Cowan Palace: Find Your Biggest Fan

Ashley encourages you to find your biggest fan and hug them until they force you to stop it.

Katelyn and Ashley... while Ashley’s in a show playing The Maid Of Honor! Weird!

Katelyn and Ashley… while Ashley’s in a show playing The Maid Of Honor! Weird!

My sister is getting married on Saturday so my mind has been running in an endless list and I’ve been staying up late pretending to work on my Matron of Honor speech. There’s just so many things I want to say and know that I can’t possibly articulate about the whole thing so I end up writing a word and then distracting myself with House Hunters reruns. That scripted dialogue about buying a home is oddly soothing sometimes.

But I got to thinking about an old joke my sister and I have; I honestly can’t remember who first titled her as my “biggest fan” but she’s been lovingly teasing me with that title whenever it seems like a funny time. In her college dorm ten years ago, she hung up the new fancy New York City headshot I used all my savings to take and then print, and put on a star on it, declaring herself Ashley Cowan’s biggest fan. It was awesome. I felt like I had made it.

My sister Katelyn has been the best biggest fan. She’s seen me in more shows than anyone else, even ones I may have been less proud of… She’s seen me play all of the female characters in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding (which, come on, that’s a lot of interactive performance to willingly endure). She’s honest when I need the feedback but terribly kind with it because she knows I’m sensitive. She’s the one who I ask to bounce things off of when I’m encountering a writer’s block and often she makes me go around the block by suggesting a brilliant new path. I’ve even sent her several Theater Pub blog entries before I send them off to Stuart just so I can get an extra pair of eyes on my latest words.

Katelyn’s also the one I text before I buy almost anything just so she can tell me if it’s cool or not. My knowledge of makeup and fashion trends is almost 100% based upon those text exchanges punctuated by various emoticons. But for me, I need my biggest fan to keep up my star identity.

So Katelyn, even though we joke about the term, I thank you for the pushes to keep doing the things that I love; to have the courage to audition, to actually write the ideas that seem silly or stupid in my head; to keep reaching for my place in the stars. I’ll never be able to express enough gratitude for it.

And to everyone else, I say, go find your biggest fan! Thank that person who believes in you, loves you, and makes you better than you are. Give them a hug or like, a winning scratch ticket, they’ve earned it. Sure, we should all strive to be our own fans but finding your very own biggest fan? Well, there’s nothing quite like it. Now excuse me while I pause House Hunters and attempt to write some more words for my sister, my friend, my fan.

Cowan Palace: I’m Not Here To Be Pretty

You read the title, Ashley Cowan’s not here to be pretty. But she’s always here to make friends!

Last Saturday night, I celebrated my first Opening Night in two and a half years. At the party afterwards, I ate a truly alarming amount of chocolate snacks, drank a modest amount of champagne, and hugged everyone as long as they would let me. The route to this production wasn’t an easy one and I was just so happy to have survived it. A wedding, a baby, moving into three separate homes, thousands of miles traveled, balancing new jobs and seemingly endless responsibilities, nightly rehearsals, and a partridge in a pear tree? Yeah, gimme dat chocolate, please.

Earlier in the evening, the cast had come together in a quiet huddle. I teared up when one of my castmates asked us to take a moment to appreciate how hard we had worked to get to this moment and to reflect why we got into theatre in the first place. We then continued our warm up with each stating an intention we hoped to focus on during the show. My word was “grateful” and I meant it wholeheartedly.

Which is why I couldn’t help but laugh when a few folks reached out to me these past few days as if to offer their condolences for playing another series of characters that weren’t created to be “pretty”.

This isn’t something new for me. In high school and college I almost always played roles meant for older women. And with that, came costumes that were notoriously unflattering. My friends would come see my show and compliment my performance but couldn’t resist telling me that my costume made me look fifty pounds heavier than I am in “real life”. At one point, someone actually asked me what I had done to our costume designer to make them hate me so much. But I kept auditioning and celebrating whenever I’d get cast. And honestly, somewhere in applying yet another round of old age makeup, maybe I got some slightly thicker skin because I just didn’t really care that much about how I looked when I was playing someone else.

Even when in the middle of a show dressed as an awkward bridesmaid an audience member grabbed me and told me I was “brave” for publicly wearing such an ill-fitting dress because she would never, ever leave the house in my position. Or when I’d hear from someone that the color I was in really washed me out and made my hair look flat. And even after the latest round of jokes and sympathy nods were sent my way after some production shots were shared online, I smiled and moved on.

Costume Someecard

As I’ve written maaaaaany times before, I’m suuuuuuuuper sensitive and I’m still desperately working through some body issues (BUT, WHO ISN’T?!?!). Now, add on doing a full length show in my post baby body, which I gotta tell you, is still taking some getting used to as I’m still not quite comfortable in it, and I’ll admit – I was worried that thicker skin may have washed off in one of my rare showers.

Maybe it was working with costume designers that truly made me feel so comfortable in what can sometimes be an awkward situation (trying on different clothes and having people search for flaws) but when I got my new clothing pieces, I was actually pretty jazzed. Yes, some of the items may seem a little ridiculous but they’re true to the character and I find them to be fittingly hilarious. So, yeah, I couldn’t help but chuckle and roll my eyes when that handful of people mentioned my latest appearance in comparison to my “real life” self.

Firstly, LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL hahahahahaha. My real life self just picked food and old toothpaste from my hair before walking into work today and throwing it in a messy bun. (Also, please keep in mind, I haven’t had breakfast yet so who knows where that food came from.) Big spoiler alert, me in “real life” is not pretty all the time! Sure, TMZ hasn’t published a series of gross pictures of me yet but I promise it’s true. So why in the world would my characters need to look attractive and pretty all of the time? That sounds terribly boring.

Look, I know that I don’t look “good” in everything I wear. I know my face can make some rather intense expressions that may not be described as “conventionally beautiful” and sometimes examples of these things live online forever. But I also know that I actively chose to keep fighting for the roles that allow me those opportunities. I don’t do it to be pretty. This is theatre, not a Bachelor rose ceremony (though, that’s a beautiful art piece of its own…).

One of the best compliments I ever received was from one of my past castmates who was helping me step into the role of Tina (from TNT) for the first time. At the time, they didn’t have a dress that fit me well so I had to wear one that was too wide and too short for my body. It also had sleeves (that ended halfway down my arms) and was full of bedazzled glory. She was watching me try and put on a ponytail of ridiculous fake hair on top of my already highly teased and hairsprayed look when she simply stated, “You’re not afraid to get ugly. You embrace it. I like that.” That comment has proudly stayed with me these past six years. Because what it meant to me was, just being truthful to the role/production/opportunity was the important thing. Not dressing up in an attempt to be thought of as beautiful.

Ugly Wedding Dress

Don’t get me wrong, I still hope you all think I’m super, babealiciously hot when I’m me in “real life”. But you don’t have to feel bad for me when you think I look dorky or less than pretty in my costume. Because I’m so, so grateful to be wearing it! I want to keep being involved in the good, the bad, and the ugly because it means I’m still involved and doing something I truly love to do! So until tomorrow when I get my costume back on, I’ll be focusing on the important stuff like managing my chocolate addiction.

Come see Ashley in Custom Made Theatre’s Middletown, running now until April 23!

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?

Tall%20SomeCard copy

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.”

Mariah%20and%20Ashley

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!”

Mariah%20and%20Ashley

Sarah%20and%20Stephanie

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: Ten Times I Broke The Rules And It Ruled!

Ashley’s not always much of a rule breaker but when she is… it’s something!

When we last met as a Theater Pub unit to talk about the rest of the year, the bloggers decided to use September as a way to explore “breaking the rules” in theatre. So, to get things going, here are ten times I broke the rules:

1.) Cat Improv

Closing night of Godspell (the last play I did before leaving New York) I decided it’d be funny if I changed my normal, expected “adlib” line about being too busy to being too busy because I had to wax my cat. (Looking back, I think I was trying to impress some boy I had a crush on who had miraculously traveled all the way out to Queens to see the show after months of my begging.) Sure, some of the cast wanted to kill me because the random weird new line made them break but the audience LOLed and I thought I was a bad ass. As I always say, it’s the cat’s pajamas when you can improv a line about a feline.

2.) The Switch

It was a double show day a few months into Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding (the interactive, Italian wedding show!). We hadn’t brought on many swings or understudies yet and almost of of the cast had been playing the same part each night. After one performance as “the dorky” bridesmaid my castmate, who was scheduled to play “the sexy singer” bridesmaid, mentioned she didn’t feel like wearing her character’s heels for the next show. I tried them on for fun in the ladies dressing room and we started joking about switching parts. (Considering we both had the same dress on anyway, it would only take a few different accessories to become the other character.) But this was at the beginning of the run when we had a pretty strict and regimented production team who absolutely would have said no to the request. We decided to just do it without telling anyone figuring they wouldn’t stop the show and make us switch back. (So sneaky, right?!) The new role I was covering required me to sing four songs and make out with a groomsman without having practiced either activity. Whoa, baby, it was quite the show! And even though we got a stern talking to about our switch, it opened the door to being able to play more of the parts in the show. I then went on to sing many more songs and stage kiss many more groomsmen.

3.) Dating My Co-Star

Not sure if it’s really a rule but it’s certainly not always the best idea. Lucky for me it worked out. And we made a baby. A beautiful theater baby and actual child. Boom. Thanks, fellow actor/blogger Will Leschber!

4.) Getting Too Into Character

It was my first weekend playing Tina (in Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding) and I took the whole “in your face, interactive Italian bride” role pretty seriously. Near the end of the show, Tony and Tina have a big fight where they break up (spoiler alert: they get back together) and I grabbed a glass from someone’s table and threw it at my Tony. The glass shattered and water spilled on a couple attending the show. After the performance I was asked to never do that again by our stage manager. But then a guy who had been at the show (and drank way too much) came up to us and told me I was so fierce that I “must have real balls”. He then spelled “balls” incorrectly and missed a high five. It was rad and totally worth it.

Dear God, It’s Me Ashley

Dear God, It’s Me Ashley

5.) Turning On My Phone

While rehearsing God Satan Beer (part of Theater Pub’s second Pint-Sized Festival) I had the instinct during one rehearsal to play God as a real dick and just start taking selfies of myself during Satan’s smart and poignant monologue. We ended up keeping the bit (after cleaning it up and better defining it) and I got treasured show pictures every night!

A tale of two dresses…

A tale of two dresses…

6.) Sewing A Wedding Dress

When I first got to play Tina in TNT they costumed me in a dress that had long sleeves (though they were too short to fully cover my arms). It was also slightly too wide and too short. And, covered in random sequins and lace. Then our show switched venues and a bunch of our clothes never made it to the new location. Including that dress. (Perhaps it returned to the magical Lisa Frank world from once it came). I knew I couldn’t fit into the dress worn by some of the other Tinas but I didn’t want to tell our production team because I knew they’d take away my chance to play the part. So I found the backup dress that I could almost fit into. Then I stole it from our collection and brought it home (huge no no). Next, I cut it apart and sewed it together to fit me better. Keep in mind, I can barely dress myself sometimes and I really don’t know much about sewing. But somehow after hours of effort, I pulled it off! I had a dress I could wear. When I put it on for my first show back in the role, one of my castmates told me she hoped I could wear that dress in my own wedding because it seemed “made for me”. I did not wear it for my own wedding but that comment still makes me laugh.

7.) An Unconventional Headshot

Before I auditioned for Terrorama, I sent the production team a picture from a film I did in NYC as my headshot and resume. It’s just me screaming in a nightgown. Awesome (Theatre), right?

I know what you’re thinking. Why doesn’t this girl have her own musical/horror/reality show yet?!

I know what you’re thinking. Why doesn’t this girl have her own musical/horror/reality show yet?!

8.) Male Monologues

For two years whenever I was asked to have a monologue ready, I went in with a male Shakespearean selection. For some reason, I always felt free to make bigger choices with them. Now this tactic did not always result in getting into the show but I like to think it helped with playing Viola in Twelfth Night.

9.) Auditioning With A TLC Song

Not a whole lot more to say other than I sang an acapella version of TLC’s “No Scrubs” at an audition that asked us to have a more classically driven song prepared. I did not get cast. But I have no regrets! One step closer to achieving my solo TLC cover band dream.

10.) Drinking On The Job

Now, I’m pretty strict about not drinking during a show. Even when I’ve played characters who were drunk and suppose to be drinking AND the director allowed me to have a real drink, I’ve always asked for the non alcoholic stuff. I have way too many butterflies before and during a show and booze doesn’t lend itself well to that (for me). But during one TNT show, when I was back to playing “the dorky bridesmaid”, a table ordered me and one of the groomsmen a shot and demanded we take it together. We tried to talk our way out of it but they insisted. Plus, the drinks were expensive! So in the nature of the “yes, and” style of the show, we took them. Even though it was just one drink, it felt a little dangerous and reckless (again, for me). Enough to say, alright, I did that but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Even if it’s just my own silly rules, sometimes it’s cool not to break them.

Cowan Palace: Audition Tips With Ashley

Ashley’s gonna make you a star, kid!

After nearly a year and a half away from auditioning, I found myself at a real life actual audition on Saturday afternoon. As you may remember my feelings regarding having to prepare a monologue from my past blog I was delighted to be in the company of printed sides and fellow cold readers.

Honestly, sometimes just getting out of the house without forgetting my keys is a victory, so I was pretty jazzed to simply get out and go play. But I thought I’d try to also use the experience and write some tips for the next audition.

You should definitely listen to this girl! She clearly knows what she’s talking about!

You should definitely listen to this girl! She clearly knows what she’s talking about!

Here are a few of my pearls of wisdom:

1.) Dress to impress… or press your dress… or try not to be a mess.

So you’re an actor. You probably know how to make yourself look pretty, good for you. But if you can, put a little effort into what you’re wearing and consider how you want people to see you. On Saturday, I picked a dress to wear and ironed it and did my best to remove all the rogue, single pet hairs that had found a home and formed a community on it. I had a pretty lengthy mental debate about whether or not to fish out some Spanx because truthfully, I’m not quite back into my old audition body thanks to nursing. Little did I know I wouldn’t really have to worry about that because I ended up popping a button off the bust of the dress on my walk out the door. It was unfortunate. So my advice? Along with ironing your pretty clothes, perhaps try them on the night before to make sure you feel comfortable and confident. Also, have a backup.

2.) You can be warm and welcoming. Or cool and collected. Just don’t be an asshole.

On my second audition in the Bay Area, I was scolded by another actress in the waiting area for being too friendly with the stage manager and other people waiting for their audition slot. She told me it wouldn’t get me into the show. I did get into that show and that show pretty much depended on the actors being friendly with strangers (holla, Tony ‘n Tina’s crew!). But I realized that people handle their audition nerves in different ways; some are overly talkative, some are silent and thoughtful. I usually lean on the chatty side; it helps me feel better to talk to those in my boat. What I’ve found auditioning for stuff in the Bay Area is that often, you’ll come to know a majority of the actors in the waiting room with you. And while you want to get in a show, you’re also really rooting for many of them to get in, too. That’s cool! So I suggest either embracing the opportunity to hang out with other actors and enjoy the conversations or politely give yourself some space. But you don’t need to embrace the people looking for space. So be aware and stuff. And keep in mind, being an asshole in the waiting room isn’t going to secure your chance to be cast, either.

3.) Give yourself a dress rehearsal

Once you get a side, it’s in your best interest to read that sucker out loud. Even if it’s just once. On Saturday, I got the chance to read with a few different people who were luckily interested in taking a moment to read the lines aloud together. Each time I read a side out loud for the first time, I flubbed some word or sentence. But then when I got into the space, I was way less likely to mess it up again. So lesson learned, mentally reading lines over in your head is good but if you can find a place to voice them before the director hears it, do it!

4.) Don’t be boring or too quiet

You never know what’s going on in the minds of the folks in charge of casting but most likely, they’re tired and they’re swimming in similar dialogue read to them over and over again by countless eager actors. Do them a favor and try to go in there confidently and prepared to give them some energy. Be loud. Sometimes making the conscious choice to up that volume can encourage bigger choices to be made. You’re there to make an impression and when you get the chance to be the focus, fill that room however you can.

5.) Care

If you’re attending an audition, put some time and thought into it. Or at least, fake it. Read the script you’re trying to get a part in, familiarize yourself with the playwright or the play’s production history. Consider how cool it would be to do the show. Whatever. That passion reads and people want to be around others who are passionate about something so don’t be afraid to care about the project.

6.) Try not to care so much

Don’t get so stuck in researching the play that you’re unable to come in and take new direction and approach the text with fresh eyes. Don’t beat yourself up if your delivery didn’t nail the punchline and get a laugh. And don’t get caught up in whether things are running late or getting a last minute side to read after you studied and prepared another one. Auditions can be fun! Let yourself enjoy them a little if you can. It’s the chance to perform! So get out of your head and just play in the moment.

7.) Pack comfortable shoes for the walk home

Picking audition shoes are always a battle for me as I truly believe a change in footwear can change your portrayal of a character in a big way. Sometimes I’ll bring two pairs in or ask if I can just go barefoot and sometimes I just want the shoes to look pretty and cute so I look like I kind of have my act together. On Saturday I made the rookie mistake of not packing an extra pair of comfortable shoes to put on after my final read. Dummy! My pretty, vintage red shoes had served their purpose but my feet decided to wage a rebellion so I ended up walking home from the theater barefoot. Luckily, it was only eight blocks but I did look like I was attempting a quick walk of shame. In any case, you want to be comfortable! Even if it’s after the audition. So keep footwear in mind.

The biggest tip I have though is to go to the audition. Do not talk yourself out of it or make stupid excuses. I’m the queen of second guessing myself and coming dangerously close to canceling my audition thinking, “I don’t have a chance in getting in so why bother.” Gah, don’t do that! Just go try! You don’t have anything to lose! I almost didn’t audition for Twelfth Night years ago and I can’t imagine my life without having had that show. Plus, I’ve also auditioned for things that I didn’t get into only to have the director call me years later and offer me something totally different. You never know. But, please, if you want to act and be in shows then put yourself out there and do it over and over again! And if you need me to push you or hold you accountable, fine. Cowan Palace in the house! Hopefully I’ll schedule a new audition again soon and in the meantime, I’ll keep taking tips. So if you have an audition tip, please feel free to share. Until next time, pals!

Cowan Palace: Motherhood, A One Woman Show

Ashley’s back from maternity leave, y’all! Hugs, cuddles, and cupcakes for everyone! And this week she’s bringing Cowan Palace back with a performance log of her new role: Mama.

“Line?” I hear myself call out.

Silence.

“Line? Sorry, can someone please… is anyone there? Line?”

Silence. Then I hear my audience start to cry. I sigh. Where is the stage manager? The audience grows restless and the cry turns into a wail.

“Okay. Improv it is!” I say to myself in encouragement and begin singing another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. I’ve been trying out Cinderella this week after exhausting Oklahoma!’s score last week. My audience weeps again. My rendition of the duet, “Impossible”, must be leaving something to be desired. While I strive to inspire some kind of emotional response from those that have seen me perform, I’m pretty sure it didn’t always result in bringing them to tears. But I love the challenge!

Perhaps my audience is in need of something more from me.

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When I auditioned for this show, it was a total whim. I hadn’t even prepared a monologue and I did not feel confident about that cold read. I was pretty shocked that the production team had decided to cast me. Sure, my friends asked if I had really read my contract before agreeing to the role but I couldn’t pass up the chance to star in a one woman show! What a part! What an opportunity! What could go wrong?!

They asked how I felt about topless scenes. “Gah, these things?” I mumbled awkwardly, “Nah!” I told them it wasn’t really my thing; could we figure something else out? How about a rewrite? Or a body double? But they promised it would be an honest and potentially beautiful piece in the show. I finally agreed when they let me have control of the lighting and my wardrobe.

And speaking of the wardrobe… no one seems to be cleaning the costumes. They keep getting so dirty and the stains are mounting. Has anyone seen the stage manager? Maybe they can help. Until then, I guess I’ll keep wearing them.

Anyway, it seems that the audience responds to my topless scenes, finding nourishment in the performance. I have to admit, in the beginning, I found this part of the play to be a bit more difficult and physically demanding. But now I’ll throw my shirt off in many public spaces and parking lots if the moment is right. I respect the integrity of the production. Who knew this show would be so freeing! I’m hopeful my songs will one day inspire such a reaction.

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Still, the audience appears to fall asleep after those big scenes. I wish I could fall asleep; this show can certainly be a bit exhausting. Is an actor allowed to sleep when the audience does? Is that a real thing? Though, I can never manage to stay backstage very long. While the audience does not always love my acting, they do seem to love theatre and demand that the show continue.

Also, I’m not here to make waves (I like to save my blades and waves for occasional blogs) but, sometimes I wonder if I should inquire with a union. Most days I work long hours without a break. Sometimes I have to wait a long time to eat something or use the bathroom. Again, I’m not complaining, just wondering if that was hidden in the contract? Hmm, I wish I could find the stage manager and ask them.

I shouldn’t be surprised though considering our tech week. And wow, our final dress was a bit traumatic. I mean, over 36 hours is a long rehearsal, right? But you know what they say, rocky dress, great show! And as soon as we opened, I knew I had found the role of a lifetime.

Yes, the show is a bit more interactive than you’d think (but I was in Tony ‘n Tina’s for years!) and it’s certainly the hardest part I’ve had the chance to do but when I’m out there performing for my small audience, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. So I keep singing. I keep dancing (badly). And I keep giving it all my heart. Because even if the audience is small, they deserve a grand show full of big moments.

Lucky for me, the audience seems to be having a bit more fun these days. Sometimes I see smiles and hear the early attempts of laughter. I’ll get there. The show must go on!

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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/!