The Lemonade Jamboree

My poetry series was SUCH a wonderful exercise, but once March began, my life turned back in earnest to the Jamboree. It has been on my mind for roughly a year, with many more months to go.
The Lemonade Jamboree was a dream within a dream. If you will permit me an odd analogy, it has been my child for the past year.

It was conceived in the early days of quarantine and birthed in the summer of social distancing. I have been charged with raising the Fall Series, tending to it, and eventually, sharing it with you. It is a tremendous responsibility, and one I do not take lightly. Possibly like a parent, I feel its success is a direct reflection upon my ability as one of its creators and its guardian.

There are five days left to watch the fruits of this labor, this figurative child that was raised in the middle of a pandemic. After that, it steps back into the shadows for a while, a moody teenager, as its little sibling, The Spring Series, is raised and brought out in debutante fashion later this year.

As with any child, the Fall Series was not created by just one person. An entire village stepped in to help form it, mold it, and make it who it became. I wanted to take a moment to thank those people, those visionaries who saw a dream that wasn’t yet finalized and stood with me, shoulder to shoulder as we figured it out together. Absolutely none of this would be possible without them.

Earlier in the year, we entered a few of the sketches into film festivals, and are thrilled to say that so far, four have been accepted into various festivals, with two making into the International Christian Film and Music Festival, the largest and most prestigious festival of it’s kind in the US.


Thank you to the faces you will see in this slideshow, and the many faces behind the scenes that you won’t see, for believing in me, and for believing in The Lemonade Jamboree.

Featuring Josh Martin’s nominated song, “It’s Such a Good Day To Have a Good Day.”*

*ICFF nomination for Best Music Video, featured in the Fall Series of “The Lemonade Jamboree”

Tickets are available at: https://www.onthestage.com/show/the-theatre-downstream/the-lemonade-jamboree-part-one-72585

A Spinning Wheel

Life right now -
feels like a spinning wheel
that someone wound up -
but forgot to stop. 

Time is racing faster
than my thoughts.
The year has barely begun,
but is scheduled down 
to the near-end. 

When do we breathe?
Between the cracks?
Do we rise up, gasp for air,
and then get pulled back under?

Is this what Life is truly meant to be?
Where is the "stop" level...
and how can I pull it? 



This title could have been, "8 days before covid shutdown" but I didn't know it at the time. Speaking for only myself, as someone who has remained relatively healthy this entire time, when people ask how I've coped with the complete stop and pause of everything that I once knew - I think back to this moment, and this girl, and I remember how overwhelmed and helpless she was feeling, and how this time of complete reset has been something both completely unexpected and also an opportunity for an overhaul of what was once important. 

A Work of Truth

Acting has been called a liar's profession - 
But I would disagree.
If done well, if done right, 
it is a work of truth, of honesty, 
and of empathy. 

Actors are evangelist of story, 
they bring people, and places, 
and feelings back to life - 
or create life. 

They break through bricks 
of stagnant emotion,
shining a light from their beacon of truth 
into whatever cracks and crevices 
need to be exposed. 

Acting, good acting,
shows the best and worst of us,
and illuminates the path to change. 

2021 Update

“We are not given a good life or a bad life. We are given a life. It’s up to us to make it good or bad.”

Ward Foley

Recently, I’ve been working hard to put my life back in order. I have been organizing paperwork, organizing computer files, organizing rooms, and just generally trying to get a grip on my life. I blew the dust off this blog, and was shocked to realize it has not been one year, but two since I last posted. SO, checking in…how have you all been? Anything exciting happen in 2019? 2020? Yeahhh….me too.

In early 2020, I turned 40 (before the pandemic, so I actually got to celebrate it – yay!) But then, my grandfather passed away suddenly in early March, our theatre shut down in person performances for the foreseeable future in late March, and my job was deemed “unessential” around that same time. To top it off, Riley, my beloved canine companion and best furry friend of 15.5 years died from kidney failure in early April. On New Years Eve of 2020, we discovered that our sweet and gentle cat Henry has feline AIDS. That was a definite sucker-punch to end out a pretty crazy year.

But, there was good too. During May through October, our theatre thought outside the box and (safely) developed an internet television show. We created twelve 20 minute episodes of original content. We wrote, sang, and acted our hearts out. Six episodes were released last fall, and the final six will be released this spring. We also completed our very first audio drama (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) thanks to our friends at Dramatic Publishing, who worked with us to gain the authors permission to convert his staged radio play into an actual podcast radio play. I’m proud to say for both projects, our safety precautions ensured that none of our actors or crew were beset with COVID.

Personally, I was able to take my first REAL time off in about ten years. April and nearly the entirety of May was spent catching up on a backlog of projects during the day, but the evenings were spent in leisure. Maybe my first leisure in a very long time. We spent 22 days and watched the entire Marvel movie series, in chronological order! And, shortly after his diagnosis, the vet found some medication that seems to be working well, and Henry is going to live with us, and the rest of his feline friends, as long as his health will allow. (We had all the other cats tested – they are negative, and Henry is not a biter, so no stressful adjustments needed to be made to his life)

Overall, a lot of time this past year was spent in thought – re-prioritizing my life, my goals, and my faith.

A dear friend of mine was commenting about how 2020 had actually had many good things happen to her, and she felt guilty for having a good year. I reminded her that while others had had a wonderful 2019, hers had been pretty horrible, and did she begrudge those who had been happy when she wasn’t? Of course she hadn’t.

To sum up….the way I cope is this. To me, life is just a swinging pendulum. Every year, both horrible and wonderful things happen, and every year from now til the end of time, horrible and wonderful things will happen. We have no idea when each one will strike, so all we can really do is take each day as it comes, find joy in the little moments, and brace ourselves for the big bad ones. All we can do is make the best of each moment we are given. I don’t know that that is life-changing words, but at the moment, it’s the best I have to give.


For those interested, the first six episodes of our series can be found here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/lemonadejamboree

Five Years Ago Today…

Five years ago today, a small gathering of people snuggled down on a plush sofa in my Mother’s living room and watched the fruits of our combined labor of love come to life. We were small in number, but we were mighty in passion. “No Lost Cause” was the film, and it was created on a budget of $7,000 (4K of which was buying the computer to edit the film on).

We watched ourselves and as we did, we laughed, we cried, and we had all the feels. When the film came to an end, we did a brief interview with the cast & crew talking about how we felt about the film and the future.

The future.

Two words, and yet so much possibility.

How could we know that that evening was just the beginning. How could we imagine that our little film, in our little town, and on our little, tiny, minuscule budget, would win awards in film festivals, leading to us meeting our distributor, leading to the film being sold internationally, leading to it being seen in over 37 countries around the world?

Here is part of a blurb I posted on the one year anniversary of that viewing:

“Today, we are nearly finished with our second film, and looking forward to the fall when NLC is released world-wide through our distributor. God has done some truly remarkable things in our lives, and I stand humbled and in awe of His constant provision and love. Thank you, dear friends, for believing in us and supporting us.”

That second film, “The Hepburn Girls,” was created with another small group of people, and it would lead me to meeting the people who would reignite my dormant passion for theatre.

In turn, those people would form a third, small but mighty group with a giant passion and a dream to create a community theatre in a rural county.

This same group would work and work and work, and then “Beauty and the Beast” would happen, and we would have a show less than a year after our theatre’s conception that would pull in over 400 people per performance.

And then we would win multiple awards for that show.

How could I possibly have known all of that sitting on a couch in a living room five years ago.

But it did.

Every bit of it happened because of that first film. Because of that first moment of saying, “Why Not?  Why can’t we do this?”

Tonight, we are screening the second film at the place where my two loves converged.

You should come. Not because you know me, or know the film. I’m no one special. I’m not more gifted or more intelligent than anyone else. I’m not extraordinary. I live with anxiety and fear just about every day of my life.

I just don’t let that fear and anxiety stop me.

You should come because when a group of people come together to support each other and their dreams, things happen. Magic happens. Perhaps seeing our dreams come to life will inspire you to pursue one of yours.

Who knows if this could be the genesis of your “Five years ago today…” story.

What a wonderful possibility!

———————-

“The Hepburn Girls”
Henry County High School Auditorium
New Castle, KY
7:00 pm.
Tickets available at the box office.

For the love of Art

Bad things happen. Hate, greed, violence, and pain have existed since our exit from the Garden of Eden. There is nothing new under the sun, so hate, greed, violence, and pain will go on existing until we all shuffle off this mortal coil.

What can be done about it? What do we do when things seem at their very lowest point? When we can’t imagine something more awful happening than the thing that happened yesterday? Or today? Or even tomorrow? How can we combat all the darkness?

Love. Joy. Peace. Forgiveness.

How can we achieve these feelings? These qualities? One way is through art. That sounds ridiculous. Legislation! New rules! More restrictions! Shouting! That’s what we need to create love, joy, peace, and forgiveness!

Perhaps. I’ll leave that up to those who feel called to that line of change. I wish them well. In the meantime, while they do the work they’ve been called to do, I’ll do mine.  I will combat the darkness by creating art.

What qualifies as art? The actual definition is, “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

Art is painting. Art is film. Art is dance. Art is theatre. Art is whatever we need it to be that stirs our emotions, stimulates our minds, and soothes our spirits. (Or challenges them).

During the Great Depression, all businesses suffered, but the one business that still brought in crowds was the movies. People wanted to escape their circumstances, and for two hours, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and many others were their ticket to another world. A world where there wasn’t any hate, greed, violence, or pain.

Our theatre has a show that opens tomorrow. Come see it. Not because the volunteer actors have spent countless hours rehearsing and refining the material. Not because it’s been a joy to produce. Not because these actors are some of the kindest people ever assembled in one place. Actually, not for any reason related to the actual formation of the show.

Come because for two short, simple hours, it will take you away from the darkness that gathers outside. Inside our four walls, there is sunshine, and there is pure joy. Our actors portray real characters with real problems, so there is conflict, but it is resolved. We know everything will turn out all right for them; and knowing that, we have a bit of hope for ourselves. And we need that right now. We need that every day.

We are fortunate to have many community theatres in our area, and all are producing the best quality art they know how. Support them. Support art in all forms because it’s only when we stop filling the seats, when we give up on any hope of love, joy, peace, and forgiveness that the darkness truly begins to win.

——————–

“Corney County Christmas Talent and Variety Show Fundraiser”

December 4 @ 7:30
December 5 @ 7:30
December 6 @ 3:00 AND 7:00

More information, including directions and tickets at:  www.TheTheatreDownstream.com

 

Sometimes, “It’s Complicated” to describe feelings.

It’s been a week and one day and I’m still at a semi-loss for words.

Our play, “It’s Complicated” has been put to bed and we’re already discussing our next venture. I have to admit, there was a lot going against us for this particular play. The weather wrecked havoc with our rehearsal schedule and we had to postpone the show by one week, which put the new performance days right smack in the middle of the opening of March Madness. In Kentucky.

Due to limited availability, we could only use the facility for one weekend, so there wouldn’t be a word of mouth buzz to boost our second weekend of attendance.

The Board also set a goal of increasing membership, and as an incentive to join at a higher level, Rachael and I offered signed copies of our book. But we only signed 10, which we felt was probably aiming high. I left some extras in my car and laughed at myself for doing so.

Finally, the show wasn’t ‘well-known’ material, in that it was original content, the bulk of which was written by me. Early on, one of the cast members asked me how it felt seeing my work performed, and I answered truthfully that it didn’t feel like my work. It was all very surreal.

While I have had plays or sketches performed before, I always have one ear open, waiting for the cast to say, “Oh wait. Nevermind. This isn’t a real play.” The fact that they all just accepted my words and acted like I knew what I was doing was too humbling. I told myself that maybe the cast might have enjoyed it, but that didn’t mean it would bring in people. For one weekend only, during March Madness. In Kentucky.

My expectations were shamefully low. To top it all off, I still get crippling stage fright. I’m absolutely certain that I’m going to forget every single line, and I become hyper aware that I am on stage, in front of a group of people saying words, and oh no wait….what are those words supposed to BE??? HELP HELP HELP.

It takes me halfway through the play to settle down and ease into the role. I took two photos opening night before I left for the theatre. The first, showing what my ‘outside’ looks like. The second, my ‘real’ inside.

Ashley OUtsideAshley inside

But then, performance weekend happened, and every expectation was shattered to bits. I had every intention of signing on closing night and gushing about all my feels. But when I sat down to say things, nothing would come because I couldn’t put into words all the feels that I felt.

Three Local churches donated snacks to keep us energized. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing it is for actors to have food waiting for us at the end of a show (or before, depending on the butterflies in our stomachs!!)  Our deepest thanks to Campbellsburg Baptist, Smithfield Baptist and Campbellsburg United Methodist.

We were thrilled beyond belief when on Friday night we jetted past our previous attendance record with 101 people in the audience. We thought we’d reached the pinnacle, but on Sunday 103 people came and we all nearly fainted with delight, myself more than anyone else.

Our two board members (and cast members) Angela and Kevin had a private goal in mind for new memberships, and not only did they reach that goal, they doubled it, in one day, during one intermission, which lasted about 15 minutes. I’ve never in my life seen two people raise so much money in such a brief period of time. It was astounding. We were all a bit dumbfounded. I went through sixteen books.

Finally, people actually seemed to love the show. They loved the content, they loved the writing, they loved the acting…we were showered with so much love it was overwhelming. Too overwhelming.

So here I sit, one week and one day later, still overwhelmed. Still unable to say thank you enough times. To the cast for wholeheartedly believing in my words, and to the crowds for showing up, signing up and standing up at the end of our shows.

Mid-way through the run, before the second day of breaking 100 people, I looked around at the cast and crew. While audiences were large, and money was coming in, that doesn’t always mean the show is a complete success. I only consider it a full and perfect success if, at the end of the show, the cast and crew are still happy they signed on for this endeavor.

So, I looked around. I saw their happiness, their smiling faces, their joy of performing and being together, and I thought, “We did it. This. This is really what success looks like.”

🙂

bts complicated

35 Days to 35: Historical Love Letters

Yesterday, I asked some of the cast members of our current show to indulge me in a project. I wanted to do an audio recording of some Historical Love Letters. I had originally wanted to create our Spring Show around that theme, but we weren’t sure the subject matter would be appealing to a broad range of people. Not everyone loves history as much as I do.

Another early idea of mine was to read the correspondence between Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband Robert Browning, but that proved much too overwhelming. They wrote to each other….a lot, and they said a LOT.

It was, however, rather darling to read their very first letters to each other, how formal they are, and yet how full of promise. It felt like being in on a secret, knowing how much they would grow to love each other. If you’re interested, Project Gutenberg has them in their archives.

So I’ve been working on and off for about a month researching these love letters, and trying to find the right mix. I read Civil War love letters, political love letters, and just regular old, “I love you” love letters.  After a while, they all started to sound the same. I suppose that is the mass appeal of reading love letters. We’ve all, for the most part, been there, done that, felt that, and thought that. There truly is, “nothing new under the sun.”
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35 Days to 35: Love is Complicated

Today I spent the day in love. Well, sort of. I mean…It’s Complicated.

Ohhhhh…I can already tell the jokes are never going to get old. 🙂

While the book is away being read over by Jillian, I decided to spend my time working on the poster design for our community theatre show, It’s Complicated: An Evening of One Acts About Life, Love and Other Important Things. I’ve written about the origin of the title before, (https://ashleyraymerbrown.com/2015/01/29/35-days-to-35-its-complicated/) so now I’ll tell you the story behind the poster.
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35 Days to 35: Rehearsing Joy

 

Today, I took a break from the book. I felt like this weekend we spent enough time together, so I took care of small projects and mostly looked forward to tonight. For tonight, we began the six week rehearsal process that will bring It’s Complicated: An Evening of One Acts About Life, Love and Other Important Things from ‘page to the stage.’

Because this kind of show gives us the freedom to do so, we (Russell, Jill and I, who are sharing directing duties) have broken things down into three groups.
Group A rehearsed today, Group B tomorrow, and Group C on Thursday. We arranged it so that actors who are driving longer distances have all their material rehearsed on one night, making the process a smoother and more enjoyable one during these chilly winter nights. If people are donating their time, we certainly want to do our very best to show them we value that time.
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