Phillip Fazio Creates a Magical Place for People To Play

DD Artist Profile Series – Phillip Fazio Creates a Magical Place for People To Play

Phillip Fazio is Duluth Playhouse Producing Artistic Director. Photo submitted.

Phillip Fazio, Duluth Playhouse Producing Artistic Director, recalled a turning point in his life. “My Aunt took me to see the national tour of ‘Peter Pan’ starring Cathy Rigby when I was about six years old. To say that it was a life-changing experience would be a massive understatement. When the performance ended, I had decided I was going to spend the rest of my life doing theatre.”

He recalled how, later in his life, theater also became a refuge for him. “When I was growing up, I often felt like I did not belong in the environments I inhabited. I had different interests from a lot of the kids my age, and I often felt like an outsider. The place where I always knew I could be my true authentic self was at the theatre.”

12-year-old Phillip Fazio gives the curtain speech before his backyard production of “Cinderella”

Faziio was born and raised in Tempe, Arizona. “My family’s history in Arizona dates back over a hundred years, with my great grandparents moving to the area when it was still a territory in the early 1900s,” he noted.

After high school, he attended Boston Conservatory, where he earned a BFA in Musical Theatre with an emphasis on directing. After graduating, he began a three-year contract as an Artist in Residence at​ The​ Phoenix Theatre​ Company​ where he directed, acted, and taught at the Arizona School for the Arts.

After completing his contract, he moved to New York City and began working as a freelance director for almost ten years. During that time, he directed and assisted directed productions in NYC, as well as regionally in several other cities.

In 2020, he graduated from Penn State University with an MFA in Directing. At Penn State, he was mentored by award-winning director Susan H. Schulman.

“Susan directed the Broadway revival of “The Sound of Music” in the late 90s, and when I was working on the show last fall, Susan was an incredible resource. I reached out to her for advice on several occasions, and her influence was very present in the Playhouse production.”

Famed theatre director Susan H. Schulman is a mentor to Phillip Fazio. Photo submitted.

As Fazio was finishing up his MFA at Penn State, he started applying for several Artistic Director positions. Duluth Playhouse was one of several organizations to which he applied.

He said, “In December 2019, I was invited to visit Duluth for a final in-person interview. Even though there had just been a blizzard, and my Arizona bones rattle when it dips below 30 degrees, I was immediately charmed by the city and the wonderful people living here.”

He added, “I was deeply impressed by the work that was currently being done and stunned by the amount of growth the organization had experienced over the last 20 years. As I was getting a tour of the NorShor Theatre during my visit, I remember thinking how lucky I was to be up for a job at such a fantastic place with so much promise for the future.”

Since starting at the Playhouse, Fazio has directed several productions, including “The Sound of Music,” “Kinky Boots,” “Into the Woods” “Ragtime,” and “Footloose.”

Alyson Enderle as Maria with the von Trapp children performing “Do-Re-Mi” in “The Sound of Music” at the Playhouse. Director Phillip Fazio. Photo submitted.

Fazio noted. “I am constantly amazed by all the incredible talent in the Twin Ports arts community. It is astonishing that there are so many brilliant artists and phenomenal arts organizations in an area of our population size. I have always been and will always be an advocate for the arts. The better we all do, the more people in the community will want to incorporate attending arts events into their routine. The more art we all create, the more word will continue to spread that the Twin Ports is an incredible destination for a fulfilling artistic experience. “

Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Baker go “Into the Woods” at the Duluth Playhouse. Director Phillip Fazio. Photo submitted.

“Participating in the arts can be a magnificently powerful experience, but it must be welcoming, safe, and inclusive. As a leader of an arts organization, I feel a deep responsibility to create a magical, joyous place for people to play, watch, and learn. I honestly have no idea who or where I’d be if theatre hadn’t become a part of my life. I do know this though, I’d definitely be a lot less happy than I am.”

“When I took this job, I said my goal for the Playhouse over the next 20 years was to bring the same artistic and professional growth that Christine Seitz brought over the last 20 years,” he said. “I believe our 24/25 season is a continued elevation of the work we’ve been doing and I cannot wait to bring it to life with everyone.”

Playhouse cast of “Annie” singing about the glories of “NYC.” Director Phillip Fazio. Photo submitted.

“Peter and the Starcatcher”

Fazio said, “Peter and the Starcatcher" is a show that has been near and dear to my heart ever since I saw the Broadway production over 10 years ago. I love how clever the creators are with the backstories for the iconic characters in “Peter Pan.’ As a director, the invitation to use imaginative storytelling techniques to bring the play to life is something that I find supremely appealing. Plus, I fell in love with theatre while watching a production of ‘Peter Pan,’ so it feels like a fitting full circle moment to return to this story so many years later. I hope audiences leave the show thinking about the value of found family and the power we all possess to shape our own destiny.”

Information “Peter and the Starcatcher”
A play by Rick Elice
Music by Wayne Barker
Based on the Novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

From the Playhouse website: “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a wildly theatrical adaptation, upending the classic story of the ‘Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up.’

Creating a clever backstory for Peter Pan and all his friends, this tale explores the depths of greed and the bonds of friendship.  From marauding pirates and jungle tyrants to unwilling comrades and unlikely heroes, “Peter and the Starcatcher” playfully explores the world of make-believe. Featuring a dozen actors portraying more than 100 unforgettable characters, “Peter and the Starcatcher” uses ingenious stagecraft and the limitless possibilities of imagination to bring the story to life.”


The Duluth Playhouse  May 24-25, May 30-June 1 at 7:30 pm
May 25 and June 2 at 2:00 pm
NorShor Theatre
211 East Superior Street  Duluth

Tickets at or call the box office at 218-733-7555

Audio Described performance: May 25 @ 2PM
Describer: Carol Cheslak

ASL Interpreted performance: May 31 @ 7:30PM
Interpreters: Rebecca Rick & Emily Engel

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