Theatre Alum Now in Production Crew of Amazon’s ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’

NEW YORK CITY – Islander alumnus Ben Philipp ’04 clearly recalls the day his life’s trajectory pivoted toward a new creative medium. Philipp was a studio art major focused on photography and printmaking when Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Professor Don Luna approached the Sugar Land, Texas, native about the possibility of utilizing his art skills in theatre production. Diving in headfirst, Philipp quickly found his calling in the fast-paced, creativity-on-a-shoestring budget world of the thespian stage and focused on costume design.

“I worked on costumes for ‘A Clockwork Orange,’” Philipp said, referring to the stage adaptation of the 1961 dystopian crime novel by Anthony Burgess. “Don was really interested in having an artist work on the design elements of the show. The experience threw me into the deep end of the pool, but I really fell in love with theatre as a result.”   

(For a glimpse into Ben's career as a TAMU-CC theatre student, you can view a series of archive images provided by Professor Don Luna

Today, Philipp is an assistant costume designer for the Emmy Award-winning comedy series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which is exclusively available on the Amazon Prime streaming platform. The show, which chronicles the transformation of a Jewish housewife who turns to comedy after her marriage falls apart, was the 2018 Golden Globes winner for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and its star, Rachel Brosnahan, has won two consecutive Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy.

Philipp credits his meteoric rise in the heady world of film and television production to his time at the Island University. At A&M-Corpus Christi, he worked on “The Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Who’s Tommy” rock musical, as well as traditional productions like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He even found himself on stage in minor roles in theatre department productions of “Moonchildren” by Michael Weller as well as one act plays like “One For The Road” and “Mountain Language” by Harold Pinter.

“In 1999, my freshman year, the theatre department had just started to really grow,” he said. “I think when I started, there might have only been 50 theatre students. But it just grew exponentially from there, and that’s really where I figured out what I want to do.” 

After graduation in 2004, Philipp spent an additional year in Corpus Christi working at the Harbor Playhouse and assisting Luna on the “The Lex Lives” living history project, which consisted of World War II re-enactments on the USS Lexington. Professor Philip Johnson was instrumental in helping Philipp apply to graduate schools, and he enrolled at the University of Georgia in 2005.  

Philipp completed his Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Design in 2008 and moved to New York City that same year. He soon found himself driving a minivan around Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens doing costume pickups and drop-offs for the ABC comedy series “Ugly Betty.” Philipp would go on to work on other high-profile TV shows, such as “Pan Am,” “White Collar,” Boardwalk Empire,” “The Michael J. Fox Show” and “Happyish.” 

For “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Philipp primarily serves as a coordinator for vintage rentals and purchases.

“I coordinate with costume rental houses to get pieces of clothing into our office to use as stock or for a specific scene,” he said. “I generally do a 10- to 12-hour day. Working in TV and film means long hours, so we work nonstop at full steam for the run of shooting. And then once we’re done, you’re essentially unemployed until you start up again on whatever the next project is.”

Phillips’s success in the commercial film and TV production industry is no surprise to Luna. The longtime theatre professor recalled the time Philipp used an LED light and shower curtain to illuminate a character’s dress from within in “A Clockwork Orange.”

“Ben is a creative person; it was fascinating to work with him to see what he could come up with,” Luna said. “As it turns out, Ben fell in love with theatre and theatre fell in love with him.”

Philipp said he looks back fondly on his days as an Islander.

 I really cherish the time that I spent at the Island University,” he said. “There’s something magical about learning who you want to be and what you want to do, and that happened for me at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.” 

(For a full list of Ben Philipp’s TV, film and theatrical credits, please see his website.)