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

 

A Permanent Perfect View


My Aunt Barb, otherwise known as our fearless leader, has left us much sooner than anticipated, and we, her minions (as she liked to call us) are a bit at a loss. She was supposed to be here for many, many more years, and then a bad headache and several doctors appointments in July told us those years would be six months, and then Monday, those remaining months evaporated into the mist of time.


It doesn’t feel fair. I keep saying, “Wait. Hold on. This isn’t real. I’m going to call her and she’s going to talk about the premiere of “Castle” last night and how good it was, or when our next trip is going to be.” But I’m not. I can’t.

We were going to record her reading a bedtime story to her fifteen month old granddaughter (and lookalike) so she’d know the sound of her voice. I had plans to ask her what her favorite memory from our trips were, from her life. To interview her and give her the chance to leave her story behind. But I’m not. I can’t.

BJ KatelynShe loved reading mystery novels, especially Agatha Christie. She was also our family’s greatest mystery and complexity. She had Doris Day hair, but loved Britney Spears music. She adored sparkly accessories, but wore ballet flats, white pants, a button up shirt, long necklace, and a blazer (in the colder months) nearly every day of her life.

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She loved to socialize and talk, but didn’t like meeting new people. She loved walking, but only in the right temperature. Her humor was dry and her tongue razor sharp. She could be incredibly generous, or incredibly stubborn. She drank gallons of water to be healthy, but loved to smoke.


In short, she liked things the way she liked them. Her pastime of choice was shopping with her daughter, Lauren, and their Black Friday sprees were the organized thing legends are made of.

After my Uncle’s passing, I became her travel companion, and we took dozens of trips to the Jersey Shore. Last year, on this very day, actually, we were expanding our horizons and exploring Biloxi, MS. Her favorite amenity was a hotel room with an ocean view so she could sit there in the morning, drink her hot tea, and admire the scenery. Pity the hotel concierge who denied her that luxury. 😉

Her nails were always long and painted, and her favorite descriptive term was “fabulous.”

BJ cokes
She planned everything, and everything had it’s place. She was Poirot, she was Felix Unger, she was Monk (without the crimesolving). And she was a great big dose of Ousier with a splash of the charming Miss Clairee. She had an opinion on just about everything, and you would, and could, be treated to it at any moment.

She loved flowers, and she loved photography, especially photos of her flowers and her family. After our grandmother, she was our historian, the one who documented trips and the one most often behind the camera. She gave me tips on how to make my photos look more interesting, and she even encouraged my strange hobby of ‘stock photography,’ and bragged about it when we went out on trips.

When a tragedy like a death in the family occurred, she took charge. She was the one to arrange buying the flowers, getting the card, telling us where and what we should do.   Now we have to make the decisions, and with no one to take charge, we’re all adrift. We keep turning around, waiting for her to tell us what to do, and she’s not. She can’t.

She used to bemoan that she wasn’t really someone who had accomplished much, or was worth remembering. I wouldn’t want to be the one to disagree with her normally, but I will now. She was wrong.  We loved her. She was ours. All of her, the good and the bad. She was the kind of person that belongs in one of the novels she loved to read, not real life.
Maybe one day, she will be. She’s the kind of character that is a writer’s dream.

So tonight, I’d like to write her exit scene. Tonight, I like to think she’s in heaven, with a spotless mansion perched high above a long, sandy beach, a cup of hot tea steaming in front of her, and a permanent perfect view of the ocean.

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For Hannah, on her 18th Birthday

There is almost no real way I can put into words what I feel today, but I’ll give it a try. I can hardly believe it has actually been eight whole years since you appeared in our lives, a mere whisper of a girl. Your easy smile and sweet, (but incredibly sassy spirit) captured our hearts and we quickly adopted you as our own.

When we created a Christmas play and needed a child actor, you were the first person we thought of; not only did you have talent, we genuinely enjoyed having you in our company. Your infectious giggle, and eagerness to be with ‘the big kids’ was endearing, and your work ethic (at such a young age!) was remarkable.

When we decided to jump off this crazy peak of insanity called filmmaking, again, you were one of the first ones we called. You had more than proven yourself on stage, and we wanted you to be a part of this process, however far it would stretch us.

And stretch us it did! We learned, we cried (a lot) and we experienced so many things. You saved the film on the very first day by catching the camera before it was knocked over by a gust of errant wind. You would go on to save more than just the camera as the months, and years, progressed.

On the second film, you saved my personal sanity. You were there, every filming day, helping me load the car, talking me through my lines, picking out my costumes, helping me choose my hairstyles, and sitting up with me til 1am, reviewing footage and making notes for the next day, when, at 7am, we would do it all over again.

During shooting, I was perpetually on the cusp of a nervous breakdown, and you talked me down from more metaphorical ledges than you should ever, at your young age, have heard of. You held my hand, and told me it would all work out.

I remember looking in on you one night when you had finally collapsed in the guest bedroom, and you were sound asleep, holding your teddy bear (Sadie?). Seeing that nearly destroyed me with how precious you looked. I knew that this moment was fleeting, and that before I knew it, you would be a grown woman, too old for teddy bears, and crazy pseudo-adopted sisters.

And today, here we are.

Today you are everything I wanted you to be and never was at this age. Beautiful, accomplished, confident, brilliant, and with the world at your feet. You will never, ever be less than a champion in my eyes, and I can say with utter honesty, I could not imagine my life without you.

So forgive me if, sometime in the future, I look at you and get a little emotional.  You see, I will still see traces of that little girl, hugging her teddy bear, smiling up at me with that infectious grin, and giggling.

I love you, and wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Nancye!!

Today I would like to take a moment to wish one of my faithful readers (and one of my favorite people!) a very Happy Birthday.

Nancye is the true definition of the word “Lady.” She is constantly teaching me new and important things. Things such as the proper way to set a table, how to dress, the value of tea parties, fresh cut flowers, nail polish, universal kindness, and trying something new. She loves her Ipad and my Mom is hoping to convince her to try riding a bike this summer!

When she answers the phone, she makes you feel as though she is delighted to hear from you, and only you. She also teaches me that there truly is no age limit on friendship. She is warm, kind, compassionate, strong, and beautiful.

I won’t reveal her age, for she also taught me a lady never tells such a thing, but I’d like to say how much I love her and hope she is having a wonderful day!

Surviving Godzilla (aka Food Poisoning)

Godzilla is attacking the city, and your body is his stomping grounds.

(Warning: This could be construed as graphic/gross by some. Proceed with caution)

Phase One: A general feeling of unease. 

When Godzilla decides he’s going to attack a city, he doesn’t usually call up the person in charge and say, “Hey…yeah…I’m gonna be there in about six hours, sooooo…..do what you gotta do.”

See you soon!!

“See you soon!! LOL”

In much the same way, when food poisoning first begins to enter and lurk around your system, it doesn’t give you any real warning other than a feeling of unease. Not impending doom, not yet. Just ‘different.’ According to my research, the gestation period can be anywhere from two hours to 90 days, so sometimes, there is no real concrete way to tell when or where it first breaks in. But once it’s in, you’re doomed for a roller coaster ride straight to the bowels of hell. Emphasis on bowels.

Wednesday after lunch, my pants (which normally fit fine) were constricting. I felt as though my skin was being stretched to capacity, as if I needed to break outside of my own body. I also had an intense desire to lay down. If only I could rest, things would be so much better. A few closely timed bathroom trips later,  I knew I needed to leave work early. My Mom was worried I wouldn’t make it home, but I assured her that home was only 18 minutes away and surely I could make that distance with no problems.

Phase Two: The initial attack

I didn’t make it.

I left a voicemail!

“But I left a voicemail!”

About halfway home (and no bathroom for miles) I felt like my body was being enveloped in light. I started to see white and I knew I was going to faint. I couldn’t drive any further without being a danger to myself or other cars. I could feel the wave rising in my body fighting to take over. Godzilla was here.

I uttered an expletive (just being honest) and jerked the car into the nearest turnabout I saw. I opened the door and unbuckled my seat belt in one motion. In the next second, I was vomiting everything I’d eaten in the past week. One leg was hanging out of the car along with one hand bracing on the gravel. As the goop drained toward it, I moved my thumb out of the way and looked at the contents. “I don’t remember eating potatoes with skin on them” I thought before I another wave hit me and I added to the collection.

After I knew I was done, I pulled my hair back, and informed my Mom of my whereabouts. I felt ten times better, and showered immediately upon arriving home. A good nap and I’d be back to normal.

Phase Three: This means WAR.

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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

Snowpocalypse Part Deaux

It’s been a week since my birthday and so much has happened! The book was published, millions of copies were ordered, it became an international best-seller, and I got a personal invitation from Steven Spielberg to the premiere of “Jurassic World” because of the sheer amount of times I mentioned John Hammond’s name in the pages of our story.

Also, none of that is true. Actually, I did the opposite of what I should have done upon releasing a new book; I took time off. I was starting to play a game called “old age or exhaustion” and decided to rest instead of press. I had a lot of work to catch up on for our theatre show anyway. (which opens on the 19th if any of my readers live in the vicinity!)

In truth, during the last week, more copies were sold than I anticipated, but I’m not exactly international….yet. If only I knew someone, say, in the United Kingdom, that could buy a copy. Then I could truly call myself international!! *cough*James*cough.*  😉
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Now what??

Now that I’ve had my family birthday lunch, the celebrations are subsiding. Also, my 35 day blogging challenge is over, and while I don’t have to write a blog every day anymore, I wanted to at least finish out the month.  What happens now that the book is complete and released out into the wild?

Obviously, the bulk of the work is done and I can move on to the next project/book without another thought about those 35 intense days where I nearly lost my mind publishing my first book. Right? Right?

No.
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Llama Dress Drama

First of all, thank you to everyone for the lovely birthday wishes and congratulations on the book publishing! It was an amazing day from start to finish, and will go down as perhaps my most favorite birthday in my remembrance. It was like living in a Disney movie for a day.  The happy, montage, ‘may all your dreams come true’ part. Not the beginning part, where a parent or loved one is inexplicably killed off.

I stayed up until midnight, squeezing every bit of happiness out of the seconds that remained and went to bed on cloud of joy. Because this is how the world works for me, I woke up, not to my alarm, but to my cat Henry galloping across my face. Never in my history of knowing him, has he been want to such behavior. This was a sign of things to come.

I then turned on the television to find that America was embroiled in some kind of dress debate whose significance still fails to register to me. I really expect that this is actually some kind of social experiment and Ashton Kutcher will pop out at any moment to let us know we’ve been on an episode of “Punk’d this whole time.

Also, the news informed me that llamas had escaped some kind of captivity at an elderly residential facility. I am a huge fan of Alpacas and Llamas, and one day dream of owning two such magnificent beasts that I will christen “Westley and Buttercup.” However, to me, this also seems unimportant enough to lead the news. After the dress story.

Shortly afterward, I attempted to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, when my hand slipped and sliced a chunk out of my index finger, sending shockwaves of pain and a gusher of blood my way. Because today was a cleaning day, I spent the rest of the day looking like a genteel Bond villain, with one pink plastic glove on to protect my injured hand from germs.

This afternoon, Leonard Nimoy passed away, crushing the heart of millions.

Clearly, the world in which I am now a published author is completely falling apart and I want no part of this madness. :-/


35 Days to 35 is the series just completed by Ashley about her process of bringing her first book from rejection to publication in 35 days. It can be purchased in paperback or e-book. A portion of royalties will go toward her “Alpaca Fund.” 

http://www.amazon.com/Why-Not-Philosophy-Learned-Raptors/dp/1508557004/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425078946&sr=8-1&keywords=ashley+raymer-brown

35 Days to 35: We have an E-Book! (Today is my birthday!)

After the triumph of last night, I could barely sleep! I woke up this morning early, and laid there for a few minutes, thanking God for making the deadline. My grumbling tummy forced me to get up and make breakfast before I went to work on the e-book. I had sausage, eggs, Dr. Pepper and thin mints.

Because it’s my birthday. 😀

Since this journey just isn’t a journey unless something goes screwy, the e-book took about three tries before I got the margins presentable, and the photos where they should be. I re-watched “Bringing Up Baby” to keep me company.

I think that the indention on the paragraphs is too far, but, I’m sorry, I just didn’t know how in the world to fix them. So I submitted it. It said it could take up to 12 hours to appear on the site, but as I sat down to write this entry (about three hours later) it appeared!

I can now officially say that I completely made my deadline of publishing this book by my birthday. It went from rejection to publication in 35 grueling days. When I committed to blogging about this process, I had no idea what I would talk about every day, or if anyone would be interested in reading. How wrong I was on both counts! The support from friends, new and old, has been incredible!

I’m a Pisces, so now we’re going to get to the inevitable sentimental part of the story. I think back to what my life was like 10 years ago, and it is staggering the amount of changes that have taken place.

In February of 2005, I was still trudging through college, one class per semester at a time. I had just been asked my one of my instructors to make a list of my ’10 year goals’. Ten years seemed like an eternity away. I don’t remember everything I wrote down, but I know the top three were:

3. Write/ act on stage
2. Act in a Movie
1. Write a book

At the time, I was also in rehearsals for my very first Coffee House at my local community theatre. I had written a show, and it was the first time one of my works was really seen by a large audience.  I had a good job, great friends, and a theatre I loved more than anything. But my life was very small. I don’t say that with a trace of snark or meanness. It was lived in a 16 mile radius of work, home, theatre. And it was a very good life. So I thought.

Then, three years later, in May of 2008, I lost everything. I mean that in a very ‘first world’ sort of way. After reaching the pinnacle of my career at my beloved theatre, things spiraled out of control very quickly. My very, very, very best friend in the world decided she no longer wanted to be my best friend. I lost the job I had held for 8 years, and I had a earth-shattering break with my theatre home.

No, I’m not going to name any of them, or divulge details. That is not the point of this. The point of this is to say that I was beyond heartbroken. So much so that I almost immediately came down with a combination of mono and strep throat. I felt, emotionally and physically, like the world was ending.

But it didn’t.

I can say whole-heartedly, that God was moving. It was in May of 2008 that my friendship with Rachael and Candy began. That summer, I went outside of my comfort zone to another theatre in another town, and met a group of wonderful, kind, and giving people, two of which (Hannah and Tim) would end up becoming a huge part of my life. That fall, I created a traveling theatre group with Rachael and Brian and we were active for a couple years. This is how I met Ben, who has also become a significant person in my life.

Because of Rachael, in 2009, I had my first part as an extra on a movie set, and a year later, in 2010, I was hired as a Production Assistant, where I met Tyler. It was with the money I earned that summer that Rachael and I pooled our resources and began the “No Lost Cause” journey.

We all know what happened then. Or at least, you will if you read the book! 😉

That is a very truncated way to tell you that Life, for me, has never, ever been easy or simple or uncomplicated. Every time things seemed to be looking up (We got book publication!) the bottom would drop out. (Never mind!)

But you know what? With every change, my world kept expanding. After having a life long irrational fear of flying, I had to fly in a plane to get to my first film festival. There, I met Joel, the man who would distribute my first film, and open my life up on a world-wide scale.

Because of him, I came home and made another movie. I wrote and directed and played the lead role. One of my pivotal scenes needed a high school, where I met Russell (and then Jill) who have taken me in with open arms and given me a theatre to call my home. I started this blog as a way to bring awareness to our films and projects, and I’ve ended up making new friends in other countries! (Hi Josephine and James!)

People have floated into my life at just the right moments, and in just the right way to help me through a particular time or experience. (Kristen, your compassion during the days of Sammy and Deana will never be forgotten.) Some of them floated back out, but others have stayed and taken root.

I’m sure I’m telling all this very badly, because I’m on a semi-cloud of happiness, and I tend to write better when I’m morose. I’m saying all the above to say this. If you read this hot mess of a series from the beginning, you know that I did not reach this goal because I’m particularly smart (in fact, had I been a bit smarter, I probably could have done this faster!) I’m not tech savvy, or arrogant enough to think I could do it on my own.  I asked for help when and where I needed it,(Rachael, Jillian and Josh!!!) and I cried when I didn’t think things were moving fast enough or the right way. (Thank you, Mom and Nancye for the endless encouragement).

But I never gave up. I can’t believe how similar the process of actually printing this book has been to the process of making the film. Spoiler alert. We made a movie almost the exact same way as I got this book printed. We never, ever, ever gave up and we pressed on until we reached our goal.

Was it easy? No, but nothing really worth having ever is.

So to you, my friends and readers I say: If there is anything, anything, that is weighing on your heart right now, that you want to do, but are scared of….do it. Please do it. If things turn out badly, or they don’t turn out the way you think they should, keep going. Keep working. If your life falls apart, maybe it’s what needs to happen before you can really have a break through. It was for me. Heartbreak was the catalyst that catapulted my life into another dimension. One that I love more than anything.

Now, I sure don’t want to relive the heartbreak, but I can say that I’m very, very grateful that it happened. It won’t be the last one, I’m certain of that, but I know enough now to trust that God is working it all out for my good. (Rom. 8:28).

It has taken me ten years, but today, I finally get to mark off my number one life goal.

I wrote a book.

If I can do it, I’m really, really certain that you can too.


http://www.amazon.com/Why-Not-Philosophy-Learned-Raptors-ebook/dp/B00U1M2QKO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424977605&sr=8-1&keywords=ashley+raymer-brown


Right at 35 days before my 35th birthday, Rachael and I found out that a book we wrote about our experience making our first film “No Lost Cause,” was being returned to us by the publisher after a year of waiting for it to be printed. Instead of wallowing in our collective misery, I committed to blogging every day while I searched for ways to overcome this perceived rejection and obstacle to our goal. I currently also have about three other projects brewing at the same time, and write about the progress of each of them. This is the final entry in that series.

Read the first entry here: https://ashleyraymerbrown.com/2015/01/23/35-days-to-35-dealing-with-rejection/