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!

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Cowan Palace: Don’t Drink Seawater And Other Stuff Kids Know

This week, Ashley’s asking her theatre students to help write her blog.

Greetings, friends! Here’s hoping your week has been full of pie and sans 23 Ides of March stab wounds.

I’ll be honest. I’ve piled my plate a bit too high this year. I mean the Bachelor finale and these Fuller House episodes aren’t going to watch themselves. And between being a mom and working a full time job, I’ve also been busy in rehearsal for Custom Made Theatre’s upcoming production of Middletown (my first full length show since 2013!), trying to be a motivated Maid of Honor for my sister’s upcoming May nuptials, and teaching preschool drama classes on the side.

Because this week was a particularly busy one, I thought I could commission my four year old students to write my blog for me. Their pay? Stickers! Obviously. I’m a pretty generous boss.

So, before we had our warm up and after I had them “shake out their sillies”, I asked my Monday class of five kiddos for their thoughts.

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TEACHER ASHLEY: Why do you guys think doing theater is important?

KID ONE: Where are the stickers?

TEACHER ASHLEY: Safe and sound in my bag; keeping my book and my “Jar of Sillies” company. So what do you think? Why do you think drama class is a good idea?

KID ONE: I got new skies! Can I tell you something? I went to Tahoe!

KID TWO: I’m thirsty. I need water!

KID THREE: Me too! (coughs in sudden thirsty despair)

TEACHER ASHLEY: Okay, okay. Let’s take a quick trip to the water fountain. Let’s make a line and pretend we are giraffes! (Kids quickly line up as giraffes and tiptoe to get a drink. Once there, they consume the water in a craze)

KID THREE: I hate seawater!

KID FOUR: Me too! It’s so salty!

KID THREE: I drank seawater! Yuck!

KID ONE: Can I tell you something? I like my skies.

TEACHER ASHLEY: Let’s come back and make a big circle! Let’s see if we can make it look like a giant pizza!

KID FOUR: Seawater is so gross!

TEACHER ASHLEY: C’mon, guys! Let’s see if we can come back to our circle in ten seconds. Remember, if we get through a great class, we can celebrate with some stickers! (Kids immediately run and form a circle on the colorful carpet) Great job! Okay, does anyone else want to share something?

KID FIVE: When do I get to be a mermaid?

TEACHER ASHLEY: You can be a mermaid when we play our storytelling game! Do you think that’s why doing theater is important?

KID FIVE: I’m going to be Ariel. (whispers) And have magic powers.

TEACHER ASHLEY: I can’t wait to see that. Does anyone else want to pretend to a special character today?

KID ONE: Tiger. But this time he really dies.

KID FOUR: Yeah! I’m a tiger too!

TEACHER ASHLEY: Maybe the tigers can fall asleep and wake up with some mermaid magic.

KID ONE: Fine. But then they’re lions.

KID TWO: I want to be a fairy princess baby! And we all go to the castle to watch a movie.

TEACHER: Great! So… is that why theater class is important? Because we get the chance to use our imaginations, work together, and tell stories?

KID THREE: Can I see the stickers?

Pictures by Kid Five and Kid One featuring a magical princess and mountains, respectively.

Pictures by Kid Five and Kid One featuring a magical princess and mountains, respectively.

Ah. Okay. Well, there you go! The kids and I spent the rest of class playing games and making up new stories. I got hugs and laughs and even some drawings to take home! But most importantly, I got a needed distraction and energy boost to help survive these next few weeks with a very full plate. I also learned that maybe money can’t buy you happiness but it can buy you stickers. And stickers pave the way to happy trails.

Cowan Palace: Drowning in Beauty Beyond a Grand Victorian Soap Opera and Other Chats With Margery Fairchild

This week, Ashley’s talking to Margery Fairchild about her new production!

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Featuring, Christy Crowley, Kirsten Dwyer, Katharine Otis, and Courtney Russell; Photo Credit: Basil Galloway

As we get ready to begin The Year Of Monkey and dive deeper into 2016’s second month, Dark Porch Theatre is preparing to kick off their new season! Pas de Quatre, opening at EXIT Studio in just a few days, is the poetic brainchild of Margery Fairchild who has spent years developing this work exploring the relationships between ballet dancers and their art.

Here to bring us further into the world of dancing, is the writer and director herself, Margery!

Please tell us a bit more about Pas de Quatre.

In 1845, Benjamin Lumley, the director at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, had a brilliant idea; to bring together the four reigning Ballerinas of Europe and have them dance together. He also commissioned the famous choreographer Jules Perrot, to create the Divertisment (as it was billed) and the Pas De Quatre was the result of that collaboration. It is considered, along with La Slyphide and Giselle to be one of the seminal works of the Romantic Era in Ballet.

However, the mixing of these powerful celebrities with very distinct styles and personalities, proved somewhat volatile and many historians marvel that it even made it to the stage! Perrot had been married (and divorced) to one of the dancers, partner to two and Ballet Master to all. The dancers themselves had been subjected to incredible public scrutiny and as manufactured as their rivalries were, it still had a distinct impact on their working relationships.

The story has all the makings of a grand Victorian soap opera, but my goal with the project was to dig beyond that temptation.

How has the production evolved since you first began working on it?

I wrote Pas de Quatre as a screenplay in 2002, but it travelled to the back burner. In 2012, I wrote PDQ as a full Two Act play with a cast of 8, which had a staged reading as a part of DIVAfest. In 2014 PDQ morphed into a 50 minute long experimental dance/theatre piece and had a 4 performance workshop at DIVAFest. After several revisions and a new cast, it will debut as part of Dark Porch Theatre’s 2016 residency at Exit Theatre. It’s not a straightforward narrative. The story is deconstructed and organized to parallel the actual music score of the Ballet, a format that allows for greater exploration in the storytelling and character investigation.

As the show focuses on the relationship that forms between ballerinas and ballet, can you tell us a little bit more about your relationship and background with ballet?

I studied Ballet for 9 years at The Boston Ballet and I had a love/hate relationship with the experience. Ballet, like all Fine Art studies, created a foundation of discipline and dedication, but it was also incredibly difficult. While putting your body through the transformation needed to achieve the lines and perfection of the craft, one must deal with a lot of pain and disappointment. I never had the right body and feet to continue as a professional, but I still put myself through it out of love. I quit Ballet at 17 after multiple back and neck injuries. It took a couple years before I started studying Modern Dance in college and began to identify myself as a dancer again. Now as an actor and director, I’ve always recognized the edge and vision that as come from my formative training.

While the show may take place in London, 1845, what do you think San Francisco audiences in 2016 will most relate to?

The Dancers, like ghosts, almost appear as if summoned by the audience themselves and once conjured, they must play out their stories. The history is important, but it is not the lesson of the story, it’s about the people themselves. We connect to human stories, in so far as history repeats itself and we find ourselves navigating the same conflicts and trials despite the Age. I suppose that’s why I’m always drawn towards historical re-imaginings, because there’s so much to learn from it.

What’s been the biggest challenge in bringing this show to its feet?

The biggest challenge was casting. Finding actors with the dance/ movement background to pull off the physical requirements. Ballet isn’t something you can fake. I needed to craft the Play in a way that could accommodate different levels of strengths, but ultimately balance them.

What’s been your favorite moment of mounting this production so far?

The question: “Why do we put ourselves through this?”, being answered one night during the tail end of a Monday Night rehearsal, when the cast has had a collective breakthrough despite their exhaustion and you’re left smiling in wonder. The inevitable doubts being answered by the creative process itself. It keeps us coming back again and again!

What’s your favorite local place for a post show drink/snack?

I like to shake it up! PianoFight and the White Horse are the usual destinations these days.

What’s next for Dark Porch?

Dark Porch Theatre will be presenting the darkly hilarious The Diplomats! Written and Directed by DPT’s co-artistic director Martin Schwartz. It will run through the month of May on the EXIT Main Stage.

What’s next for you? Any projects you’ll be working on in the future or shows you’re excited to see?

I’ll be performing in and co producing The Diplomats in May. I’m also involved in the final shooting phase of the feature film, To No Good End, which I’ve co created with my fiancé Kindrid Parker… And then we’re getting married!

As far as shows I’m excited to see? I’m honestly overwhelmed with the wealth of good Indy theatre/dance/performance happening in this town right now, despite the struggles that artists have faced to stay here. Between Exit Theatre, PianoFight, CounterPulse all on the same block, it’s proof that we’re holding our own!

In 160 words characters or less, why do we need to see Pas de Quatre?

This play is only an hour and you will spend the entire 60 minutes drowning in beauty!

And, it gets even better Theater Pub readers! Margery has offered a special discount code for you! To get it, use: Code: DPTdiscount16; Discount: $10 off per ticket ($15 tix)!

Pas de Quatre runs Thursday – Saturday, February 11 – 27 at 8:00 p.m. with an additional matinee performance at 3 p.m. on February 20. For tickets and more information, please visit www.darkporchtheatre.org.

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: Embracing The Mirror, Part One: Ashley, Plain and Tall

In part one of this two-part blog (featuring Marissa and Ashley’s tall tales) Ashley considers the height hype.

“You’re like that book. Sarah, Plain and Tall? But, like, it’s you. Ashley, Plain and Tall!”

I let his words linger in the air like they were bubbles about to pop. I forced the look on my face to go from “shocked and hurt” to “playfully shocked and hurt.” This was not exactly the sentiment I was looking for from the guy I kind of had a crush on after a performance.

I had just finished playing my first “romantic lead.” Sure. It was a ten minute play directed by my classmates for a student run production. But it was the first time I got to do a stage kiss! And wear something that didn’t resemble a bag! Plus, I didn’t have to cover my face in old age makeup (fun fact: old age makeup is still pretty much the only makeup style I feel like I can “do” well) or cover my hair with baby powder and gray hairspray. Ah, college. The actor I was paired with was slightly shorter than I was so I had been costumed in a modest heel but since I barely noticed, I didn’t think anyone in the audience would care.

And, duh, I knew I was tall. By that point (at age 18), I had already been told that I couldn’t convincingly play a high school student and that I was really more of a Nurse and/or Mrs. Capulet than a Juliet. At 5’9’’ I also knew I was ineligible to ever become a Disney princess (as they do not allow their ladies to be over 5’8’’) so my dreams of playing Belle fell short (ohhh, punny, huh?).

But let’s get back to my crush! Why was “tall” now synonymous with “plain”?! That hardly seemed fair. I went home and listened to a Coldplay mix CD trying to make sense of it all.

I continued college scoring great roles meant for older actresses and when I graduated, I moved to New York and began auditioning. I’ll never forget getting a callback for a role in a short play and being the tallest person in the room. The scene I was reading for was for the role of “daughter” and the actors playing my mother, father, and brother were all several inches smaller than I was. I was the only actor that managed to get a laugh out of the audition panel but sadly, I never heard from them again.

After that, I packed flats to every audition. And tried to practice hairstyles that could maybe make me appear a little shorter (yuck, I hate admitting that). When I reached out to my tall theatre friends, I loved hearing the stories they encountered in their theatrical pursuits because it meant I was not alone. Colleen Egan told me, “I had to wear flats once while my male counterpart was put in lifts because the director was so distracted by our height difference.” Which I find so fascinating! Why are we so uncomfortable with a woman being taller than the guy she’s with?

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Luckily for me, when I found myself in San Francisco with a role in “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding”, my perception of height and my relation to it completely changed. Suddenly, I was in a show surrounded by beautiful Amazons. I was no longer the tallest one in the play! Yes, for the most part, our male counterparts were shorter. Sometimes, much shorter. But we learned to embrace it and play it up. We wore ridiculously tall high heels and made our hair as big as possible. When we had to kiss our fictional boyfriends, we thought it was hilarious and usually, the audience did, too.

I reached out to some of my past castmates in TNT regarding being tall in the theatre and they had these gems to share:

Mariah Castle (who was our original Tina) said, “I do remember being worried that audiences wouldn’t believe the casting when I was paired with a Tony who was significantly shorter than me. But it always seemed to turn out fine. I actually loved being paired with one short Tony in particular because he was such a strong performer. He owned his role and the room, so I felt proud to perform opposite him and pretend to be his “wife” for a night.”

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Sarah Rose Kistner added, “There were also some pretty ridiculous pairings (in terms of height) in TNT that I definitely worried about looking legit. I would have to tell myself little stories like “Okay, maybe Dom is just seriously into tall chicks!” or “Maybe Dom is just seriously into chicks… any chicks.” In the end, I don’t know if any of those relationships appeared authentic, but they at least appeared funny. I will say that my height probably helped me get cast as Amazon Hippolyta in Impact’s 80’s version of Midsummer Night’s Dream, where I was paired with a tragically, tiny Theseus. I think the dramatic height difference added a certain amount of inherent physical comedy. I did always have a sense that, if I were to continue with my acting career, I’d probably have an easier time being tall on film than on stage.”

Lastly, the lovely Stephanie Renee Wozniak left us with this wonderful wisdom:

“Okay, Tall Girl Theatre problems:

1. ALWAYS being in the back row in musical theatre productions. No matter how well you know the steps, you’re gonna have to be in the back because you’re a giant. And forget about partner dancing! If it’s a show where there’s a bunch of partner work, well, then congratulations! You’ll be playing a dude!
2. Playing dudes! I’ve literally played more male roles than female roles. Which it totally cool because some of the best roles out there are for men. I mean I got to play Hamlet so what am I complaining about?
3. NEVER playing the ingenue because the leading men are too short. Which is okay because the sassy best friend has all the best lines anyway.
4. Playing ALL of the adult roles from the time you’re 12. I played M’Lynne in Steel Mags when I was 23. My roommate was Shelby. And we rocked it.

Yes, there are challenges with being an Amazon actress, but on the other had, these long legs have been solely responsible for getting me cast in several productions. Incidentally, come see me in Sweet Charity this Spring at Hillbarn!”

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Obviously, I’m quite proud to have shared a stage with those women. Being around other tall actresses and performing the show for years made my height feel “normal”, sometimes humorous, and something I should absolutely stop apologizing for.

Now when I get to an audition, I still pack flats if I’m wearing heels and I still consider my hair (I have no problem cutting bangs into my look hours before if I think it’ll help get a part) but I’ve stopped thinking so much about being taller than many of the actors around me – I’ve convinced myself that I just have more height to store talent.

Things never went anywhere with that college crush. But I did get cast in a romantic lead with my now husband who is also taller than me! So things worked out okay there! No Coldplay mixes were needed. And lastly, “tall” is not synonymous with “plain” so I’d greatly appreciate it if you could all call me, “Ashley, Tall and Excited By Froyo” from here on out. Until tomorrow, my friends! I look forward to continuing this discussion with Marissa!

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!

Cowan Palace: A Play, A Pregnancy, A Passion for Broccoli Tacos, And Other Chats with Mary McGloin

This week, Ashley Cowan chats with actress, Mary McGloin!

In an already exciting season for Custom Made Theatre Co., I recently had the opportunity to see their latest production of How The World Began and not to get into “review territory” but I thought it was fantastic. Aside from catching Theater Pub’s February contribution, I sadly haven’t been up for a lot of theatrical viewings these days. Unfortunately, it’s been difficult to sit longer than an hour without having to pee or put my feet up so seeing anything away from my couch has been tricky. And to be honest, when I entered Custom Made’s space last week, I was already uncomfortable and achy.

But in true theatre healing style, I sat down and was immediately brought to another place. Where I could watch three characters, one of which was suffering through pregnancy pains of her own, explore the divide between religion and biology.

In this Bay Area premiere, written by Catherine Trieschmann and directed by Leah S. Abrams, we meet Susan (played by Mary McGloin), a high school science teacher, her student Micah (played by Tim Garcia), and Micah’s “guardian”, Gene (played by Malcom Rodgers) who are all fighting for a chance to be heard and understood. I had the opportunity to ask Mary McGloin a few questions regarding her experience with the production and gain some additional insight into this piece about the universe’s origin story.

picture by Anne Livingston

picture by Anne Livingston

AC: What first drew you to How The World Began and helped you to accept a role three thousand miles away from home?

MM: I first discovered How The World Began back in 2011 when I went on an acting retreat in Costa Rica with casting director, Alaine Alldaffer. She runs the retreat and assigns each actor a role and a play to work on for it. She assigned me Susan. I immediately fell in love with the play and the role and dove into working on it. I will always remember doing the 3rd scene on a beach.

When I saw the Off-Broadway production at the Women’s Project in 2012, I fell in love with the play again and hoped to one day play Susan. Back in April of 2014, Leah, our wonderful director, announced that she was going home to SF to direct this play in Winter of 2015, I immediately said, “I’m right for that role.” Lucky for me, she agreed enough to cast me, which led me home to the Bay Area for this production. (Missing winter in NY notwithstanding.)

AC: What is the biggest thing you have in common with your character, Susan?

MM: That’s funny you should ask. My little sister and brother in law came to the show and said, “Oh my God, she’s exactly like you, did they write this role for you?” I definitely have a very strong sense of justice, fairness, and a desire to stand up and stand by what I believe in, even if it makes me unpopular. That said, I think I personally am a bit more hypersensitive to other people’s feelings and beliefs and would probably have not ended up in the same situation exactly. I tend to apologize more. Though we are eerily similar.

AC: What’s been the biggest surprise challenge in playing Susan?

MM: Surprise challenge? I am not sure what was a surprise exactly but – when I initially read the script, some of the way she talks seemed foreign to me, I don’t say things like “willy-nilly” and “doing my darndest” but it was surprisingly easy to get that once I saw where she was coming from. The first scene sets up quite a tone for the play and I knew that I had to answer a few questions internally to know where to start from. It’s also important I think not to get angry or frustrated with Micah early on as he’s a kid who’s clearly hurting and she’s really trying to do the best she can, that and there’s a long way to go and if you start there you’ve no where to end up.

AC: As the play centers around discussions of faith and biological origin, did conversations of this nature infuse the rehearsal process as well?

MM: This is San Francisco, after all, so no, not really.

AC: What do you hope audiences leave thinking about after they’ve seen the show?

MM: About how easy it is to mis-characterize what other people believe – maybe how they would feel in the situation, how we as a country might be able to be a bit more tolerant of one or another’s views, whether we agree with them or not. Maybe especially when we disagree.

Picture by Jay Yamada

Picture by Jay Yamada

AC: How has your acting preparation process been influenced by playing a character who is pregnant?

MM: I’ve never been pregnant, so I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and asked friends who have been for their experiences. I also did a lot of people watching.

AC: What has been your favorite part about being back in the Bay Area theatre scene?

MM: Oh, God, I miss home. This is my home. I have a lot of friends and family here. I come home typically at least twice a year to visit. Before I moved to the East Coast, I had been living in SF and other parts of the Bay Area for 15 years. I have worked at theatres all around the Bay. Everyone is nice, welcoming, supportive and you can really get to know the community and be seen for roles when they’re casting – New York is so huge and so competitive – it’s hard to keep on keepin’ on but it’s what we do. I was broken-hearted when I had to leave SF. But ultimately, I believed after understudying 12 times at Bay Area Theatres – mostly to women who lived in NYC and had MFA’s – that if I wanted to compete with that I needed to get my MFA and move to NYC, so I did. Was that accurate? I guess I’ll never really know. I would love to come back here at any time and do shows. Eventually, I’d love to be so well situated in my career that I could live anywhere and work consistently, and not just on stage but in TV and Film as well.

AC: What do you miss most about Brooklyn and the New York artistic scene?

MM: New York is pulsating and alive. It’s like being on a train that never stops. There is a great amount of opportunity there to succeed and in a very big way – but it also comes with a big price tag. It’s because of the support of my friends and family here and there that I can get up and do what I do everyday.

To be honest, though, I miss my friends and family in Brooklyn and NY (though if I were there I’d miss you guys here, doh!) , I miss the constant auditioning, I miss the willingness of everyone to bust their butt to make something happen. Brooklyn, itself, I miss Prospect Park, I miss broccoli tacos, I miss finding new and unexpected places to go.

AC: Tell us about where we can see you next and any upcoming projects!

MM: I am busy writing 2 web series in NYC. One is called Lines & Asides and I shot a pilot that got into a few film festivals. It will probably be re-shot when we shoot the whole season. The show revolves around a classically trained actress (typecasting) struggling in NYC and the people she knows – it’s really a story of the life of most of the actors I know in NYC – the idea and the humor are kind of a cross between Slings & Arrows, Waiting for Guffman and The Office. It’s been fun to write – I’ve written 2 seasons, I want to write a final third and then do some re-writes before trying to get it shot.

The other series is about 2 women who work at a startup tech company. My day job has been as a QA Engineer for many years and both me and my co-creator, Amanda Van Nostrand, are taking stories from our lives in this word to make a short (3-5min) episodic. This one is all set in an office and I hope to shoot much sooner than Lines & Asides.

AC: In twelve words or less, why should people come and see How the World Began?

MM: It’s a powerful script that will give you something to talk about!

Picture by Jay Yamada

Picture by Jay Yamada

How The World Began Runs has four shows left and will close on March 8th. To get tickets, please go to: www.custommade.org/tickets and catch this show while you can!