Seven Questions with Ashley Raymer-Brown (Rosalind)
1. What was your first role?
My very first role was as the second flower on the left in my elementary production of….something. I think some sort of Fairy Tales. I also remember playing a Chimney Sweep in “Step in Time” from “Mary Poppins.” My first leading role, however, didn’t come for another twelve years until 2001, when the director took a chance on a complete newbie and cast me as Roz in “Moon Over Buffalo” actually.
2. What is your favorite role to date and why?
Shelby in “Steel Magnolias.” I didn’t really connect with the character until I did some research and found out she was a real person. I’m very sentimental and melancholy, so after finding that out, I connected on a very deep level. It was the first time ever on stage that I wasn’t ‘acting,’ I was authentic. I found the part of me that was her, and my emotions became her emotions. I got goosebumps when I did the emotional scenes, and I became very close with my stage Mama. It was a profound and special experience to be her, and I think it changed the way I approach a role.
3. What is your dream role and why?
For a really long time I’ve wanted to be “Fred” in “Once Upon a Mattress.” I love Carol Burnett, and I really enjoy being funny on stage. I’d love that chance…although I fear my limited dance skills would be a challenge for the “Spanish Panic!!” Also, I’d love to play the gangly, awkward “Myrtle May” in “Harvey.”
4. Why do you think theatre is important?
Theatre was important for me personally because it brought me out of my shell. I’m an Introvert, and for many, many years, I was extremely, painfully shy. Through playing different characters, theatre helped me reach outside of myself. It helped me connect with people. I made many, many friends…some short term, some long term, but all have brought something new and interesting to my life. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
5. What advice would you give someone starting out in theatre?
Be authentic. I held back a part of me for so long, and I regret it. I think that I could have been doing much better work.
Acting demands all of your time and focus when you’re on stage. But the audience can spot a faker. If you have to cry, find the part of you that understands the part of the character that makes them sad. If you have to be in love, find the part of you that loves the part of them.
Be as real as possible, and be as open and vulnerable as possible. The audience is living through you, give them someone worthwhile to live through. Also, be open to correction from directors. You can’t see the whole picture and they can. You’re not always right.
Love your castmates and understand that they all have a different method. Be adaptable. Be understanding. Be giving. And finally, remember…it’s a play. If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing this.
6. Who is your favorite actor? Locally and professionally?
Professionally, I always loved Johnny Depp (even before it was cool to love Johnny Depp.) I liked him because he consistently chose a completely different role every time. He was never the same person twice. He might have been weird, or funny, or scary, but he was always different. I really liked that quality, and it helped me to search for more variety in my roles.
Locally, I don’t think I could possibly choose. I have so many incredibly talented friends, that I’d feel really weird singling one out over the other.
Instead, I’ll tell you who the two actors are I’ve connected with the most on stage. The first was Kathy Todd Chaney as my Mama in “Steel Magnolias.” I felt such a deep relationship to her as Shelby that it arguing, crying and laughing with her was very easy, because there was such a feeling of love behind it.
Secondly, Russell Cooper as my Paul in “Moon Over Buffalo” has been an incredibly fun experience. I’m sure he hasn’t noticed, but there have been several times when I’ve had an idea for a way for us to do something funny, and before I say it, he’s already doing it. He is very, very funny, and very, very talented–and to make people laugh with him has been just as delightful as I’d hoped it would be.
7. What is your favorite show?
“Beauty and the Beast.” I never, ever get tired of watching it, and it makes me laugh and cry.
“Moon Over Buffalo” is the debut show for “The Theatre Downstream” and opens September 5th and runs weekends through the 14th.
Visit their website www.TheTheatreDownstream.wordpress.com for more show information and to view their ongoing web series.
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