Cowan Palace: How To Be A Better Theatre Person In 10 Simple Steps

Ashley invites you to join in her 2016 theatrical resolutions. Happy New Year!

It’s 2016! I hope by now your hangovers have subsided and you’re still feeling optimistic that this new year will be the one you finally overcome your sugar addiction while training for a marathon. You can do it!

For me, 2015 was a year of great heights and low valleys; a real rainbow of emotions. And I’ll be totally honest, guys, I spent way too many months feeling like I was standing in the center of a middle school cafeteria wondering where to sit. Crying because I felt like I had lost my place in my community, questioning my involvement in the local theatre scene.

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I was naive to think that things would stay the same after having a baby. But I didn’t know how difficult it would be to navigate the space between my old self and my new found role. Now, I promise I’m not here to blab about the highs and lows of my introduction to motherhood. Instead, I want to share my list of things I think I can actively do to be a better theatre person. Because I know I can do better. So! Here are 10 resolutions I’m going to be working on this year:

1.) Reach out to someone you worked with (preferably someone who is out of state and who you may not have spoken to in a little while) and say hi.

If you’ve ever done a show with someone and made one of those magical new friendships that quickly solidifies itself over a stressful tech week or a shared love for rehearsal snacks consisting of cake, it’s easy to think you’ll always stay bonded. The truth is, you both get involved in other projects and distance pushes its way between you. So think about someone like that and reach out to them. See what they’re up to and what’s new in their world. Ask if they’re working on anything now then request they keep you updated on it. If they are close enough to see, meet them for cake. If they’re far away, send them some cake. While this won’t help your sugar addiction, it’ll probably be delicious.

2.) For every negative thing you say, say two positives.

You may not know this about me but, wowza, I’m really great at complaining and bitching about stuff. I’m also pretty good at looking on the bright side and trying to see the best in people. I lost my patience easily in 2015 when I felt like I lost my place in my theatre community. Which made me sad. And mad. And other feelings that a first grader can spell. So I’m trying something new. Sure, I can bitch and complain to my heart’s content! But lately, I’ve been trying to then come up with two “nice things” to say to balance it out. It’s a work in progress but a worthy effort, I think.

3.) Don’t Always Talk To Theatre People About Theatre

Talk about literally anything else. Seriously. Try having a conversation with someone in the theatre community and don’t use it as a way to plug a show you’re working on or gossip about a crappy production you heard about or whatever. I’m guilty of small talking people I haven’t seen in awhile and immediately asking them what show or project they’re working on these days. Boring! You can do better, Cowan! At least I’m going to give it a shot. And if anyone out there wants to talk about dessert, I’m so obviously your girl.

4.) Give A Compliment To Someone You Haven’t Met Yet

Did you see a show and love someone’s performance but since you didn’t know the actor personally, you never told them? I do this too often. Not anymore, 2016! Next time I like something, I’m going out of my way to give that praise to the rightful recipient.

5.) Promote A Show You Had Nothing To Do With

Create a simple social media post that advertises some kind of theatrical event that you aren’t involved in. Keep the artistic conversation going and help give a show some press. It’s easy and free so just do it.

6.) Ask Someone How They’re Doing

Like, in a genuine, “I actually care”, active listening kind of way. They could be a theatre person or not. Make an effort to really connect with someone. You’ll be surprised how much it may mean to them. And relating to a fellow human does wonders for your artistic soul, right?

7.) Try Not To Take It Personally

I know I’m waaaaaay too sensitive for my own good. And most likely, 2016 Ashley is going to continue that habit. I so quickly assume no one likes me or wants my company if I haven’t heard from them in awhile. Usually, the other person is just busy and going through their own series of personal roller coasters. Send them a friendly text and then calm the F down. Take that sensitive energy and use it for something productive, like catching up on The Bachelor.

8.) Try A Non Theatre Related Activity And A New Theatre Related Activity

To help keep yourself balanced and entertained, why not try a hobby that has nothing to do with theatre? Want to be a better cook? Look up some recipes online and play in the kitchen. Want to learn to knit? Cool, go pick up some yarn. When you’re done with that, consider a theatrical field you’ve had an interest in but have never pursued. Love costumes? Ask if you can help the next Theater Pub show get on that. Want to write? Check out Saturday Write Fever. Step out of your comfort zone a bit and see where it takes you.

9.) Give Someone New A Chance To Be Involved

Or simply introduce two people who you think may benefit from just knowing each other. If you get the chance to help cast a show or if someone asks you for a recommendation, don’t just go to your usual small list of friends; try to think outside your immediate bubble to those, perhaps, shyer folks who want to be involved but don’t know how to do it.

10.) Be Both Critical And Kind To Your Efforts

Could you be a better theatre person? Yeah, probably. It’s almost always worth trying. And if you can think of something that may make you better or how you can make someone else’s day, give it a whirl. Then give yourself a high five and some credit for being a part of a community and doing what you can to strengthen it. You’re awesome.

That’s what I’ll be working on, anyway. Maybe you’ll consider joining me in a quest to make 2016 our bitch? I mean, our friend? Whatever! Until next time, gang. I hope you’re all off to a wonderful 2016.

Cowan Palace: Folks Feeling Fear For Fun

This week Ashley scratches the scary surface of spooky sensation seekers.


Did I scare you?

Ah, probably not. But I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of fear. And for whatever reason, it tends to be a sensation so many folks tend to seek out. Especially as we get closer to Halloween. Americans alone spend millions of dollars getting their scare on; from horror movies to costumes to haunted houses. All for moments of increased heart rates, fast breathing, tense muscles, and focused attention. People often thrive from being pushed into an extreme and riding the adrenaline rush. I’ve personally been away on vacation this past week and have sought out any and all thrill rides. From fantastic drops to exhilarating speeds, I’m into it (the attached picture is legit). So I thought it may be an interesting topic to investigate a bit more.

This is legit FEAR.

This is legit FEAR.

Perhaps the fright fascination comes from exploring an experience that doesn’t stem from typical daily life and then being able to survive it to tell the tale. While it seems obvious most people tend to search for experiences that bring them pleasure over pain, the concept of fear is a little more unique. One-third of the population try to stay away completely from “scary material” while one-tenth actively yearn to be scared silly. In fact, I read about a company in New York where customers can pay to be kidnapped. For the very reasonable price of $4,000 you can be captured and confined! You can customize your own terror inducing experience to create your very own nightmare. Cool, right?

There’s lot of debate regarding what kind of material can manufacture the sweatiest palms and fastest heart rate but ultimately scientists have a limited number of theories regarding seeking out fear. Some believe that folks long to experience both a positive and a negative emotion at once. If your brain can identify that there is no real chance of harm while still feeling the thrill, you ultimately can have your cake and eat it too. Others think people long to be horrified in order to find a larger source of euphoria when it’s over.

The idea of “enjoying fear” may actually be an evolutionary development as it’s an experience that humanity has continued to pursue. While our ancestors were tested by nature and motivated by survival, our modern day representatives, complete with the same “fight or flight” instincts, continue to yearn for those sensations and then go home to safety. Research also suggests that along with returning to a comfortable and “less scary” place, you can take a few lingering feelings of heightened arousal. For those that tend to enjoy the horror genre, those feelings get to play in the part of the brain that controls perception, memory, and consciousness. So basically, you’re more likely to hold on to some of those positive emotions and long for them in the future.

But before you start planning your next date to see something spooky in order to reap those hormonal benefits, you should know these feelings could be complicated and different for everyone. If your crush tends to be super aware of room temperatures, highly empathetic, or even just overly sensitive to something like an itchy tag on a shirt, they may be prone to suffering from unsolicited stimuli and retain only the adverse effects of something like a scary movie. And since those negative emotions are stored in a separate part of your brain to where your positive emotions are, they can be notably tricky to eclipse. On the other hand, playas, studies have shown that many ladies long for physical intimacy from someone who can display strength when they’re feeling scared. So pick wisely.

In any case, as Halloween draws closer, it’s interesting to think about celebrating a holiday that flourishes in fear. And for me, I’m just coming out of honoring my birthday by screaming my head off on one Orlando ride after another. But how about you? Are you a thrill-seeker with any big Halloween plans or are you planning to stay home and eat candy? I’d love to hear your thoughts over tricks and treats.