects with her painting.
She bought a 1967 Porsche 911S, and painted it, using an airbrush and hand-adorned lace rosettes and silver-based color paints. She shipped it to New York for an art opening and then drove it back as a traveling exhibit. She called it her "PorShe."
Eventually she sold the car to a man who presented it at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance at Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, and it won a people's choice award.
Now, her latest work hits the stage in New York City. During the Oct. 4 show, a large group of Yes' former Lewis & Clark students will be in attendance.
"I brought all my heart and effort in bringing it to New York because of her," O'Regan said. "It needs to be told, and she deserves to be recognized for it."
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