Cowan Palace: Why Closing A Show Is The Worst

As Ashley prepares for Closing Night, she reflects on the hardest parts of the process.

Back in early February, closing Middletown seemed so far away. 2016 had only just started and I was feeling both anxious and excited to dive into my first full length show in three years. Rehearsals were only just starting, lines were still new and not memorized, and I hadn’t even met the entire cast yet. It seemed like we had a long road ahead.

I’m a believer that sometimes plays find you. They grab a hold of you before you even realize it and strive to teach you something, leave you with something, before that grasp is forced to let go. It could be the language in the text, an emotion it brings out, or simply, just a shared quiet moment between you and an audience member. And so, here we are. Months later. The long road approaches its finish line. Our last four performance of Will Eno’s Middletown at Custom Made Theatre start tonight and by Saturday evening our show will be closed.

Sure. We’ll all get some more personal time to catch up on our poor neglected friend, TV and maybe get a little more sleep to dream about TV. But there’s a lot of stuff that sucks about ending a show, too. Here’s just a few things I’ll miss

1.) Justifying a dinner consisting of those delicious individual sized Sabra hummus and pretzel cups, a Quest bar, and a venti Starbucks caffeinated beverage

Oh, hummus. I think I’ll miss you most of all. Nothing compares to you. Certainly, not a bigger hummus container of the same flavor at home.

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2.) The cast and crew
I mean, duh.

3.) Big Booty
Okay, I love cast warm ups. They’re such a great way to connect with your team before you’re out together on stage and sometimes they offer enough physical activity for me to sort of feel like I’m at the gym! Big Booty. Whenever someone suggests we play it, I’m filled with an incredible anxiety and excitement that can not be matched! If you don’t know the game, look it up. It’s a crazy rush!

4.) The play within the play
There’s a lot of beautiful stuff that happens backstage. Between the very tight quarters and our large set pieces and some creaky floor boards and a big cast, there’s a delicate dance that goes on each night that the audience never gets to see. Sometimes it’s not so delicate and suppressing some of the giggles that result from those more difficult maneuvers can be a challenge but that just makes it all more fun.

The cast (and stage managers) of Middletown snuggling in the Green Room!)

The cast (and stage managers) of Middletown snuggling in the Green Room!)

5.) The constant stream of lines running through my mind
When I hear a certain word or phrase that is either in the show or reminds me of the script, I’m immediately transported to where I am when that moment of the play is happening. I know when the show closes, this feature will start to fade away as it always does, which makes my heart ache just a bit.

6.) Those moments when you’re putting your makeup and first costume on while someone else bares a life story you’ve never heard before or shares a secret.
Like I said earlier, I think plays find you. And sometimes that’s to bring new cast mates together. When I think back on this production of Middletown, I know I’ll remember those surprising moments in the girls dressing room (lovingly called, “The Boudoir” when we’re in the middle of a show) when we sat putting on makeup and someone told a wondrous story from their past or quietly offered a truly honest, bare event from their life and how it’s shaped them. Mainly we laugh together, but we’ve also created this space that allows us to explore some other colorful feelings, as well. Those moments have made me so thankful and emotional, which I think is a big lesson from Middletown and I know I’ll forever miss it.

So many feelings, only so much hummus to sustain them all.

So many feelings, only so much hummus to sustain them all.

7.) Taking a moment to dedicate each show to a past me
As part of my own personal, pre show ritual, I take a moment before each performance and “dedicate” the show to a past version of myself. To the 4 year old who told her parents she wanted to be an actress, to the 12 year old who hated looking in the mirror and longed to grow up, to the senior in college scared that she’d never be cast in anything in the real world, to the young twenty something living in NYC waiting hours just to sing her 16 bars at an audition, to the woman who moved to San Francisco on a whim, to the February Ashley who worried that it’d be impossible to manage being in a play again with a baby at home, etc. The ritual helps me to focus and be grateful to be exactly where I am.

Closing a show always makes me cry. Even thinking of closing a show gets me teary eyed. Not gonna lie, I’m probably crying as you read this. Closing a show is the worst. But the journey, the whole experience, is as beautiful and wonderful as you allow it to be. So, to the cast and crew, those that shared this story with us, and to the folks we hope to see in these final four performances – thank you. While closing is the worst, I think you’re all the best.

You can see Ashley either crying or not crying at Custom Made Theatre’s Middletown playing tonight at 7:30 and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm!

Cowan Palace: So You Wanna Marry A Theatre Person

Ashley Cowan tells it like it is.

Well, more power to you! Here are some pointers!

In ten days, Will and I will be celebrating one year of married life. So in honor of our 355 days of husband and wife stuff, I thought it’d be fun to reflect on ten pearls of wisdom I’ve gained in being a “theatre person” matched with a fellow “theatre person”. Plus, “paper” is the anniversary gift inspiration for the first year and like I always say, blogs are basically just electronic paper (someone hurry and put that on a t-shirt and/or sexy tank top).

Yes, And

Theatre people know the value of a script. If they’re any good, hopefully they’re also good with lines. And when you’re in a relationship, there are certainly times when you put into practice those cues that your partner needs to hear before they can move on to their next bit. (For us, a big crowd pleasing line is usually something like, “I’m bringing home dinner.”) But you also need some sweet improv skillz to up your game. Be ready to be spontaneous, give a well timed compliment, or simply change the subject; just keep that scene going!

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Free Entertainment

Every night is a show with The Leschbers! Well, kind of. We do a lot of silly solo performances and we also have rocked many a kitchen duet for fun. We make each other laugh, we’re natural storytellers, and we simply take joy from being able to entertain each other. When something like doing dishes on a Monday night suddenly becomes an impromptu dance party, you’re doing that something right.

The Stakes Are Higher!

Being involved with a creative person often means their sense of urgency and secret desire for drama can often be the third wheel to the relationship. But that also means things can be pretty exciting. Suddenly what to watch next on Netflix becomes a deeply invested adventure and where to order food from is a real heated dialogue.

Creating Space

Yes, you’re a couple and you have a lot of similarities. But sometimes you gotta work on your solo act and encourage your partner to do the same. If you guys were in every scene together, all the time, that would be a boring play. And us theatre folk did not come here to be boring. So book an extra rehearsal room and polish that personal performance (hmm, that sounds a bit dirtier than intended, but you get the drift). It makes the scenes together a whole lot stronger and more interesting to watch.

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Food Is Important

Yes. Your spouse is always worth the ridiculous $4 charge for meat on their breakfast bagel sandwich and yes, you are worth the guacamole fee. While we both love our food, it has also become a vehicle for appreciation and thoughtfulness. Though, I guess this isn’t so much of a theatre person thing necessarily, it may be an all person, universal thing. (Pro tip: I’ve also learned that sometimes part of love is offering the other person a bite of your food and secretly hoping they’ll say no.)

The Laws Of Rejection

Whether it’s not getting a coveted part, desired job, or creative opportunity, rejection is a known presence in any theatre person’s world. And, I have to say, it’s a whole lot easier to have someone to share it with. Even if it’s just bitching about how unfair it is that you were turned down or getting a hug after you cried your eyes out or someone to put a scarf on the cat to distract you, rejection is a whole lot easier with the acceptance of a loved one.

Hello, All The Feelings!

I wear emotions better than I wear black yoga pants to almost everywhere but an actual exercise class. I have a closet full of feelings and can get pretty creative with accessorizing a bunch of those emotions into one memorable outfit. Finding someone who can appreciate those colors and encourage them is awesome and being with a partner that says, “no, you don’t look fat in that feeling, you look sexy!” is just wonderful.

Know Your Part

Sometimes you get cast as the lead and sometimes you’re in the chorus. No small parts, only small actors and all that. This is true in relationship stuff, too. It’s all about balance and knowing your audience. Will and I have a rule that we can get big and emotional but not always at the same time. To be fair, it’s usually me who is overreacting and needing a calm presence to talk me down or ensure that I’ve had a snack but when he needs to steal a scene, I do my best to support it.

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Finding Your Light

Theatre people know light. Whether they’re under it or observing it, they tend to gravitate to it. Find someone who pushes you into the light and out of a dark shadow. When you find someone who can see you for what you are and who encourages you to be seen by others, you should keep that someone and try to return the favor.

The Show Must Go On

Being with a fellow theatre nerd means you both believe in the show, this crazy act of love. Even with questionable production elements or mixed reviews, you keep going because you don’t know another way. You wear your heart on every costume and stay up late reworking Act One. But it’s awesome and it makes you happy. So you eagerly continue, excited for what surprises await in Act Two.

So to all our kindred spirits out there, being in a relationship with a “theatre person” is great! You may not even realize all you bring to the table but keep bringing it because it’s delicious! And to my scene partner, Will, I love you more than I did 355 days ago. Here’s to our wonderful production!