Getting Out of Our Own Way— A Conversation with Performer Kenyon Phillips

From Volume 6 Asskickers June 2017

Earlier this spring, we had the pleasure of attending Kenyon Phillips’ newly mounted Unisex Salon at Joe’s Pub, a variety show filled with a cast of colorful NYC characters, original stories, songs, personality galore, and a number of very sexy surprises.

We sat down recently with the highly exuberant Kenyon
(who attended our very first Goal Setting Workshop last fall) to talk about his new show, the stories we all make up in our heads, and his desire to create community. 

A master of the stage, Kenyon wasted no time taking the lead. Below are some highlights of our conversation together:

On the stories we create in our heads: 
(Kenyon had performed at Joe’s Pub for years, and was asked in for a meeting after pitching his idea for Unisex Salon)

Kenyon: I had it in my head that they’re calling me into this meeting because they want to tell me in person: We feel bad, but it’s not going to work anymore... and have a nice life.

Dianne & Robert: In effect, to tell you that you suck.   

Kenyon: Yeah! I suck! I don’t deserve this. But it turned out they loved the idea, telling me Nobody does what you doIt also opened me up to the realization that I can ask for things.

Regarding jealousy in the artistic community: 
Kenyon: I remember years ago having a conversation with a fellow artist around jealousy and competition (and artists badmouthing one another) and I said When I find myself being intimidated by somebody, I choose to be inspired by them. 

Lessons learned on being true to yourself:  
Kenyon was asked to perform the song Memory from the musical Cats in a cabaret with several talented Broadway singers. 

Kenyon: When I was warming up, Eryn, my wife, said "It sounds good but why are you singing that way?" and I said what do you mean? And she said "Why don’t you sing the way you sing? You’re singing like Broadway." And I was like, Ohhhhhh okay. So then we went to the show, and I was nervous but was like, here goes nothing and I did it my way, and people loved it!

I think people hire us to get a hit of our energy and our vibrancy; I’m present with you and here’s the quality of my expression. And the truer and more authentic my expression is, the more valuable our time together is going to be.

On creating community: 
Kenyon:  These women (referring to his band, The Ladies in Waiting) are incredible, and they’re talented, and have voices, and these amazing songs and I wanted to share my experience with a larger audience. In a way, this is the most authentic showcase I can give. I've had people say, You're just being really codependent and you need to keep the spotlight on you, and I’m like, Listen I’ve been pursuing a career as an artist, as a musician, as a performer for 20 years! I’ve done that, and this is what I want: a community. And the thing is, it’s contagious. Everybody shines and that’s what makes me feel rich—being the glue that brings everyone together.

D&R: Hear, hear!

Kudos from Kenyon: 
Kenyon: What brings me joy is just being present, and that’s something you two manage to do beautifully as coaches. It’s something of a feat to make sure everybody’s present. I walked away so impressed by the way I was really fucking present for those two hours—and so was everyone else—and we were really interacting. And in a way, it was like your Unisex Salon, because you were facilitating in a way that was unobtrusive, but you were guiding it along. And then you would stand back at certain points, and let people talk, and let people interact.

D&R: (Blushing) Thank you!!
On how the show (and the subsequent praise) has changed him: 
Kenyon: Since doing the show, I realized it’s okay to be who I am and do what I do. What this show helped me do is realign my priorities: I wanna be a great host. I wanna be a great person, someone who’s generous. I’m exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing. 

Unisex Salon with Kenyon Phillips; Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. July 23 at 9:30PM

Dramatically Yours, 
Dianne & Robert

P.S. And for our encore... we proudly present our new blog featuring our monthly column Assk the Asskickers where we'll be tackling your most pressing issues.