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: The Golden Girls Return To Brighten Our Holidays!

Ashley thanks you again for being a friend and spreads holiday cheer with the cast of The Golden Girls!

Happy Day Before Thanksgiving, gang! I like to imagine you’re all spending today in your yoga pants sipping on spiked pumpkin spiced lattes while watching Golden Girls reruns. But in case you’re at work or in the middle of meal prep, I have your Golden Girls fix right here. So grab a warm beverage and read on!

It’s that magical time of year again. The city is full of shoppers and light and of course, the radiant presence and spirit of San Francisco’s favorite holiday tradition, The Golden Girls live in performance. I had the chance to talk to the four stars of this year’s The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes (which opens on December 3rd at The Victoria Theatre) and their thoughts are truly hilarious, delicious, and heartfelt. A perfect holiday treat!

First, tell us who you playing in the show?

Holotta Tymes: Sophia

Heklina: I play Dorothy Zbornak, who was of course immortalized by the untouchable Bea Arthur.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Rose Nylund

Matthew Martin: I’m playing Blanche, of course!

Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy), D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose), and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy), D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose), and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

If your character was a drink, what would they be?

Holotta Tymes: An old fashioned.

Heklina: Either a Salty Dog or a Rusty Nail. Or a Screwdriver.

D’Arcy Drollinger: A Shirley Temple

Matthew Martin: A Mint Julep on a veranda on a hot night.

Which Golden Girl captures your real life personality?

Holotta Tymes: Sophia for sure.

Heklina: Definitely Dorothy. As I am the most sarcastic person I know. Also, my joke delivery is very dry and I can deliver a withering side-eye. I’m also very much Blanche because I’m boy crazy!

D’Arcy Drollinger: Well, I was born on the same day as Betty White, so I’m going to have to go with Rose.

Matthew Martin: I think there’s a little bit of all of them in everyone, and that’s why they are so relatable to audiences, but sometimes I feel like guileless innocent Rose more often than not, and just play a slut like Blanche onstage!

If you could be stuck on a desert island with only one of the Girls, who would you pick?

Holotta Tymes: Blanche. She’s such a tramp.

Heklina: Dorothy! Definitely not Rose, she’d drive me crazy with her St. Olaf stories.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Again I’m going to have to say Rose, especially after watching “Vacation” episode 8 in season 2 when Rose takes control when they get stranded on a tropical island.

Matthew Martin: Well, I’d say Blanche but that would be myself, and Dorothy is always good company!

Caption: Heklina (Dorothy), Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose) and Matthew Martin (Blanche), in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Caption: Heklina (Dorothy), Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose) and Matthew Martin (Blanche), in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

What has been your favorite part of this year’s production process so far?

Holotta Tymes:
The casting couch. ;0)

Heklina: Well, it’s been a very bittersweet year as I miss my partner in The Golden Girls, Cookie Dough, terribly. Everything about the production is a reminder of her. But getting to work with new additions to the cast has been great.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Rehearsals have been so much fun. It’s hard to get through the scenes sometimes with all the laughing.

Matthew Martin: Lots of laughs with fun people!

What do you think will delight the diehard fans of the Golden Girls the most in this year’s show?

Holotta Tymes: The cast this year is a lot of fun; I think everyone is in for a good laugh.

Heklina: The material and the dialogue, of course. And the outfits. When you put four queens in drag as these characters it’s just comedy gold.

D’Arcy Drollinger: The set is going to be great this year!

Matthew Martin: The addition of Holatta Tymes to the cast. A great performer and person. The greatest tribute to Eddie/Cookie is going on with the show with such a seasoned performer playing Sophia.

To those who haven’t seen the show before, why is this year the perfect introduction to this San Francisco holiday tradition?

Holotta Tymes: Both episodes chosen for this year, I think, are some of the best of the sitcom. Funny and charming.

Heklina: This year is no different. There is never a bad time to attend this show and bask in the camp overload. It’s also the only show I do all year long that you could bring your grandmother to and she wouldn’t get offended.

D’Arcy Drollinger: It deals with friends, family and drag queens!

Matthew Martin: With the faithful fans flocking to The Victoria and growing exponentially year after year, anyone who hasn’t been to The Happening that the GGs is will have an onsite conversion!

What drink or snack can your fans treat you to after the show?

Holotta Tymes: Reese’s peanut butter cups

Heklina: I should say cheesecake, I know, but the truth? A cheeseburger.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Cheesecake!

Matthew Martin: A taco and a Mexican coke. Hey, we’re in the Mission.

Caption: D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose), Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy) and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Caption: D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose), Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy) and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

Holotta Tymes: My friends, family and the chance to work with such a great cast.

Heklina: To have survived another year in San Francisco! Also, to have opened Oasis.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Friends, family and drag queens! I am joining the cast for the first time this year and I am grateful to be part of such a fun SF tradition.

Matthew Martin: My family and friends and the many blessings in my life.

Where can we see you next? What do you have going on after this production closes?

Holotta Tymes: You can catch me in “Sunday’s A Drag Brunch” atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. A drag brunch with attitude

Heklina: Straight into New Year’s Eve preparations!

D’Arcy Drollinger: You can catch me in Three’s Company at Oasis as Chrissy Snow. And in June 2016 as Samantha in Sex and the City Live!

Matthew Martin: Hopefully you can see me on a beach in Hawaii whilst I’m on vacation! Our film of Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte just premiered and will soon be distributed. We are doing Three’s Company next year playing Mrs. Roper, another installment of D’Arcy Drollinger’s Champagne White Saga onstage, filming Dead Ringer with Billy Clift playing Bette Davis twins, my solo show here and there and working on other projects. Busy, busy….

In 160 characters (or less!) tell us (tweet style; so emoticons are encouraged!) why we need to come see the show:

Holotta Tymes: It’s become a new San Francisco holiday tradition!

Heklina: YOUR FAVE X-MAS TRADITION RETURNS #DOROTHY #ROSE #SOPHIA #BLANCHE #XMASINMIAMI #💋🙌 #CHEESECAKEONTHELANAI #WICKERFURNITURE

D’Arcy Drollinger: Season 5, episode 3 The Accurate Conception. Golden Girls and cum jokes. Merry Xmas!

Matthew Martin: It’s become a SF tradition for many and always a feel-good holiday happening. The cross-section of people in audiences to me is the essence of San Francisco: male, female, gay, straight, old, young, all having a good laugh together at Christmastime.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes – 2015 Performance Dates are Dec. 3 – 20, 2015. Plays Thurs. Fri. & Sat. – 8:00pm / Sun. – 7:00 pm at The Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (between Mission and Capp) SF, CA 94103. Tix available at: http://goldengirlschristmas.eventbrite.com/

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: Hugs And Cuddles Heads Out On Maternity Leave!

Ashley says a quick goodbye before maternity leave.

I’ve been feeling mentally blocked from writing this blog for a few weeks. Once I admitted to myself that, yeah homegirl, you’re gonna need to take some time off for a maternity leave, I immediately felt anxious.

See, I’m not the best at taking time off or stepping away from stuff I feel invested in; my thoughts start drowning while my heart races me into a fury.

Take today for example. I’m six days away from my due date and have managed to catch a terrible cold. #Hashtag literally, my entire body hurts and my brain feels like it’s been placed into a blender of fog. But I’m still at work! Partially because I’m still in denial about it all but also because I want to be here and I suck at admitting to myself that sometimes you can’t do everything.

But I’ve been writing this column for awhile and I’m sure you’ve heard me sing that song a few times before; in any case, here we are! So needless to say, when I decided to take the month of April away from writing Cowan Palace, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s happening though and next month you’ll be sans Ashley!

So what to write about in my last entry before motherhood? Well, as always, my life comes back to theatre. In these last few days leading up to our due date, my body has been dealing with the nerves the same way it handles a new show opening. Some of the butterflies feel exactly the same as they do when they’re fluttering around my nervous stomach because of a crappy tech rehearsal leading up to a highly anticipated opening night.

I’ve also found myself feeling a tad defensive in these past few weeks, like I need to explain my production vision to an audience expecting a different show. When I was a kid and I imagined raising a family, I didn’t immediately paint the picture of my life right now. Did I think my husband and I would be bringing a newborn home to a small one bedroom apartment in San Francisco where we pay three times more in rent than many of our friends pay for their mortgages? Nope! But it’s sure fun to watch acquaintances’ eyes bug out when we share our reality!

Here’s the thing though: having the money to invest in fancy costumes or props or sets doesn’t always guarantee your show is going to be a meaningful success, right? (I mean, I could throw some big productions under the bus here but eh, that’s not today’s point.) Some of my favorite and most memorable shows have been in small spaces with minimal tech needs where the production may have been a simple labor of love, but you left feeling connected to something greater.

That’s hard to explain to those living outside of our San Francisco theatre bubble. The ones that constantly ask me to repeat how much rent prices go for these days and demand I share how I plan to support my child. But Will and I love it here. Sure, raising a baby in this insanely expensive place with our current financial means sounds crazy and we know it’s going to be difficult.

We also know that we met in San Francisco, we fell in love in San Francisco, we got married in San Francisco, we made a baby in San Francisco, and we chose to stay in San Francisco. And thankfully, we’re surrounded by people who enrich our lives in so many more important ways than money. We live in this city because we feel like we’re a part of a community. A group who will laugh at our terrible jokes, bring us chocolate when we’re grumpy, challenge us creatively, open their minds to new ideas, and just love us as we are, right here, right now. I couldn’t imagine bringing our baby into a better environment.

And on that note, hormonal Hugs and Cuddles thank you all for being a part of that. I’ll miss you but look forward to reuniting again in Cowan Palace soon!

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Cowan Palace: ShortLived Returns And Other Spring Sequels

ShortLived is returning! And Ashley’s feeling things about it!

The spring of 2010 was an exciting time for me. Well, at least I can say that now because back then it just felt like everyday life.

After playing all the bridesmaids and many other female characters in Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding, I was finally given the chance to perform as the drunk bridezilla herself, Tina; I was working as a theatre teaching artist for over 100 kids in a week; I managed the box office/house/lounge at Magic Theatre and volunteered as their audition reader where I had the chance to listen in on all the big casting choices; and I was finally getting my start into playwriting, an area that had both scared me and called to me for years. In fact, I was #blessed with some beginner’s luck and good fortune in that department because during that spring of 2010, I was working on my first Olympian’s piece, had a play accepted into the first Pint Sized Festival, and had just been given the chance to submit something for PianoFight’s ShortLived competition, that time on behalf of No Nude Men Productions.

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Sure, I was constantly stressed about my lack of finances and health insurance but I was also involved in all these creative outlets. And yeah, I may have questioned my life in comparison to all my school classmates who were getting married and having babies more than was necessary as a hopeless single, but ultimately, I was having fun as a young 20-something in San Francisco. I was a poor gal’s Carrie Bradshaw! … or something.

Which was why being involved in ShortLived was so rad. Thanks to a chance meeting after a Theater Pub show, I was introduced to Rob Ready who was inquiring about involving Theater Pub in PianoFight’s current show. I awkwardly barged into the conversation. And I immediately jumped at the chance to take on writing something without having any idea of what I could submit… or who would direct it… or who would act in it… even though we had a limited time in which to get all these pieces together. I didn’t care! I was eager! It would work out!

Luckily, it did. There were a few hurdles and tears along the way but I dusted off some notes I had about a short piece involving the role texting can play in dating and then was so thankful and delighted when Julia Heitner said she’d direct it. She fought for a cast and then used her wonderful creative powers to quickly stage and ready it for an audience. When it opened, I took some time off from performing in Tony ‘n Tina’s to watch from the back of a sold out theater. I nervously drank BudLight Lime from a brown paper bag and saw my short play, Word War, come to life. It was the first time any of my scripted words had been produced and performed in front of a crowd and the experience was as delicious as my drink with a side of cupcakes and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: nothing short of magical.

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Fast forward to today. Well, to last week, I guess. Theater Pub gets an email from Rob asking if we’d like to submit something for ShortLived. Because after a few years away, it’s back! Which is so great! Eager Ashley responds within just a few minutes (again, without any real idea of what to submit or any of the needed production details). Stuart, wise leader that he is, kindly inquires if it’s a doable project for someone so far along in her pregnancy. Oh, right, I remember. I’m eight months pregnant now. Huh.

I’m very excited to have a daughter on the way. She’s apparently the size of a pineapple now (which I try not to think about coming out of me because, well, that’s just an awful image… sorry for putting it in your mind, you pervert) and in just a few weeks, she’ll be here bringing a new kind of magic to my life. There aren’t really enough words to describe the feeling. It’s kind of like waiting backstage to make your first entrance on opening night after a rocky dress rehearsal. You’ve never felt so alive and charged but terrified and anxious all at the same time. The experience is the current star of my reality show.

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And it’s times like these, I realize that years of “shortlived” moments have moved me to a whole new place. Somewhere you hadn’t really realized you had arrived at until you turned around and realized what was behind you.

But here we are. While I can’t help but miss the energy I had five years ago and the passion I possessed to say yes to every opportunity without much thought, I realize it’s not 2010 anymore. Russell Brand and Katy Perry are not together. Thankfully, Theater Pub has continue to grow and develop a core group of fellow eager yes-to-theatre-opportunity-makers. I’m in good company. So when Stuart suggested teaming up with Barbara and involve our team, I was into it. Selfishly, I’m not quite ready to forgo the spirit I possessed five years ago but I’m also super thankful to be involved with a group that still humors me and lets me feel included, even as the super pregnant gal.

While we’re in the very early stages of figuring out our involvement in this year’s ShortLived competition and I sadly may not be able to drink BudLight Lime in celebration, I have to say, the spring of 2015 is looking like it may be pretty exciting too (plus, I can still eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and cupcakes and boy, will I). And I hope this time, I’m old enough to fully appreciate it.

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For more information on ShortLived or to submit your own work, check out: www.pianofight.com/shortlived-open-challenge/!