Another Life Crisis

A huge day is looming on the horizon for me… as if preparing for a massive asteroid to narrowly avoid striking earth’s surface, I am doing my best to harness the anxiety associated with the big three-oh.

Why exactly do we place so much pressure on another birthday? When you’re thirty, you’re supposed to have your shit figured out, right? I mean, everyone on my Facebook feed seems to have life wrapped together in a neat little package. Marriages, babies, marathons… yes, I suppose that I’m conveniently ignoring the posts by other friends of drunken smiles, Buzzfeed quizzes, Farmville accomplishments (wait, do people still play that game?)

I know that this is completely self-inflicted anxiety. When I was a little girl, I knew that my parents had fallen in love in high school and gotten married in their early twenties, and my grandparents before them had done the same thing. So – I thought you got married around age 21. (Still single, by the way.) Don’t get me started on the offspring topic. When I decided that focusing on myself and moving to New York to pursue my artistic career was the best decision – I focused on ‘making it on Broadway’ as the true definition of success and I vowed to book a Broadway show by my thirtieth birthday. Why would I do that to myself? Is it the pressures of society, friends or family? Maybe the stream of other peoples’ lives on my computer screen? The idealistic worlds of any show featuring charismatic, beautiful and successful people living in New York City?

I hate to immediately jump to pointing out my astrological definition as a Gemini – but my major problem is the huge dichotomy of self. When I recently disembarked from a short cruise contract in which I visited five countries in nine days, I was overcome with emotion at the fact I didn’t know when I’d be traveling the world again. A huge part of my identity comes from my love of travel and exploration. And yet, diametrically opposed to that, I long for a stable life in one place with one person and one purpose. Is there a way to embrace this conflict and live comfortably?

I hate to say that I’m not successful. I am very proud of the life I have built for myself. I am self-sufficient, I have amazing friends and family, I have the cutest apartment in New York City, I make my own music and still live with a daily sense of adventure in my own city. I have visited 34 countries in the last year alone. And honestly, I tremble when I think about how many more places I ache to visit.

For me, the biggest challenge as I turn thirty is going to be allowing myself to be comfortable. No, I haven’t gotten married, had kids, set up a 401K or investments. But I have created so many fantastic experiences all over the world, have made myriad friends from near and wide… and I find that my artistic self has grown so much in the seven years I have lived in NYC. I believe that the best thirtieth birthday present I could give to myself would be freedom (though the new vacuum cleaner I just bought from Amazon is a very close second). Freedom to self-express, freedom to love myself for what I’ve accomplished – even though it’s outside the normal definitions of success.

After all, Oprah Winfrey didn’t start her show until she was 32, JK Rowling published Harry Potter when she was 32, Julia Child didn’t learn how to cook until she was in her thirties, and Lucille Ball didn’t find her fame on I Love Lucy until age 40. I think there’s still hope for me.

I often laugh when my friends tell me that turning thirty was the best thing that ever happened to them. When they say that the best years are in the thirties. God, I hope that’s true. Because the twenties have been pretty damn fun.

Here’s to thirty.

Greetings from Greece

Just a quick little post from Paradise, aka Greece. I’ve been having a great time reconnecting with my cruise ship roots, back on board the Silver Wind. I’m here filling in for one voyage and have been having an absolute ball cruising the Mediterranean. Today we are outside of Olympia and I’m taking advantage of free wifi and local ouzo.

There’s not a tremendous lot to report but I am so pleased to be back at sea and singing this fun music again. The cast is so much fun and it’s been wonderful to be traveling from port to port experiencing the radiance of Greece and Turkey. In two days we’ll be arriving to my favorite port: Kotor, Montenegro. I am so looking forward to hiking up the ancient fortress walls and reliving my best memories from my voyage two years ago.

Greetings from Greece and drink ouzo every day!


Back in New York!

“Give me such shows — give me the streets of Manhattan!” Walt Whitman

Sailing out of Manhattan, October 2013

After another healthy dose of sailing around the world, this chick has decided to put away the luggage [for now] and settle back into New York City living.  I just got back to Astoria early yesterday morning, and after a decent nap, I reentered society via a soft-opening for a friend’s new shuffleboard club in Brooklyn. Seriously, GET THYSELF to this amazing place now. The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club was the ultimate “welcome home to New York City after cruising.” It was a great night catching up with friends, pushing biscuits around (don’t worry, you’ll learn what that means after your first shuffleboard lesson), having some fun cocktails and eating delicious Crif dog. By the way, the cool thing about this venue is they have a garage on the side that connects to the venue, so they will have different food truck providing a multitude of NYC options every single night.  Last night I went for Crif Dog’s famous “Spicy Redneck” – dear lord, so good, and so outside of my January 2014 calorie window.  Screw that.  So worth it.

So yeah, I’m back.  I was laughing as I looked back on my last post, which was soy long ago.  Yes, I’m talking like Ja’ime from Ja’mie: Private School Girl, my newest television obsession. So I tried to write a blog post while at sea, and yeah yeah yeah blah blah blah it’s hard to get internet wah wah wah.  And I never finished that blog post.  I kept putting it off longer and longer, blaming my computer that couldn’t upload my photos, etc etc.  But I thought I might post what I at least started to write, right?  With commentary of 2013 Ashley, by 2014 Ashley.

Have I seriously not updated this blog since August?  Oh that’s embarrassing.  Yes, Ashley, yes it is. One of my fellow singers on the ship reminded me, “You have to update your blog at least every three days or it’s just unprofessional.”  Yikes.  It’s not like I’ve visited a dozen different countries since then or anything. And now that total is up to 27, 20 of which you had never been to before this contract.

I am so blessed to be back at sea on the Silver Whisper.  I embarked the ship on September 2nd in Stockholm, Sweden, nearly missing the ship after an absent captain on Delta Airlines. Thankfully I made it in time and was greeted by a very excited cast of singers eager to bring me on board and show me around the Baltic on their last cruise. How lucky am I that when I wasn’t training to be the company manager I was visiting Estonia, Russia, Finland, Germany and Holland! I had a great time eating out in the restaurants and attending all the shows like a guest as I wasn’t starting my performance contract until September 12th with the rest of the new cast in Southampton, England. It was spectacular to actually watch the shows for the first time and see what all the fuss was about. They were great! Soy true, this company is a talented bunch.

And in terms of travel on this cruise I got to see some great places. My first day we came to Tallinn, Estonia, and myself and two other singers went for an amazing home-style lunch at a restaurant charmingly called “Mama’s Kitchen.” Krystle and Vince, two of my faves in the company. The food was great! Next we were off to St. Petersburg, Russia, where we overnighted and I was able to visit Saint Catherine’s Palace with its famous “Amber Room.” Helsinki, Finland was our next port of call – a gorgeous place with beautiful people and delicious strawberries! Then we went on to mein Heimat, Deutschland! The end.

Oh Ash, if only you could commit to one thing long enough to fini-

Just kidding.

But seriously, folks.  I went on to experience such a great four months of cruising and singing. We had unbelievably rough seas as we crossed the Atlantic to Iceland, saw glorious icebergs and scenery in the fjords of Greenland, sailing through the most spectacular autumn colors in Canada, ate more lobster than you can imagine in New England, sailing in and out of New York City (SOOOO INCREDIBLE), celebrated Halloween with an overnight in Bermuda, swam/snorkeled/tanned/relaxed our way through the Caribbean, and finished with a beautiful Panama Canal transit from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles.  All in all, it was a great experience with talented people. I made so many new friends – cast, crew and guests alike, and can’t wait to reconnect with everyone now that I’m back on terra firma. I also enjoyed pushing myself more creatively by writing new music and even performing a new song with the band during my cabaret show. I actually recorded one of the performances with Vince’s camera and extracted the audio here.  So for all you friends who kept asking me to record it, this is the best I could do for now!

I hope you liked that.  Oy vey I get so nervous about posting things like this!

Anyhoo, it’s great to be back.  I’ve got my wrap dresses and character shoes out.  I’ve renewed my subscription to Backstage and taken the dust cover off the keyboard. I’ve printed out new resumes and ordered new marketing materials from Vista Print.  So yeah, I’m available and I want to WORK. Let’s do this, 2014.

Happy New York Birthday to me!

Six years later, she’s still Ash in the City.

On this day in 2007, my mother and I meandered through intimidating Upper East Side traffic and managed to find street parking for our packed-to-the-gills rental Suburban. Street parking. And with the help of three best friends, we unloaded all my belongings up six flights of stairs into my first NYC apartment, 316 East 93rd Street.

Those three are still three of my closest buds. Last month Brian celebrated marriage to Nic, this week it’s off to SF for Natalie’s wedding to Nole, and this time next year we’ll be enjoying festivities for Mr. and Mrs. Nathan and Jessica Smith. So yeah, they’re all pretty much winners, and not only in my book.

A lot has happened to me in New York. I’ve seen millions of things, worked some dream jobs, worked hard doing good work in the city, explored most that the city has to offer -though there’s always more to see-, met some incredible people, attended an unmeasurable amount of great (and not so great) theater… I’ve had my heart broken many times, I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, I’ve met celebrities and been recognized on the street by people I don’t know, I’ve raised the most adorable munchkin ball of fur you could adopt from the ASPCA, and lord, how I’ve performed…. I can’t even really quite put into words all that New York City does to me. When I close my eyes and try to think of it, a sort of Jeunet-esque film drifts across my eyelids with a dramatic score.

And I do live my New York City life as if I’m starring in some film, unseen to any but me. My earbuds provide adequate soundscape as I make use of my unlimited metro card and live these daily adventures, paycheck-to-paycheck. Is there any other satisfying way of life?

Six years ago, when contemplating my future, I couldn’t imagine what was in store. And I guess I still don’t know. I write this from about 38,000 feet, somewhere over Utah. I’m thrilled to spend my New York birthday with my family in California. And this week will be a tremendous celebration of one of my best friends… Did I mention I’m singing and playing ukulele in her wedding ceremony at the film center?

And in less than two weeks, I’ll be back on board the gorgeous Silver Whisper, performing with the Artists of Silversea/Choozi Entertainment for a four month contract, porting in the Baltic, UK, Iceland/Greenland, Eastern Canada, New England/New York, Bermuda/Florida/Caribbean and then through the Panama Canal to my final port, Los Angeles. I feel so lucky to be working in this capacity on something I am truly passionate about, and traveling all over the world! And this opportunity would never had come up had I not been living in NYC and on this current timeline. New York City has truly shaped me into the woman I am today.

So New York City, we have just a few days together next week, and when I return in January, I look forward to…. The amusement of Citibike voyeurism, being asked for directions by everyone, waking up at 5am to blow-out hair and put on a full face for an audition, accepting that my train is delayed and completing another level of Duolingo Italian, crazy kids and their crazier parents at the food co-op, the pride of a gym membership (regardless of whether or not I workout), the joy of my French press in my kitchen or the perfectly tamped espresso at Pepe Giallo, getting tickets to see my friends in successful shows, the pure elation I feel when discussing art/purpose/influence with my acting peers… And the unstoppable and infectious energy of all the incredible people that have blessed me with their friendship.

Like I said, it is impossible for me to put into words what New York does to me. It’s the greatest love story I could ever dream up. So close your eyes.


Blurring the Line between Audience and Ensemble

As I look back on my artistic resume, my volunteer projects, and the shows and art concepts that have inspired me over the years, I am finding a common thread.  More than just a thread, really.  A big bold huge fatty piece of rope, painted neon pink that is screaming, “HELLO, ASHLEY! LOOK AT ME! DUH!” Okay, okay, I see you now.  I get it.

What I am finding are those theater and art projects that break the fourth wall and include the audience as a participant of the work.  Something that acknowledges a watching and curious audience, inviting them to participate in something bigger than themselves, in the comfort, sanctuary really, of “theater.”

You know those kinds of people, right. The quiet person who sits across the office from you, the cousin who never said much at reunions, the teacher who’s cautious smile never gave a hint of the fire inside. And then that same person, with a sword in the form of a paper ticket to a show, can open up as an unreserved warrior of art. “Pick me!” screams the quiet housewife at a Penn and Teller production.  A conservative finance executive willingly participates in a dark arts ritual during a Punchdrunk production of “Sleep No More.” The elderly grandmother of nine curiously looks for her face on a projection screen during a moving moment number of The Public‘s “Here Lies Love,” which includes her as a sudden character.

All these moments give me so much pleasure, as an artist, and as a audience member. In the last few years, I myself have been involved in immersive theater, such as “The Ride” as “Improv Everywhere.”  I love this!  It’s so wonderful to actively include a person, and often times, and unsuspecting pedestrian, as a part of your art for that moment.  Anything can be art, really.

From “Sleep No More”

And the pieces that are really inpsringing to me right now, “Here Lies Love,” “Sleep No More” and “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” – these are all massively immersive.  They not only  acknowledge the audience, but invite them into their world as a participant. Without the barrier of a physical stage or an disconnect, the players and the watchers become one – and art is more fully realized, in my own opinion.

A shot of my friend, Kelvin Moon Loh, in The Public’s “Here Lies Love” by David Byrne

This morning I happened upon a TED talk, which also touched on the subject, more related to arts festivals and the involvement of site specific communities.  David Binder touches on so many ideas that I closely relate to and can acknowledge with great excitement.

Who says the theater is dead? I challenge you to push yourself and see things in a new way. Go to productions that challenge this relationship between Audience and Ensemble.  I am refreshed with new energy right now, fully aware that this particular type of theater is absolutely my calling.  Now to just find the right project.