“Creepier, and With Your Mouth More Closed”

My most recent play, “Holiday Homecoming,” was designed as a Christmas variety show. I wanted it to be a mixture of the “Carol Burnett Show” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” We had singing, Christmas carols, history lessons, and readings of classic Christmas stories. I also wrote a couple original sketches to go in the show.

When compiling the show, I did a Facebook survey and asked for suggestions for songs. One of the most requested was, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” That particular song is very polarizing. People either love it or think it’s incredibly creepy. Because of it’s popularity, I wanted to include it, but I wanted to do a different twist on it.
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A Very Merry Happy Half-Birthday, to Me

Today is my half-birthday. If you were born in the frozen tundra of late February like I was, you might understand why, while I don’t necessarily celebrate it, I do enjoy acknowledging the day. I spent it with some of the people I love,  doing things I love.

It’s also begins the six month countdown to the middle of my thirties. The first five years (so far) have been full of unexpected adventure and some incredible sadness. I started working in film, co-authored a book, flew in a plane for the first time, traveled (a lot!) went back to acting on the stage after a very long hiatus, co-founded a theatre, and gained a surrogate niece. I also lost my two very best furry friends and my Grandmother.
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Seven Questions for Theatre Lovers

 

Tickets for the very first show of “The Theatre Downstream” go on sale on Monday. This experience has been wonderful. My cast mates are incredibly talented, kind, giving, and very, very funny. They constantly challenge me to raise the bar on my own level of performance. Below is a publicity interview I did for the theatre. I hope you enjoy it./arb——–

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.

ashley kathy

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.

ashley russell mob

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.

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“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.

Support their production by becoming a member at:https://squareup.com/market/the-theatre-downstream

Say It Now

Every time someone passes away, no matter what the circumstances, there are people left mourning. A celebrity brings joy to millions, and so, that loss is felt by millions. A woman from a small town may not have affected as many on a global scale, but her loss is just as deeply felt by those who loved her.

Earlier this month, Vicky Wise, a beautiful beacon of my community, passed on after a six year battle with cancer. And today, I, along with most of the world, was shocked at the loss of comedian Robin Williams.

Two very different people who faced their final days in very different ways. One was in tremendous physical pain, while the other was in tremendous emotional pain. Vicky was surrounded by loved ones in her final moments, while Robin, presumably, was alone.

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Shelby Eatenton Is Real

“How is that baby ever going to understand how wonderful his mother was? How will he ever know what she went through for him?”

— M’Lynn Eatenton, “Steel Magnolias”

A note from author Robert Harling under the cast of character descriptions in the play “Steel Magnolias” reads: “The women in this play are witty, intelligent, and above all, real characters. They in no way, shape or form are meant to be portrayed as cartoons or caricatures.”

Robert Harling was serious. Shelby Eatenton is real.  I don’t mean real in the metaphysical way in that she’s real because I was one of the very fortunate women to bring her to life. Or the countless other women who have proceeded me in bringing her to life. I mean, and he means, she was a real young woman who really lived, and who really died.

She was his sister, Susan Harling Robinson.

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