“It’s Grenada — Gree-NAY-da,” Oneika Phillips is quick to point out about her home country in the Caribbean and favorite place to vacation. “Granada — Gra-na-da — is in Spain.” The dancer/actor/singer, who has appeared in several Broadway shows, is currently in the revival of “1776″ at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge in advance of its Broadway debut. And even though the Tony Award-winning original production premiered on Broadway in 1969, Phillips said there is still a story to be told (the cast includes performers who identify as female, non-binary, and trans, and reflect multiple representations of race, gender, and ethnicity) and lessons to be learned. “At the time , everyone on that stage would have been excluded — even with the statement that all men are created equal. That was the ‘in’ that gave us the audacity to step on the stage in these non-traditional roles and present the work, because we all should have equal opportunity to speak to what history is,” Phillips, 45, said. “I’m keen to know people’s responses, because I know that it will polarize — but I also think that’s the responsibility of art.” She said it’s important to remember that our Founding Fathers, in creating the Declaration of independence, “were protesting to ensure that their rights were not trampled upon. And here we are in a period where women’s rights and the rights of racial groups are constantly in question and constantly being marginalized and silenced, so this is an opportunity for us to say that what the Founding Fathers were doing was a promissory note to all of us to now do the exact same thing. … I can use their words to validate protest, and that’s a magnificent thing.” The revival of “1776,” in which Phillips plays Joseph Hewes (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence), was directed by Diane Paulus and Jeffrey Page and runs through July 24. We caught up with Phillips, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination?
Easy answer: Grenada. Known as “the isle of spice,” Grenada — pronounced Gree-NAY-da — is a crown jewel amongst the islands of the Caribbean. It also happens to be home. This island is remarkably beautiful with a tapestry of blue topaz Caribbean Sea waters, crystal cyan skies, greens of every hue blanketing the volcanic mountains, sandy shores ranging from ochre to onyx and an equatorial sun that adds a golden kiss to any melanin. Basically, Grenadians live where you vacation. One other thing: The people are friendly and formidable, quick to flash a smile at friendliness … and just as quick to suck our teeth at foolishness — so mind your manners.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing?
Favorite food, hands down, is a Caribbean roti or “buss up.” Roti is an East Indian dish brought to the Caribbean during the colonization practice of indentured servitude. The trans-Atlantic trade had been abolished, but bodies were still needed for oppressive work. Colonizing empires turned to Asia and East India to place people into servitude with conditions just barely better than enslavement. East Indians were brought to former colonies like Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica. The food of East Indians was blended with that of descendants of Africans, and incorporated local spices and flavorings. Roti of the Caribbean uses a flatbread similar to naan and flattened to a near perfect circle like a burrito. Curried meats, veggies, and provisions are placed into the roti “skin” and wrapped tightly to be eaten by hand. “Buss up” is when the skin is ripped into smaller pieces that are used with hands to wipe up the curry and devour the deliciousness. I am grateful to East Indian ancestors for preserving the dish and integrating it into Caribbean culture. And favorite drink: When in the Caribbean, premium rum and coconut water — from the coconut, not a box — or rum and sorrel, also called hibiscus in the United States. Yum. When in Europe, red wine. Anywhere else? Local juices such as passion fruit, citrus, and mango.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?
Two places I can name with immediacy: Tanzania and Bali. Both have an incredible allure [and] rich cultures embedded within beautiful coastal and internal landscapes. I’ve been to many places on the planet, all of which have impacted my humanity. I can’t wait to add Tanzania and Bali to the list.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?
My green card. Duh! No, but seriously … ensuring all travel documents are in tow is essential. Passport, additional ID like a driver’s license, or a permanent resident card are vital for border entry, foreign exchange, and overall identification. It’s important to have secure places to store them like a hotel safe or [with] trusted friends and family.
Aisle or window?
Aisle — especially if it’s a long international flight. I like the leg room, ease of motion to get in and out of the seat, and not having to climb acrobatically over humans to go to the bathroom.
Favorite childhood travel memory?
So many. I had the best childhood traveling from one Caribbean country to the next to see family and friends. If I had to single out favorites: traveling to Trinidad with my father to see his sister, my grandmother and my sister, who lived with them, and traveling to Barbados with my mother to see her sister and my cousins there. Memories of climbing mango trees and playing in the street of Diego Martin, Trinidad, and listening to the Atlantic Ocean drum loudly against the East Coast cliffs of Barbados as my cousins and I built sand castles are core memories that leave me so grateful for family and community. Also … turbulence. Yep, turbulence. It left me elated. I would squeal loudly with delight at every dip. A bonus: Those were the days when family could stand on waving galleries and meet you at the gate. Who remembers that? The best.
Guilty pleasure when traveling?
Being a tourist. I want to absorb as much as possible. Also, eating and drinking like travel calories do not count.
Best travel tip?
While travel is usually for fun, I refer back to passports and IDs. Make copies of these and e-mail them to yourself. Have a portion of cash in either USD or local money — or both. Ensure you either commit to memory or have on your person the address or location where you are staying. Move about cities with care. Have something on your person that secures your valuables to you. Losing or having a wallet or passport stolen in a foreign country is like salt in wine. No thank you — we don’t want it. So have the time of your life, but also be careful and responsible so the business side of things doesn’t hamper your joy.