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.

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“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

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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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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35 Days to 35: Four Little Words


Last year, I was part of a four person team that created a new community theatre here in my hometown. (www.thetheatredownstream.com) I’ve written about the experience a few times, and how rewarding/enriching/tough it was, and has been. We even created a web series documenting our progress from first production meeting to final dress rehearsal. See the first episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuAZg_ayNWE

If you view the series in its entirety, or especially those first few webisodes, you’ll notice how one of the problems that plagued us last summer was the lack of a corporate sponsor. A corporate sponsor, for those not in the know, gives you a large(ish) chunk of money up front to help you fund your show expenses. (Paying the musician, stage manager, prop or costume costs, printing costs, etc). This enables you to make more profit on ticket sales to be used to help fund future larger shows, such as musicals.

In return for their financial contribution, you shower them with perks such as their name on all advertising material, including the poster and program, complimentary tickets, a poster signed by the entire cast and crew presented opening night to a company representative, your unending, undying devotion and the right to name your first born.

Minor things like that. It’s a small price to pay to help a fledgling theatre get off the ground.
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