Professor Emerita Phyllis Yes Turns Her Artistic Talents to the Stage
February 26, 2018
Phyllis Yes has always pushed boundaries. Much of her art openly subverts the expected, whether it’s gender roles or physical materials, utilizing lace and sequins alongside objects that are traditionally seen as masculine. Perhaps her most recognizable work is Por She, a silver 1967 Porsche that she painted pink, covered in lace, and drove across the country as a mobile art piece. On March 10, she will debut her newest boundary-pushing work: her first play, Good Morning, Miss America, that takes viewers on an autobiographical trip through the realities of aging and the demands of family life.
Yes came to Portland in 1978 when she became a professor of art at Lewis & Clark. She led the college’s off-campus program in New York City, which focuses on exposing students to the city’s unique artistic and theatrical history.
“We attended a play every week for four months,” Yes said. “I attended classes with the students every week. I loved the performances we saw—on- and off-Broadway.” Her support of students continued back at home. “The Theatre Department has put on many innovative and exciting plays over the years, and I enjoyed seeing talented students participate.”
Yes taught at Lewis & Clark for two decades, serving as chair of the art department and dean of arts and humanities, before becoming professor emerita of art, painting, and drawing in 1998. Her frequent support of live theatre developed into an interest in writing for it, and in 2015, she began work on a play based on her experiences caring for her aging parents. Good Morning, Miss America follows Jane, an independent artist taking care of her mother while navigating a complex web of family obligations, including an irascible father-in-law and an absent sister.
“No one wants to talk about aging,” said Yes. “Caregiving can be riddled with complications: guilt, responsibility, unanswered questions, mistakes, dysfunctional family dynamics, and sibling rivalry, among others. I wanted to share real-life challenges of caring for aging parents, and to spark conversation and action preparing for their later years.”
The two-act play has already resonated with audiences, reaching the semifinals of the Artists Repertory Theatre’s Table/Room/Stage competition in 2016 and selling out shows well in advance.
“I’m thrilled!” said Yes of the play’s early success. “My story is not unlike millions of others, those facing the all-too-familiar scenario of caring for elderly parents. This play is for anyone who has parents or is a parent themselves.”
Good Morning, Miss America runs at CoHo Productions in Northwest Portland from March 10 to 31, 2018.
This story was written by Emily Price ’18.