Jessica Phillips’s last theatrical performance in Boston was in 1994, the year she graduated from Emerson College. Fast forward 25 years — with numerous stage and screen roles under her belt, including seven Broadway performances and a four-year stint on the TV program “Law & Order” — and Phillips is returning to Boston for a monthlong run in the Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Even Hansen,” at the Boston Opera House through Aug. 4. “The best way to describe this show is as an amusement park ride. It takes audiences on an emotional roller coaster ride with peaks and valleys,” said Phillips, who plays the lead character’s mother in the show, in a recent phone interview. “It’s very real and identifiable and at the end of the day, it’s about relationships: peer relationships, parent-child relationships, sibling relationships . . . so it is accessible to everyone who comes [to the show].” Born in Nashville, Phillips moved with her family to Massachusetts (first Auburn, then East Douglas) when she was 8. “I’m really excited to be back in Boston,” she said. “I loved living in Boston when I was in college — so much so that I stayed in the summers and worked in Boston, so I lived there [year round] for four years.” Phillips, who has two sons and a stepson, lives in Harlem with her husband, Tad Wilson, an actor/event planner/restaurateur. We caught up with the accomplished actress, 47, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? For two weeks every summer, my family gathers in Virginia Beach. It’s the perfect vacation for folks who can’t decide between mountains or beach because we stay in log cabins at the local state park forest. In the mornings, we hike or bike the trails, bird watch, and Zen out in nature; then in the afternoons we zip over to the shore for sand and surf and eventually a glass of wine while the sun sets over the ocean. [Then] back to the cabins for veggies on the grill and fire pit s’mores under the stars.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? I love sampling the local fare wherever I travel, especially if it’s fresh-caught seafood. If I’m out west, you better believe I’m first in line for California’s Russian River Valley wine — Viognier is top of list. Sitting on the beach with my kids? I’m in heaven with a bag of salt and pepper Kettle chips.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I have so many places still left on my bucket list: Maldives, the Greek Islands, New Zealand, West Africa, Machu Picchu, [and] the Galapagos. I’ve been so fortunate to have traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, some in Canada, Mexico, South America, and Asia, but I dream about being able to explore the other side of the globe for weeks or months at a time. Now that my kids are older, I hope to have more time to do just that.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My white noise app. No matter the environment, I’ll be able to sleep soundly with a babbling brook on my night stand.
Aisle or window? Window. I like feeling tucked in, especially when I need to close my eyes.
Favorite childhood travel memory? When I was 4, I lived with my parents for a year in Paris. My dad was a full-time graduate student at The Sorbonne, so we had very little money. I slept on a fold-down pallet in the kitchen of our tiny downtown apartment near campus. My folks enrolled me in school and I became fluent in French. Though I retained little of the language, I still vividly remember the tastes and aromas of the local patisseries, the acrid smells of the underground train, and the feeling of flying on top of a double-decker bus.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? One amazing meal at the best restaurant in town.
Best travel tip? Try packing in two medium-size suitcases instead of one large and one carry-on. This is a great trick for keeping your baggage under the 50-pound weight limit.