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Arts & Ideas: Q&A with JaMario Stills, Founder and Artistic Director of Phase Eight Theater Company

Arts & Ideas: Q&A with JaMario Stills, Founder and Artistic Director of Phase Eight Theater Company

January 15, 2018 // by Nan Kavanaugh

Jacksonville has a growing theater scene, and Phase Eight Theater Company made a splash with its debut in 2016. In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King and his incredible work, MOCA Jacksonville has partnered with Phase Eight to host a performance of MLK Boulevard on Thursday, January 18. We asked Founder and Artistic Director, JaMario Stills to share with us the scoop on Phase Eight and the company's upcoming performance.

JaMario Stills Portrait
Photo courtesy of JaMario Stills

Tell us about your journey founding Phase Eight Theater Company? Why settle here in Jacksonville?

I am a native of Jacksonville, so the growth of this place will always be a priority for me. Our community has been fortunate to develop some of the most brilliant performers in the nation. The arts programs here foster a great level of excellence from all levels of education. When a city has that type of artistic legacy, it makes a great deal of sense, to me, to preserve it. Creating opportunities for those in theater, in a place like Jacksonville, has shown to be a valuable asset.

In Phase Eight's Mission statement you use the phrase "Pushing the Boundaries of Performance." What do you mean by that?

Pushing the boundaries to us is an affirming statement that reminds us to always go the extra mile. When we speak of pushing boundaries, we mean with our play topics, our marketing, our acting and our productions. We don't intentionally aim to be provacative. We aim to continually raise the bar for ourselves as a performing arts organization.

There is an educational component to your theater. Why?

We initially started off as an acting school. Once we felt empowered to share the type of work we did in class with the community, the focus shifted. Now that we've began to establish our major purpose as an aspiring regional theater company, we want to get back to the basics of our art form. As a classically trained actor, I've experienced the importance of advancing your skills as a performer. Training as an ensemble enriches the depth of work that we produce.

How do you go about choosing your plays? What made you choose MLK Boulevard?

The plays that are chosen are based around themes that we view as appropriate for the cultural landscape of our city. MLK Boulevard was written by a local playwright, Julian Robertson, who now attends The Julliard School of Drama. Julian is a product of Jacksonville's Northside of town, and this piece is a commentary of that particular area. Given our mission, Julian's play was a great fit for us.

What do you hope the audience takes away from seeing MLK Boulevard?

I want people to walk away with the understanding that it is the circumstances that drive the results of certain communities, not the people. Our play is the story of a young man who dreams of attaining more, but he's met with individuals who alter his life forever.

To purchase tickets to Thursday's performance of MLK Boulevard in the MOCA Theater, click here.










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