Spotlight Series: Meet Los Angeles-Based Playwright Phil Olson


Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett

Registered Critic, Writer, Publicist



This Spotlight focuses on Phil Olson who was born and raised in Edina, Minnesota before he moved to Los Angeles. He has won over 30 playwriting and theatre awards with his 16 published plays that have had over 400 productions in seven countries around the world, with ten of his plays published by Samuel French/Concord Theatricals. This past Christmas, his new play, A Twisted Christmas Carol, had its world premieres in eight cities, concurrently, across the U.S. including a production by Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in NoHo. But what’s he up to now with such a vast theatrical quarantine in place?


After graduating from Dartmouth, Phil Olson tried out for the Chicago Bears. After his "summer with the Bears," he went on to receive an MBA from The University of Chicago and pursued a business career while writing stage and screenplays. So far, he has written 16 published plays that have had over 400 productions in seven countries around the world, with ten of those plays published by Samuel French/Concord Theatricals. His screenplay, Sioux Falls, is currently under option. And he has sold two screenplays and script doctored three screenplays that were produced. Phil also went through all four levels of The Groundlings, writing and performing with many talented people including Maya Rudolph.

Phil's play Mom's Gift was set to open at the Western Ontario Drama League Festival in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, on March 20, but was canceled due to COVID-19. The Western Ontario Drama League communicated the cancellation with the cast and crew, and since the entire Festival isn’t taking place, there are no plans to bring back the production.

 

So what's he up to now, I asked. "I wrote a new play and will soon be doing a Zoom reading of it with five actors. If that goes well, I'll do more Zoom readings with theaters around the country. For me, the quarantine has been a good time to write. I'm sort of a hermit anyway, so the shutdown hasn't affected me that much other than motivate me to work a little harder at writing. I would just encourage all the playwrights to keep writing, and don't let the shutdown discourage you. We'll get through this. But it certainly saddens me that theaters are dark right now. It encourages me to see actor and director friends of mine do live Facebook feeds, blogs, and Zoom rehearsals to get through this. The creativity I've seen in using social media to continue with the arts is a shining light."

Phil and I both send a big Thank You to everyone who supports live theatre, and we ask that everyone please continue to support your local theaters so they can remain open to welcome you back when the "Stay at Home" quarantine is over. After all, they need your support now more than ever.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Shari Barrett
Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in local secondary schools, working in marketing for several studios, writing, directing, producing, and performing in productions for several non-profit theaters, Shari now dedicates her time and focuses her skills as an independent publicist to "get the word out" about smaller theaters throughout the Los Angeles area.

As a founding member of the LA Stage Alliance Leadership Council Task Force, she and reps from theaters throughout the city worked together to articulate a vision for the theatre community of Greater Los Angeles.

Shari has received recognition from the City of Los Angeles for her dedication of heart and hand to the needs of friends, neighbors and fellow members of society for her devotion of service to the people of Los Angeles, and is honored to serve the theatre world in her hometown.

Currently she is the Publicist and a member of the Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse.