[The following post is an interview with Christina “Chryss” Allaback (phish.net: Tela2019) about her article, “Phish Fan Subculture: The Possibilities of Phans' Performance.” The interview is part of an AMA series celebrating the publication of the “Phish and Philosophy” special issue of the Public Philosophy Journal, edited by Stephanie Jenkins and Charlie Dirksen. Kristine will also be answering your questions in the comments throughout the week. The next post will feature Denise Goldman, so submit your questions now.]
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? When was your first show? Why do you come back?
My name is Christina “Chryss” Allaback, and I’m an Assistant Professor of Theatre at University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and a theatrical director. My first show was 8-1-98 at Alpine Valley. This year is the 25th Anniversary of my first show and I hope to be celebrating on the floor at MSG. I come back to Phish because they are top rate musicians and artists. They take ambitious artistic risks that really pay off. Having done improvisational theatre and comedy in the past, I appreciate the fact that they are making beautiful art at the moment, and then that moment is gone. Of course, we can listen to tapes after the show, but the ephemeral nature of the live improvisational performance is a treasure to experience.
Why did you decide to write this essay? What do you want your readers to take away from it?
This essay is actually part of the larger dissertation that I wrote for my doctoral degree. I started writing about Phish fans as an academic project because there was something being performed at shows that was really special, and it was not just what was happening on stage. There was a feeling, an emotion, that I felt at Phish shows that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. And I started reading all this performance theory and it started making sense.
It is my hope that when people read my articles, they get a deeper understanding of why we, as humans, perform in everyday life and on stage. There is a liberation in performance, a freedom, a connection. As a young artist, I wanted to change the world with my art. As I grew up, I realized what a naïve goal that was. But we can change people with our art and that is as good as changing the world. I was told by people in my life, as a non-actor, that I was probably good at lying because I was an actor. But art is not about lying, it is about expressing a truth within a world. I feel Phish does this onstage, and we do this in the audience.
Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.
This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $2 million to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.