05/01/2014 - Posted by Freddie Ashley Notes on a Season...
If you've made it to this blog page, you've no doubt seen the news of our new season! We just announced it today and I am extremely proud of the lineup we've assembled.
Planning a season is a tough business. It's not only the most important thing I do in my capacity of Artistic Director, but it's also the most fun. I love sitting down to think about assembling the work that will resonate with our audience and also move the theatre forward artistically.
It's also a long process. As soon as one season starts in September, I start planning the following one. It is a months-long process that typically culminates in late March or mid-April. Individual plays are considered, but so is the overall blend. While I don't pick seasons around a particular theme, I do quite a bit of scenario planning to see what the overall impact of a season has the potential to be.
The 2014-15 season charts a pretty dynamic artistic course for Actor's Express over the next year. I believe the experiences we will offer have the potential to move and engage audiences in thrilling ways. We've had a great season this year, but I'm not content to rest on our laurels. It is crucial that we build on the good will we have generated all season long to keep giving audiences what they expect from us -- and also to offer challenges and surprises they can't find anywhere else in town.
04/16/2013 - Posted by Kevin Becerra
Spring is in full bloom at the Express!
A week ago we presented a reading of Lee Nowell’s gripping new play Paper House about a woman in East Tennessee being brought to terms with her animal hoarding by her two adult children. The reading was very well attended and brilliantly performed by Atlanta favorites: Mary Lynn Owen, Carolyn Cook, Patti French, Jennifer Vala, and Matt Myers. Express favorite Kate Warner directed the reading with passion and wicked smarts.
There’s something about the act of reading a new play that feels like such a community event. The music stands, the bottles of water, and the simple work lights create an environment that allows a raw and beautiful exchange between the words of the play and the audience.
Meanwhile, Equus enters its last weekend at a full gallop (sorry – I had to), challenging audiences with its aggressive theatricality and moving discussion. It has been such a joy presenting a piece of theater that is a great example of the Express brand of theater. We will be sad to see it go.
Onward to Seminar and a totally awesome 80s dance party that will have you stretching out your spandex and realizing how many Madonna lyrics you still remember.
12/31/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
The close of the year does not mean a slowdown at Actor's Express. We are thick in the midst of rehearsals for BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, which is going great guns. But at any milestone moment (like the dawn of a new year), I think it's nice to sit down and reflect on where we are and where we're going.
I'm so excited to begin the new year with this exciting production, which asks us to look anew at our collective history and, consequently, what it means to be an American now.
New moments in the show continue to jump out at me with unexpected humor, poignance, and relevance.
Furthermore, I'm excited because the show is SO. MUCH. FUN. Honestly, we're having such a blast in rehearsals that I can't wait to see what happens when the audience comes into the mix!
12/18/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I just returned from New York City, where I traveled to see Bad Jews at Roundabout. I was so proud as I sat in the theatre. Bad Jews was developed at Actor's Express two seasons ago. Playwright Joshua Harmon was AE's National New Play Network Playwright-in-Residence. After his residency was over, Josh moved to New York and started making the rounds. Roundabout decided to produce the play and it recently opened to great reviews and sold-out houses. In fact, it has been extended through the end of the year.
Everyone at the Express is proud of Josh, whom we still consider very much a part of the Actor's Express family. But we're also proud to know that our commitment to new work is translating into success. We're thrilled when a play we help develop moves out into the world.
I'd also be remiss not to point out how the success of Bad Jews underscores the good work of the National New Play Network. It was through a grant from NNPN that Josh was able to be in residence at the Express. We are so lucky to be part of NNPN and couldn't be happier that our participation in one of their programs has borne fruit.
Committing to a mission of developing and producing new work is risky. Sometimes it's not financially lucrative. But it's always important. And while we shouldn't need this kind of success to remind us of the importance of such a mission, it certainly is nice!
10/19/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Spider Woman has left the building, the Wolves have moved in and we're feverishly prepping for a fabu anniversary concert tomorrow night.
Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to join forces with GA Equality and Stonewall Bar Association to present a reading of "8" by Dustin Lance Black. It was a tremendous event that galvanized energy and discussion around issues of marriage equality, in addition to raising money for that effort.
We've also been participating in an exciting and fun video project. Can't say much about that right now, but I'll be very excited to share it with you when the time is right.
Things are really hopping around here!!
Sooooooo...if you haven't yet gotten your tickets for An Evening at the Express tomorrow night, what are you waiting for?
10/05/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Well, it's clearly been a while since I updated this blog. The summer was full of headspinning and exciting transition here at Actor's Express and it feels like the first moment I'm having to catch my breath.
First of all, I'd be remiss if I didn't start this entry by talking about our new Executive Director, Nan Barnett. When Lara Smith announced last May that she would be leaving, I was pretty afraid of the change that would follow.
We undertook a national search and received exceptionally qualified candidates from around the country. Nan stood out from the pack. Her commitment to new work is incredible. Having led the nation's largest professional theatre devoted to new work, Nan is not only a tremendous asset to Actor's Express, but to the Atlanta theatre community. I am so blessed to have her as a colleague and Atlanta is richer for her being here. I hope you'll get to know Nan when you're at the theatre. In the meantime, click HERE to get to know her a little more.
We also opened the season with the largest production we've ever attempted. Kiss of the Spider Woman was a tremendous challenge and it forced us to work in a way that stretched us as artists, as well as an organization.
This autumn of transition rounds out with Steve Yockey's new play Wolves, which opens in November. I think there's always something cool at moments of transition about doing a new play. There's something emblematic of growth and renewal in the production of a new play.
The AE team is also joined by Kevin Becerra. Kevin is our NNPN Producer in Residence. His residency is supported through a program of the National New Play Network. He will be here all season long and is bringing a very cool, super-smart set of skills to what we do here. All that, AND he's hilarious. Click HERE for his bio!
Fall is my favorite time of year and this fall is shaping up to be extra exciting. (BTW, just three more performances of Kiss of the Spider Woman!)
05/06/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
You want an idea of how funny Xanadu is? While attending a run through last week, I made the mistake of carrying a really big cup of coffee into the rehearsal hall with me. (If you know me really well or have ever worked with me, you know that I think a rehearsal hall is incomplete without a big cup of coffee, but I digress.) Anyway, I made the mistake of taking a sip of coffee while Jill Hames and Marcie Millard were playing one of their scenes as Calliope and Melpomene, respectively. They had a moment together that was so funny, I literally spat coffee across the room. I think it was my first real-life spit take.
04/20/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
We're closing out the first week of Xanadu rehearsals and let me tell you, this show is going to be hilarious. This cast is full of some crazy funny lunatics and I'm counting down the days till opening. Director Sherri Sutton is also the funniest person I know, so I'm expecting more than a bit of hilarity to ensue. And now I can't get "Evil Woman" out of my head.
03/20/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
When sitting down to write about Theatre in the Square's closing, it's hard to find words to describe what it feels like. Honestly, when I first heard the news I felt like someone I knew had died. It's a devastating loss to our theatre community.
I remember the first show I ever saw at Theatre in the Square. It was Love Letters with the late Frank Wittow and the late Mary Nell Santacroce. I was 20 or 21 years old and it was an awe-inspiring experience. I've never forgotten that special night in the theatre. From that night on, almost every time I went to a show there I would go the back hallway near the restrooms at intermission and look at all the show photos from past productions. I was always in awe of those photos and would always try to imagine the production in my mind.
I'm sure there will now be a lot of speculating and handicapping "what went wrong." And indeed, there may emerge from this loss important lessons to learn. But you know, there's time enough for that later. Right now is the time to reflect on a theatre that has been a major cultural institution for the past 30 years.
My heart breaks for the staff who've lost their jobs. My heart breaks for the artists who won't get to create more beautiful work there. And my heart breaks for the theatre community that has lost a company that has meant so much to so many.
01/15/2012 - Posted by Freddie Ashley Next Fall has now opened and it is a thrilling moment for the theatre. We are so excited to see this beautiful play brought to life on our stage. The script is so beautiful, insightful and sensitive. Kate Warner has directed the play with the most careful of touches, finding exquisite detail after exquisite detail. And the actors. Wow. It's really an embarrassment of riches. So many moments brought to life with truth, humanity and heart. To see Bill Murphey collapse into Mitchell Anderson's arms is a staggering moment of beauty. Patricia French's careful nuance in the temple scene is a study in how to use subtext as a powerful tool. John Benzinger, as ever, finds so much to love in a character who is conflicted and complicated. Jennifer Levison's openhearted performance is a thing of utter beauty -- so much compassion and humor. Mitchell Anderson and Joe Sykes have such amazing chemistry together onstage; they really plum the complex and interesting details of their characters' relationship and the result is heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time.
When the right script gets brought to life by the right director with the right group of actors, you end up with something special. It's like gold dust or lightening in a bottle. That's what is happening five shows a week now here at the Express. And I couldn't be prouder of Kate, Mithchell, Joe, Jenny, Patricia, Bill and John.
10/19/2011 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
We're having a blast working on Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them. I am very proud to be part of the National New Play Network (NNPN) and to be taking part in the Continued Life project. This project allows for Rolling World Premieres of plays.
The Rolling World Premiere is a model pioneered by NNPN to give playwrights multiple productions of their work. Because second and third productions of plays can be more difficult for playwrights to obtain than world premieres, this model allows for 3-4 theatres to do distinct productions of the play within a set period of time and share the Rolling World Premiere credit. The playwright has a voice in each production, just as he/she would in any world premiere but not always in subsequent productions. And he/she has multiple productions of the play right out of the gate. It's a win-win model that has proven successful for many writers and theatres, and we are thrilled to take part in the Rolling World Premiere of Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them. The other partners in the Rolling World Premiere are Actors Theatre of Louisville (Humana Festival), New Theatre in Miami and Theatre Mu in Minneapolis.
The play has already gotten RAVE reviews in Louisville and Miami. I can't wait to share it with Atlanta!
09/09/2011 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
These are tough times. The news today that GA Shakespeare has initiated an emergency campaign it tinged with an uncomfortable echo of familiarity. It’s like déjà vu, only across town. When I read that email from GA Shakespeare’s Richard Garner today, I got a lump in my throat. I remember so vividly the uncertainty that comes along with initiating a “Save the Theatre” campaign. That said, I am very optimistic that they will make it through to fight another day, as did we.
After the initial emotional reaction, I found myself getting angry. Not at anyone in particular, mind you, but at the perilous condition of the arts in our community. We are in the midst of a bonafide arts crisis in this community. And it’s time to fix it.
It’s time for arts organizations to innovate and transform outdated business models.
It’s time for the state government to get serious about arts funding.
It’s time for the business community, beyond the current stalwart few, to get behind the arts community in a real way.
It’s time for tastemakers and influence peddlers to put the arts at the forefront of the conversation.
It’s time for those few individuals with the means to do so to step forward and recognize that a vibrant cultural community is a cornerstone of a great international city and make a gesture to back that up.
And it’s time for everyone whose lives are touched by the arts to become an advocate for the arts.
Spread the word.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the value the arts play not only in the wider community but in individual lives. If you feel that way, get out there and spread the word. Don’t let government leaders sit on their hands while their colleagues cut life-changing and life-saving arts programs from schools. Don’t stand for the naysayers who tell you that the arts are frivolous.
The arts are an economic engine and God knows we need as many of those as we can get right now.
Children who participate in the arts are likelier to go to college and less likely to engage in risky behavior (drugs, teenage pregnancy, etc.).
Stand up for the arts. Talk your neighbors. Buy tickets. Donate money. Pass that postcard you receive in the mail along to a friend instead of tossing it out. Talk about the work you see. Blog about it. Send emails to your friends. Do it because it makes common sense. Do it because it matters. And do it because it is the right thing to do.
The arts will survive, but we need a new infusion of urgency and passion to navigate the treacherous paradigm shift we are currently in the midst of. And if I’ve written anything in this blog that offends, put forth a counter-suggestion. Hell, start an argument with me! Let’s get talking about the arts.
08/03/2011 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Every summer, I get sucked into a very false perception. Because we are between seasons, I always think summertime will equal down time. I'm always wrong. Summer means getting everything lined up for the following season...firming up creative teams for every show, confirming classes and instructors for the whole season, diving into pre-production for the first show of the season and doing those nagging little projects that there never seem to be time for during the season.
One such project has been a massive cleaning project backstage. Using some carpet that was donated four years ago (!), we finally recarpeted, cleaned and painted the backstage area of the theatre. This area had for too long been a no-man's land of junk and forgotten objects and is now pristinely clean and free of all gack.
Amy Ferguson-Kohan, our Audience Services Manager, took on a massive project to clean and organize our costume storage area. It is now much more efficent and organized.
Our summer interns, Margy and David-Aaron, undertook and completed an ambitious digital archiving project, converting thousands of old slides into digital files, making tons of storage room available and preserving old production images in a much more accessible and sustainable way.
All of this happened while readying Spring Awakening for production. We held auditions and design meetings and attended to the myriad details that go into pre-production.
I also managed to sneak in a vacation this summer -- my first in TEN years. Now I have an appetite for it and am ready for the next one!
But now...August has arrived and that means a new season. Our new class of interns started this week. We have nine interns in acting, directing and stage management. They are a great group -- you can learn more about them by clicking HERE.
And, we've started rehearsals for Spring Awakening. It's going to be an amazing show. But with the start of rehearsals, it means goodbye to those summertime projects and hello to the new season!
05/17/2011 - Posted by Freddie Ashley The Judas Kiss is now open...and what a ride it has been to get here. When we began rehearsals last month, I wondered if I would be able to reprogram my thinking to act again. You see, I hadn't acted in seven years. I've come to self-identify almost exclusively as a director and had somehow managed to turn off my actor switch, in a sense.
It was shockingly easy to give over control of production decisions and to focus on my own character. There was something refreshing and strangely freeing I found about placing my trust in the director. However, even though I was able to change my mindset easily doesn't mean that the process was always simple. The Judas Kiss is a very complicated play, for one. And the act of memorization proved to be so stressful that for about a week, nausea was a constant companion (accompanied by a creeping sense of dread that the lines would never come).
But the lines came. And so did the understanding. My wonderful costar Clifton Guterman said at one point that fear was "giving way to trust." I really liked that way of looking at it. And looking around at the rest of the cast (to say nothing of the fabulous David Crowe, our director), I found that letting trust triumph over fear was not only necessary, but a pleasure. How can you not trust these wonderful collaborators?
My return to the stage hasn't been without difficulty. But it's proving to be the thrill of a lifetime. I'm looking forward to the rest of the run and am glad to be able to enjoy the ride.
01/23/2011 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
What an evening - I'm just returning home after the amazing Evening with Rex Reed, which played to a packed house. Mr. Reed told hilarious stories of his interactions with Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankead, Tennessee Williams -- among others. It was quite an amazing night and it was a thrill to see such a large turnout. If you weren't at Actor's Express tonight, you missed a treat. I hope we'll be able to bring Mr. Reed back another time.
01/13/2011 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Really? It's been two months since I last blogged? Lame. Simply lame.
I figured I would take advantage of a snow day to sit down and update the blog. We're barreling toward the opening of Broadsword and I am very excited. We've lost some rehearsal time this week due to the snow and ice, but fortunately we were ahead of schedule during tech weekend and have done some creative scheduling to make up for the lost time. Just goes to show you that there's never a dull moment when you do live theatre. The show must go on, and go on it will. Thursday's preview is canceled, but we'll have previews Friday and Saturday nights, all in advance of Opening Night on Sunday!
I'm really looking forward to getting this show in front of an audience. It's an awfully cool play and I think people are going to have their socks knocked off.
11/09/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It was a great night for Actor's Express last night at the Suzi Bass Awards, as well as a great night for Atlanta theatre.
AE took home four awards:
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Kathleen McManus, Grey Gardens
Outsanding Lead Actress in a Play
Tess Malis Kincaid, Good Boys and True
Outstanding Director of a Musical
Freddie Ashley, Grey Gardens
Audience Award for Outstanding Season
As always, the Suzi Bass Awards ceremony was a great party celebrating all of Atlanta theatre. It's a thrill to see hundreds of local theatre artists, practitioners and supporters gathered together to celebrate excellence in our field.
The performances from nominated musicals were very cool, even if all of us at AE are a tad bit partial to Jill Hames (Suzi nominated for Grey Gardens) and her stunning performance of "Around the World." It was incredibly powerful to hear that song again and all the memories it brought rushing back from Grey Gardens, which was such an exceptional moment in AE's history.
Last night was a great celebration of the Atlanta theatre family, of which I'm very proud to be a member. Here's to another great season of theatre in Atlanta.
09/20/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Great news for Actor's Express!
Last week, nominations were announced for the Suzi Bass Awards, Atlanta's awards for professional theatre. I am so excited that Actor's Express received 10 nominations! Here is a recap of our nominees:
Production - Musical:Grey Gardens World Premiere:Fair Use Director - Musical: Freddie Ashley, Grey Gardens Lead Actress - Musical: Jill Hames, Grey Gardens Lead Actress - Play: Tess Malis Kincaid, Good Boys and True Featured Actress - Musical: Kathleen McManus, Grey Gardens Featured Actress - Play: Stacy Melich, Good Boys and True Costume Design - Musical: Sydney Roberts, Grey Gardens Lighting Design - Musical: Joseph P. Monaghan III, Grey Gardens Scenic Design - Musical: Philip Male, Grey Gardens
For the second consecutive year, audiences are encouraged to vote for a theatre who they feel has had the most outstanding overall season in Atlanta theatre. Last year's recipient was Atlanta Lyric Theatre. Each vote costs $1.00, with all proceeds going to benefit the Suzi Bass Awards organization, which is a non-profit. If you'd like to vote for Actor's Express, you can do so at the Suzis' website.
The Suzi Bass Awards will be presented on Monday, November 7 during a black-tie ceremony at the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University (home of GA Shakespeare). For more information about the event, click HERE to visit the official Suzi Awards website.
08/06/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
As we wind down the first week of August, I notice how it has been a week of new beginnings at Actor's Express!
First, we welcomed new Managing Director Lara Smith (pictured here) on Monday, August 2. Lara comes to us from Dad's Garage, where she served as Development Director for three years. She is a total rock star and has spent the week diving in feet first! For more about her, click HERE.
We also welcomed our brand new intern company this week. They'll be here for the whole season - understudying, performing, taking classes, working backstage and generally learning everything they can about working in the professional theatre.
And if that weren't enough, we started rehearsals for Becky Shaw this week! We are already having a blast in the rehearsal hall. Doing this show is a dream come true and the rehearsal process is a THRILL! Come check it out!
07/04/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Essential Theatre's in the house! Their 2010 season kicks off this week here at AE. We're thrilled to host Essential for the second consecutive year.
For those of you who may not know about Essential, they are a company committed to new work and always feature a play written by a Georgia playwright. Over the years, they have presented consistently exciting work in a number of venues around Atlanta.
Check out their website for information about their current lineup -- click HERE.
06/23/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
The 2009-10 season is winding to a close with this week's performance of Libby's at the Express. It's hard to believe we're already at the summer -- it seems like only last week that we kicked off the season with Grey Gardens, one of the biggest hits in Actor's Express history. It's been a hell of a season and we can't wait to get started on Season 23!
We're a scant month away from beginning rehearsals for Becky Shaw, which is one of the coolest new plays in years. Not only was it the runaway hit of the 2009 New York theatre season, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
In the meantime, we're opening our doors to the good folks of Essential Theatre. Essential produces a rep of three new plays and their work is always terrific. We're really proud to partner with Essential for the second consecutive year. You should check out their lineup HERE.
So while you're waiting for Becky Shaw, check out Libby's at the Express this week and the Essential Theatre during the month of July!
05/21/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
We are now in previews for Slasher, which is about as much fun as you can have in a theatre I think. We had our first preview performance last night and it's hard to believe we're already here! It feels like yesterday that we started rehearsals.
I took the liberty of posting a photo taken during rehearsal recently by our stage manager, Alicia Quirk. In the photo, cast member Elizabeth Neidel is seen being fitted for one of her costumes that features a giant meat hook poking through her.
When you do a show like Slasher, it's pretty amazing the technical issues that come up. Like, well, how do you have an actress sing "Love Shack" while impaled by a meat hook? We're also contending with a lot of fake blood, which is a mix of tempra paint, water and...ahem...horse lubricant. Yes, you read that correctly. The day AE's production manager Jon Nooner placed the order for several gallons of horse lubricant stands as one of the most surreal and funny days at the Express since I've worked here.
There was also the arrival of the scooter that figures prominently into the action of the play. Click HERE to see pictures on our Facebook page of some of us testing it out when it arrived at the theatre.
Scooters, meat hooks and horse lubricant. Honestly, my job never gets boring!
04/30/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I'm thinking a lot about arts advocacy these days. The last couple of weeks have been very intense on the advocacy front. First, as many of you have no doubt heard by now, the Georgia Council for the Arts was nearly eliminated by the General Assembly. After several hundred artists mobilized for a march and rally downtown, the GCA was restored to governor's initial budget recommendation. This victory is bittersweet, as the governor's recommendation brought the GCA's budget to $890,000 - down from over $4 million two years ago.
Yesterday, HB 335 died in the State House. This legislation would have allowed counties to hold referendums to levy a penny sales tax for economic development initiatives, a fraction of which would support the arts in each respective county that might pass such a referendum. The long road to get this legislation through the General Assembly was difficult and curvy for the bill's proponents. But it was a well-executed attempt and demonstrated a sustained effort of advocacy from the whole of the arts community.
Its reasons for not passing are varied. But the important lesson to take away from the experience is that the arts community is mobilized in a way that I've never seen in my ten+ years as an Atlanta theatre artist. I believe that the days of reactive advocacy are over and that the arts community is now entering a phase of proactive advocacy on its own behalf.
There will be progress in the months to come, I'm sure. But the energy of proactivity that is so alive right now must sustain over the course of the coming months and years or our recent mobilization and advocacy might be nothing more than an anomalous blip.
We have to keep telling our story. We must crystalize the message that ARTS MATTER. The arts matter for so many practical reasons: the impact the arts have on the economy...the value of arts in education...the crucial role arts can play in a child's overall development...how strong cultural communities attract new business.
But the arts also matter for reasons that are, frankly, more important than any of the quantifiable benefits of a strong cultural force:
The arts reflect our culture.
The arts define us.
The arts heal us.
The arts challenge us.
The arts create community.
The arts offer an escape from real life's sometime brutality.
The arts open our hearts.
The arts stimulate our brains.
The arts offer us something beautiful.
If you believe in a strong cultural fabric for our state and our city, keep your voice lifted. Don't be discouraged by the setbacks. Let them motivate you. Speak up for the arts! Not just in times of crisis, but every day. Not just to your legislators, but to your friends and relations. Be an ambassador!
I see a day when the value of the arts won't have to be justified and quantified by numbers (though they can be). I know that the day will come on which the value of the arts to our lives will be considered as crucial and immediate as the food we eat, the schools we attend and the police officers who protect us from danger. But to arrive at that day we must keep banging the drum.
04/13/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
We are heading into the final week of performances of 100 Saints You Should Know and start rehearsals soon for Slasher. I can't believe we're so close to the end of the season -- where does the time go?
Springtime not only marks the home stretch of the current season, but the time when we start looking ahead to the next one! To that end, we are announcing the 2010-11 Season this Saturday, April 17. Check your inbox this Saturday for the big announcement, or swing by the website. We've got some great shows lined up!
03/23/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
This Sunday, we opened a rather exceptional production of 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor. We've posted some photos from the show to whet your appetite. Click HERE to see them.
Heading to Louisville this week to attend the Humana Festival. I can't wait -- a weekend of marathon theatergoing. Bring it on!
03/11/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Tonight I watched a rehearsal for 100 Saints You Should Know, which is being beautifully brought to life by director Susan Reid and the unbelievable cast. When I first decided to produce this play, I knew it would be something very special. But I had no idea just what I would encounter when I walked into the rehearsal hall tonight. I'm telling you, I witnessed some of the most honest, beautiful, moving acting I've seen in a long time. Carolyn Cook does work in this show that you really have to see to believe. Doyle Reynolds is heartbreaking. And the rest of the cast (Sheila Allen, Rachel DeJulio and Barrett Doyle) may be new to AE audiences, but they'll be remembered for a long time. It's rare to have such an immediate emotional reaction just watching a rehearsal, but I was in tears tonight. It's going to take a little while to shake what I just saw, in fact. That's one of the reasons I ran upstairs and started blogging - I had to get it out!
I am so honored to be able to present this exquisite play to our audience. Can't wait for performances to start next week. Bring your hankies.
02/08/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I just returned from Le Fais Do-Do, the fabulous event space where we will be holding our upcoming gala event Project Expressway. What a fantastic space! I hadn't yet seen the space and was pretty bowled over when I walked in. I think it is going to be a perfect backdrop for our event, which promises to be a stunner.
01/22/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Have you seen the article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle about the economic impact of arts organizations in Georgia?
Among the 380 arts organizations from around the Georgia that were included in a recent study, the net economic impact to the state is an impressive $387 million. Combined, these organizations generate tax revenue to the tune of $18.6 million.
Now that sweeping cuts are looming to the Georgia Council for the Arts, I hope you will all lobby your state senators and legislators to take these numbers into account. Encourage the General Assembly and Governor Perdue to stand behind an industry that is having a tremendously positive -- and clearly quantifiable -- impact on our state.
To read the entire Atlanta Business Chronicle article, click HERE.
01/15/2010 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
We just had our first preview of Good Boys and True last night. I am so proud of director Melissa Foulger and the amazing cast of this show. There was a near-capacity crowd (pretty rare for a preview) and I was inundated with enthusiastic comments from audience members following the performance.
If you would like to see some photographs from our production, just click HERE to visit the show page on our site.
12/23/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Happy Holidays to everyone from all of us here at Actor's Express.
We are winding down 2009 and what a year it has been. In 2009 alone, think about the work you've seen at the Express: last season's Mauritius, Suddenly Last Summer and Zanna Don't. This season's Grey Gardens and Fair Use. The incomparable Libby Whittemore. Late night programs, including appearances by Francine Reed and Del Shores.
As we come to the end of 2009, it's nice to reflect on the year that was. But it is also important to look ahead to the upcoming year.
We have just begun rehearsals for our upcoming production of Good Boys and True and it promises to be a SCORCHER! It's been way too long since Tess Malis Kincaid was on our stage and I have no doubt that she is going to turn in a stirring performance.
And then we'll have 100 Saints You Should Know, featuring Carolyn Cook and Doyle Reynolds. And the hysterical Slasher, featuring that madcap Shelly McCook. And three more installments of Libby's at the Express. 2010 is going to bring a lot of exciting experiences to the AE family of artists and audiences.
And I'm knee-deep in season planning for the 2010-11 Season, so it remains to be seen what will close out that year. But I shouldn't get ahead of myself. We'll annonce those shows sometime this spring.
In the meantime, enjoy the festive holiday season and we'll look forward to seeing you back at Actor's Express in 2010!
12/07/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It was really thrilling to co-host with Horizon Theatre the National New Play Network's annual showcase of new plays this past weekend. Actor's Express has been a member of NNPN since the network's inception and Horizon is a new member, so that blend of history and new experience was exciting.
The National New Play Network (NNPN) is a network of 26 theatres from around the country that is committed to new plays and playwrights. The showcase is a chance for all the member theatres to gather and check out new work that is of interest to member theatres. From the showcase, many NNPN members might choose to collaborate on work that has been seen and/or discussed during the weekend.
All the play readings this past weekend were exciting -- it was cool to see such a breadth of work represented. Great variety in terms of the stories being told, as well theatrical aesthetics.
Maybe you aren't familiar with NNPN. Why don't you take a moment and check 'em out? Click HERE to go to their website.
11/25/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley I am thankful for many things.
I am thankful for every playwright, actor, director, designer, technician and stage manager that collaborates to bring such exciting work to the AE stage.
I am thankful for the hardest working staff that could be found at any theatre anywhere. What they accomplish on a day-to-day basis is a quantity of work that would still be a heavy workload for twice as many people. And they do so cheerfully and willingly -- and unbelievably well.
I am thankful for an audience that sets its expectations very high and isn’t afraid to hold me to those high standards. Not every theatre can boast an audience constantly asking for more risk and more innovation. I am so deeply grateful that my relationship with the AE audience is one that is full of conversation and mutual challenge. Sure, it’s my job as an artist to challenge the audience, but my audience in turn challenges me – to innovate, to risk and to be better. What a great blessing in this business.
I am thankful for a Board of Directors that understands the necessity for artistic innovation and believes so strongly in what we do. Without their support, our existence would be impossible and I don’t think I thank them enough for what they mean to me.
I am thankful for the Interns at Actor's Express. For someone who still remembers all too well how scared and isolated one can feel at the beginning of his or her career, it is profoundly gratifying to offer an artistic home to young actors just getting a foothold in the profession. And to see their dedication to growth and learning is something that inspires me on a daily basis. I don’t think they know how much they inspire me to be better.
I am thankful to be part of an artistic community that is truly that - a community. I am thankful that the artists who make their work in Atlanta do so with passion and mutual respect, even when faced with the most challenging of circumstances. It’s comforting to know that when things get tough, there is someone rooting for you, rather than thinking of you as competition. I appreciate being rooted for and am all too happy to return the favor. To do so is a great blessing.
I am thankful to be able to earn a living doing that which I love more than anything in this world.
It probably goes too often unsaid just how grateful I am for the people in my life – the artists, friends and family that I’m so blessed to be surrounded by. In a year during which I have faced devastating personal losses, I think it is a good thing to take stock of that which I do have and to articulate my gratitude for it. At this reflective time of year, it seems fitting to put it out there.
11/09/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Thanks to everyone who made Opening Night of Fair Use such an exciting, memorable night. Now on to tonight's Suzi Bass Awards ceremony! What an exciting couple of days!
11/03/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Wow, it's not been like a month since my last blog and here I am. Am I actually joining the information age and embracing blogging as part of my regular routine?
We had a really productive tech weekend for Fair Use. It's a really beautiful show. The scenic design is kind of amazing - leave it to Kat Conley to take potentially the most boring visual location ever (an office interior) and turn it into something beautiful.
We're barrelling toward opening with still a lot of detail work to do - tonight's dress rehearsal will be a great chance to blend all the technical elements that we introduced to the cast this weekend into the entire process.
The tech rehearsal process is really the point at which the entire world we're creating onstage starts coming to life. The sets, lights, costumes, props and sound complete that puzzle and we integrate those elements into the work we've been doing in the rehearsal hall.
I'm really excited to see audience reaction to the show. Audiences have seen the play in readings throughout its developmental history (Public Theatre in New York and Alliance Theatre here in Atlanta), as well as in its workshop production at Steppenwolf in Chicago. But for audiences to see the first-ever full production here in Atlanta (especially after establishing such a fancy pedigree through its development) is a HUGE thrill. The Atlanta audience will be the first ever to see the show in its complete form. That. Is. So. Cool.
10/25/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
There is something gratifying about working on a new play that is unlike anything else. When you're working with a writer on a new play you're not simply bringing it to the stage for the first time - you're watching the play itself transform into a living, breathing organism.
I'm a great lover of playwrights and having the playwright of Fair Use in residence during the rehearsal process gets me very excited. Sarah Gubbins is officially one of my favorite artists I've ever collaborated with. She is warm, talented and smart. Like, really wicked smart. We were sitting in my office Thursday afternoon talking about some script changes and it was as stimulating a conversation as I've had in months.
I have to take my hats off to the cast of Fair Use as well. Working on a new play can be exhilirating for actors, but it's not without its challenges. You just got that scene memorized? Well, here are five new pages that replace it. Fortunately, the work happening on the play right now is mainly comprised of fine tuning - no major rewriting or changing the play. But even so, the rehearsal process is fairly compressed and the cast rolls with the changes beautifully, all the while making advances every single day with character work and storytelling.
This rehearsal process has been one of the most FUN I've ever been involved with - I think you'll see that fun translate to the production when you come see the show. Love it.
We're entering run-throughs this week, barreling toward tech weekend. It feels like we just started. Watching this play come to life is a thrill and I have the best job in the world right now.
10/16/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It's been a week of hellos and goodbyes here at the theatre. First, we bade farewell to Grey Gardens, the opening production of the 2009-10 Season. It was a rousing success, one of the biggest hits in AE history. As sad as it was to say goodbye to such a dazzling production, all good things must come to an end and saying goodbye to Grey Gardens means saying hello to our next show!
Tuesday, we started rehearsals for Fair Use, the new romantic comedy by Sarah Gubbins that we're premiering in November. Rehearsals are off to a great start. Sarah is in town for the duration of the rehearsal process, so it's exciting to have her input into the production as well as to see the script evolve as she fine tunes it.
It's worth mentioning that we started the week with our co-presentation of The Laramie Project Epilogue with the Alliance. The reading, one of over 100 taking place nationwide, played to a jam-packed house in the Alliance's Hertz Stage. It was a very moving night - the reading was powerful and the conversation afterwards compelling. It was a great tribute to community, tolerance and acceptance. We were extremely honored to take part.
09/14/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I'm thrilled to announce the SIX Suzi Bass Awards nominations received for the AE production of Mauritius!
Outstanding Production of a Play
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play - Cara Mantella
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play - Chris Kayser
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play - Kathleen Wattis
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play - Richard Garner
Outstanding Director of a Play - Freddie Ashley
On a side note, I'd like to congratulate the nominees from Cabaret, which I directed this summer at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre: Claci Miller (Lead Actress in a Musical), Jill Hames (Featured Actress in a Musical), Jackie Prucha (Featured Actress in a Musical) and Cindy Mora (Choreography).
Congratulations to ALL the nominees. Mark your calendars for November 9, when the winners will be announced. Visit www.suziawards.org for more info about this annual celebration of Atlanta theatre.
09/04/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It's very interesting to gauge audience response to Grey Gardens, which by and large has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, GG is shaping up to be one of the biggest hits in our history!
Some audience members come to the show with no prior knowledge to the story of the two Edies, while others are followers of the original documentary and all its ancillary pop culture imprints.
It has been fascinating to see people encounter the story for the first time. No less fascinating or gratifying has been to get feedback from Grey Gardens-aholics that we've done justice to the story that a lot of us hold very near and dear to our hearts.
08/29/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Previews are in full swing for Grey Gardens. So far, response is overwhelming. The entire preview period and Opening Night are completely sold out - I don't know of the last time that has happened. This show has been a mammoth undertaking and I'm thrilled that audiences are responding with such enthusiasm. It's incredibly gratifying.
By the way, we've posted production photos from the show. Click HERE to check them out!
08/21/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
We are most of the way through week three of Grey Gardens rehearsals now. Every day it becomes clearer that this show is the largest production undertaken at AE in some time. The production elements are numerous and getting it all coordinated is complicated. Then you throw in unexpected challenges (like a piano string or two breaking during tuning...yikes) and everything gets super interesting. It's always cool to see how the team encounters a given challenge - and often, the bigger the show the more numerous the challenges.
It's all going to be so worth it. The production is going to be very, very beautiful. All the elements are being executed in a really lovely way, thanks to a great design team and production staff.
We go into tech rehearsals tomorrow. We're all expecting it to go smoothly - if I get a moment during a meal break I will post a quick blog to give a tech update.
08/07/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It's a week of new beginnings at Actor's Express!
First of all, our new class of interns began their residency this week. They'll be here for a full year acting, studying and working. The Professional Intern Company is the cornerstone of our professional development program here at Actor's Express. The new interns are Barrett Doyle, Bradley Golub, Ashleigh Hoppe, Brittney London, Paige Mattox, Katie Reichert, Lydia Shoup and Sarah Wallis.
We are thick in the first week of rehearsals for Grey Gardens and I can't tell you the last time there was this much energy coursing through the building. You know you're off to a good start when the stage manager's rehearsal report reads: "More music works at the top of call and then a wonderful read/sing-thru followed. Goosebumps abounded!" That pretty much sums it up.
Expect more updates as we get thicker into rehearsals. We start staging today after devoting the first few days primarily to music. I can't wait to see it get on its feet!
07/22/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Essential Theatre continues its repertory festival through August 2 here at the Express. It's been a joy having them in our space this summer and I look forward to many more years of working together with Peter Hardy's terrific company.
We are well underway with preparations for the opening production of our new season, Grey Gardens. The cast includes some amazing talent and I believe the design is one of the most unique to have been seen in our space in some time.
The opportunity to present a musical like Grey Gardens to Atlanta for the very first time is exciting. As we move into rehearsals I will be excited to share with you some of the discoveries we make along the way as we endeavor to tell the beautiful, haunting story of two remarkable women, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, the immortal Little Edie.
06/15/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It has been a wild, wonderful year at Actor's Express. We've been blessed with the support of an amazing audience here at the Express. In just two years' time, our subscriptions have grown by over 60%! Single tickets have also seen double digit percentage increases over the last couple of years.
Artistically, we have produced consistently excellent work all year long. I am proud to be the theatre that took a chance on a challenging play like Finn in the Underworld and am equally proud to have produced such an uproarious and warm comedy as The New Century. Mauritius was also a real high point for us, as was our scorching production of Suddenly Last Summer. And every time I see Zanna Don't, I am bowled over by its sheer joy and fun. Love it, love it, love it.
A season full of Libby, too - what's not to love about that!! It has been SUCH a thrill to have Libby Whittemore performing here all season. Can't wait to see what she does next year.
It's also worth reflecting on the amazing staff here at the Express. Scott Clodfelter (Managing Director) has overhauled all of our business and administrative operations and we are running more smoothly than ever thanks to his calm, detailed guidance. Development Director Erin Singer has forged our fundraising efforts in the most inhospitable economic climate in years - I don't know what we'd do without her. Production Manager Jon Nooner has delivered impeccable production values (on a tiny budget, might I add) and streamlined and organized many of our systems. Box Office Manager Amy Ferguson is our most senior staff member and is someone our patrons have come to rely on and love. Many of you by now have met Dameka Waller, our Box Office Assistant. She is also really amazing.
Our professional intern company is full of some of the most wonderful and gifted people I've the pleasure of knowing. They have really raised the bar for future classes of interns.
And last but not least, we have an amazing Board of Directors that is energized and engaged in ways that are so special. It's not every Artistic Director that truly considers Board members his friends, but I am blessed to do so. What a stalwart group of true believers. Really, couldn't do it without them.
Things are going to be even bigger and better next season. AE continues to grow and reconnect with the community. The work is amazing. The people are amazing. We are in a truly special time for the Express and I'm THRILLED to be a part of it.
05/18/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
What a thrill to be able to announce (finally!) the 2009-10 Season at Actor's Express. I am really excited about the lineup we've assembled and hope you will be too.
We're opening with the Atlanta Premiere of the stunning musical Grey Gardens, which promises to offer tour-de-force performances in a show that captures the emotion and unique glamour of "Little Edie" Beale and her mom "Big Edie." I have no doubt that this show will be the musical event of the season.
I'm equally excited about the World Premiere of Fair Use by Sarah Gubbins. This razor-sharp romantic comedy was a finalist in the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition at the Alliance Theatre. It is funny, smart and extremely romantic. I think audiences are going to fall in love with it as much as we at AE all have.
January brings the gripping Good Boys and True by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. As a sordid sex scandal unfolds at an exclusive DC prep school, one mother's quest to get to the bottom of the truth forces her to examine her seemingly perfect world of privilege. This is an unbelievably powerful play that will be brought to life by director Melissa Foulger, who delivered this season's stunning production of Suddenly Last Summer.
Then we will produce 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor, one of the most emotionally trenchant plays I've read in years. It's all about the redemptive power of human connection and our need to find a path of faith, even when we don't feel as close to God as we might like. This is a play of big ideas, but more importantly of huge emotion. I'm especially thrilled that Atlanta favorite Carolyn Cook returns to the Express for the first time in over a decade to head up the cast of this simply exquisite play.
And we'll end the season with the hysterically funny Slasher by Allison Moore, in which all hell breaks loose when a young woman is cast in a low-budget horror movie much to the chagrin of her kind of crazy, pill-popping mother. When I saw the recent production of Slasher at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, I laughed so much my stomach started to hurt. This play is SO funny - it will be the perfect way to usher in the summer.
And we're super excited to bring Libby Whittemore back for a second year of Libby's at the Express. Audiences all season long have been relishing the chance to see Libby back onstage doing what she does better than pretty much anybody. Every time I see one of her shows, I catch myself thinking how lucky Atlanta is to have such a performer calling our city home. She's one in a million and it makes me proud that she's at AE all season long!!
I've been chomping at the bit to announce the season! We started planning the 2009-10 Season last August, so this has been months in the making. And let me tell you, planning a season during these economic times is a very difficult task. But I decided that I was not going to let AE retreat into a season of small one-person shows. Now is the time - more than ever - to articulate who we are and offer the boldest theatrical experiences in town. Each of these plays offers a really substantial experience in its own way and that is one of the hallmarks of Actor's Express. No b-sides here.
I can't wait to start on the journey of the 2009-10 Season. It's going to be an amazing ride!
05/13/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
We're one day away from our first audience for Zanna Don't. This has been a really action-packed tech process. We had two twelve-hour tech rehearsals over the weekend. But the technical elements are all coming together surprisingly smoothly. We'll be working out the kinks all the way to opening, and with every day they are fewer.
I am really, really anxious to get an audience in front of the show. That is always the final and most crucial step in the process. For this show it's especially important - it is such an explosion of joy and pure energy that getting a handle on its relationship with an audience is essential. Fingers crossed...will update you after first preview.
04/22/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I'm writing this from a music rehearsal for Zanna Don't. I'ts very exciting to hear the music come together - the cast is full of real ringers. We start blocking tomorrow night, with choreography rehearsals beginning fast and furious this weekend. There are a lot of elements to this show, so we have a lot of work cut out for us. But judging from the start we've gotten, I'm predicting some spectacular things for this show.
(Playing hooky during rehearsal to blog is kind of fun. I feel naughty.)
04/03/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I've been meaning to blog all week about my trip last weekend to the Humana Festival at Actor's Theatre of Louisville. There was a lot of really great, innovative work at this year's festival.
I was particularly struck by Ameriville by the Universes, a powerful hip-hop theatre piece using Katrina as a starting point from which to examine contemporary American culture. That production is a non-stop explosion of music, dance, poetry and emotion. I really didn't want it to stop.
I also flipped out over Allison Moore's comedy Slasher, a scathingly funny send-up of slasher flicks. One of the funniest plays. Ever.
There was a really interesting aesthetic blend of work. The fascinating new Charles Mee play Under Construction presented by the SITI Company was highly theatrical pastiche, juxtaposed against the intimate realism of Zoe Kazan's Absalom. There was also a lyrical theatrical adaptation of the poems of Wendell Berry, as well as an intense new play by Naomi Wallace that she wrote after meticulous research into denizens of an enviromentally dangerous neighborhood in Louisville called Rubbertown. The variety was aesthetic, tonal and thematic.
There is something so energizing about seeing all that new work in one weekend. It was especially meaningful this year as I was accompanied by four members of AE's Board of Directors. It was great to be there with them to discuss the work and how we individually intersected with it.
Seriously, if you ever have the time in the spring, it's worth a quick road trip up to Louisville to attend the Humana Festival. It's something I look forward to doing every year.
03/24/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Well, Suddenly Last Summer is open. It was really wonderful to sit in the audience at Opening. I was mentioning to someone afterwards that it's interesting for me to gauge my response to a show as Artistic Director. When I've directed the production I am really proud of the work that went into it and of having played a part in making the show happen.
But when I didn't direct the play, I feel a different kind of proud. Kind of paternal, actually. Sunday night at the Opening Night party, I was so proud of Melissa, the cast, designers and entire team behind the show. But I was also really proud of Actor's Express. Really proud to be running the theatre that is doing such a vibrant and outstanding production of a great play.
BTW, if you want to see pictures from the show you can click HERE.
03/04/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
There is a great deal of energy in the building right now as Suddenly Last Summer continues its rehearsal process. Word from the rehearsal hall is that everything is clicking amazingly. I'm anxious to step into the rehearsal hall next week to check the show's progress.
You know, it's always a little strange not to be directing a show that's in rehearsal at the theatre. So when the process winds its way to run-throughs, I am always so anxious to see what's happening. And for a Tennessee Williams fan like myself, the anticipation is even greater.
I'll let you know when I've seen a run-through of the show.
02/02/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Wow -- the response to Mauritius keeps rolling in. This is the play that seems to have all of Atlanta talking. Check out all the audience reviews that patrons have submitted. All of these are completely unedited. Click HERE.
Everyone at AE is really blown away by this avalanche of positive feedback. If you haven't made reservations yet, don't delay. Several recent performances have sold out, so don't miss your chance to see the show that is quickly becoming THE event of the Atlanta theatre season. Click HERE for ticket info.
(Photo at left is Cara Mantella as Jackie. Photo by Coosa Valley Photography.)
01/27/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Everyone at AE is thrilled with the overwhelming response we're already receiving for our current production of Mauritius by Theresa Rebeck. After a sold-out Opening Night this past weekend, we've already received several audience reviews posted to the website. Click HERE to check them out.
Also, click HERE to check out Curt Holman's review from this week's Creative Loafing. As other reviews come in, we'll let you know.
01/23/2009 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Mauritius is up and running! We had our first preview last night. It was thrilling to see the play with an audience. That's always the final step in the creative process. The play's relationship with the audience is critical -- after all, it's who the play is for. As a director, I always take huge amounts of joy in seeing and hearing the audience's response to the work. It's very informing.
Also, our Opening Night is now officially sold out. And with strong audiences for previews, it looks like Mauritius is shaping up to be a big hit.
12/29/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I am so proud of the work that has been on the AE stage this season. And it's a thrill to be included among the annual year-end "Best Of" lists.
Atlanta Theatre Buzz (www.atlantatheatrebuzz.com) has highlighted AE among the top finishers in the following categories, including:
Best Ensembles - Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Outstanding Actors - Craig Waldrip, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Outstanding Supporting Actors - Don Finney, Some Men
Outstanding Directors - Kent Gash, Some Men, and Freddie Ashley, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Outstanding Tech - Octopus
Also, in the AJC's year-end wrap-up, Wendell Brock said the following:
Three comedic geniuses, two shows, one director: First, LaLa Cochran blowtorched the scenery of Theatre in the Square’s “The Little Dog Laughed.” Then Our Lady of Camp joined the misty-eyed Shelley McCook and the flamboyantly fabulous Don Finney in Actor’s Express’ “The New Century.” Alan Kilpatrick directed both. We all shrieked like banshees.
And here's what Creative Loafing's Curt Holman had to say about AE in his year-end review:
Love! Valour! Compassion! playwright Terrence McNally spans nearly a century to explore how American gay life has evolved from the closet to gay weddings in SOME MEN (May 1-31). Director Kent Gash and Actor’s Express artistic director Freddie Ashley lived up to the play’s implicit call for gay theater to rise above the familiar tropes of the past 20 years and continue to challenge itself. Standouts among Some Men’s terrific ensemble included Doyle Reynolds as a man who wrestles with societal changes, as well as Don Finney as a defiant drag queen who challenges a bar-full of closeted men. (In the fall, Finney joined LaLa Cochran and Shelly McCook for the year’s funniest play, The New Century, which looked forward while Some Men offered a backwards glance.) — Holman
Congratulations to these and all the artists in the AE family. Upward and onward into 2009!
12/21/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It's been too long since I posted a blog! I just wanted to take a moment during the hustle and bustle of this time of year to wish everyone the happiest of Hannukahs, the merriest of Christmases, the most festive of Kwanzaas and the most wonderful of whatever holidays you might celebrate this time of year.
2008 has been full of both wonderful blessings and tough challenges alike. Here at the end of the year I think it's always nice to reflect on the weeks and months that have led us to this moment and look forward to the exciting possibilities that lie ahead in the new year. I wish nothing but the happiest of times for everyone in the AE family in the coming months.
I look forward to seeing everyone at the Express in 2009!
11/11/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
The Suzi Bass Awards were held last night at the Egyptian Ballroom at the Fox Theatre. It was a beautiful event and a wonderful celebration of Atlanta theatre.
I'm particularly proud of LaLa Cochran, of our current production of The New Century. She took home the trophy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play for her bravura turn in The Little Dog Laughed at Theatre in the Square.
AE Associate Artist Kat Conley won the Outstanding Scenic Design Award for her work on Eurydice at the Alliance Theatre/Georgia Shakespeare.
Natasha Drena, who knocked out audiences in last season's The Last Five Years received the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance as Annie Oakley in the Aurora Theatre's production of Annie Get Your Gun.
I'm also super excited about Bethany Ann Lind's win for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for The Last Schwartz, which I directed at Jewish Theatre of the South.
Of course, congratulations go out to all nominees and winners. But more important than the outcomes in the competitive categories was the general celebration of where we are as a theatre community. The diversity and sheer quantity of work happening in our community is really astounding. And the Suzi Bass Awards ceremony is an annual chance to celebrate that.
The event was full of emotion. The tribute to Carol Mitchell-leon, recipient of the Spirit of Suzi Award, was intensely moving. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house as Jen Harper and Dorothy Bell paid tribute to Carol's talent, spirit and humanity. Of course, to have met Carol is to be inspired by her. And while her health prevented her from being physically present at the ceremony, her spirit was all over the room.
Another emotional high point of the evening was the tribute to Suzi Bass Awards founder Gene-Gabriel Moore, who passed away in July. A photo montage showed Gene-Gabriel at all stages of his life, from a boyhood photo taken in Cabbagetown, through his years as a journalist in the 1970s, to more recent photos of him during what would be his final act as a fixture in the Atlanta theatre community.
I am proud every day to be a member of the Atlanta theatre community. But last night's beautiful event that celebrated the best and the brightest of our city's theatre community was a moment to savor
11/05/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It's been so gratifying to see the response to our current production, The New Century by Paul Rudnick.
Collectively, we've all been through a lot of uncertainty these past few months. The economy has been erratic, and the election season was long and at times bruising. Thankfully, the election is over and we can all hopefully come together to look forward to a new beginning.
It's at times like these that we need laughter more than ever. It's very restorative to be able to step out of life for a couple of hours and just laugh ourselves silly.
Just as important, though, is to pay attention the restorative power of new beginnings. That's what The New Century celebrates, as the three central characters in the play (who on the surface seem to have little in common) can come together and forge an unlikely friendship. I'm pretty big into metaphors, and I think there's a great one in this play.
I can't wait to see another performance of the show, whereupon I will laugh myself silly again. I hope to see you at the theatre. If we're there on the same night, be sure to say hi (in between your own fits of laughter)!
09/18/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I did several jumps for joy recently when I found out that Love Jerry, which premiered at AE in 2006, is going to be included in this year's New York Musical Theatre Festival. Everyone at Actor's Express is proud of Megan Gogerty, the show's brilliant writer/composer.
But it's not a proud occasion for AE just because a show we premiered is moving on to wider attention. It's a singular feeling because of the show itself.
You see, Love Jerry remains one of the crowning achievements of this theatre. When it premiered here in 2006, it opened up dialogue and awareness of the dangers and horrors when a family becomes entangled in the cycle of sexual abuse.
Some protesters brought noteriety to the production, though from my outsider's perspective (I didn't work for AE at the time), the ensuing controversy distracted from the enormous good done by the show. AE partnered with a number of service organizations in the community who offer services and outreach to victims of abuse and hosted post-show discussions after every performance. Sometimes the discussion lasted longer than the play. And at almost every single one of these productions, an audience member would approach a representative from one of the organizations and seek their services. In most cases, this was the first time some of these adults had ever admitted or confronted the abuse they had suffered as children.
So Love Jerry was more than a beautiful show in AE's production history or a feather in our cap. It was an important milestone that illustrated in very real ways the power that theatre has to change lives. Not just make an audience member feel good or entertained, but to really change lives and offer healing.
I am so proud to be the Artistic Director of the theatre that first produced Love Jerry. And I hope everyone in the AE family will join me in wishing Megan Gogerty and the show much success at NYMF.
For more information about Love Jerry at NYMF, click HERE.
09/08/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
It's that time of year again...the annual Suzi Bass Awards, Atlanta's awards for professional theatre.
This year, AE has received several nominations:
Sound Design - Joe Monaghan, Octopus
Featured Actress in a Musical - Angela Motter, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Lead Actress in a Musical - Natasha Drena, The Last Five Years
Lead Actor in a Musical - Craig Waldrip, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Featured Actor in a Play - Don Finney, Some Men
Featured Actor in a Play - Tom Thon, Some Men
Ensemble (Play) - Some Men
Director of a Musical - Kate Warner, The Last Five Years
Director of a Play - Freddie Ashley, dark play or stories for boys
The awards will be announced November 10 at a ceremony being held at the Fox Theatre's Egyptian Ballroom.
08/17/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
I'm thrilled that Actor's Express has fared very nicely in The Sunday Paper's Spotlight Awards, highlighting the best of the Atlanta theatre season.
Named among the Top Ten Productions of the year was AE's When Something Wonderful Ends, which also scored an Honorable Mention nod to leading lady Vicki Ellis Gray.
Don Finney also received an Honorable Mention nod for his turn in Some Men.
Behind the scenes, I was named one of Atlanta's Top Ten Directors and Kat Conley's exquisite design for Octopus was named one of the Top Five Set Designs of the season.
It's also worth mentioning that actors featured in upcoming AE productions received mentions as well. Lead Actress of the season went to LaLa Cochran, who'll be seen as Helene in the upcoming AE production of The New Century. She was so cited for her bravura turn in The Little Dog Laughed at Theatre in the Square.
And Marianne Fraulo of season opener Finn in the Underworld received an Honorable Mention as Supporting Actress of the year for her turns in Pure Confidence at Theatrical Outfit and Rabbit Hole at Theatre in the Square. And Chris Kayser, of the upcoming Mauritius received an Honorable Mention for Lead Actor of the year for his work in The Merchant of Venice at Georgia Shakespeare. His Mauritius costar Richard Garner (Artistic Director of GA Shakespeare) was also included in the Top Ten Directors list.
Congrats to all these AE artists, as well as everyone else whose fine work was recognized.
07/31/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Atlanta has lost a giant. With Gene-Gabriel Moore’s passing, there is a hole left that can’t quite ever be filled again.
In the theatre racket, we talk a lot about transcendence. We’re always striving to create moments of transcendence, when the spirit can be lifted beyond the crushing constructs of the grind we call daily life. But sometimes you come along a person whose spirit is transcendent on a daily basis. Someone who inspires just by being. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble across such a person a few times in isolated moments over the course of your life. But if you meet such a person and can actually have a friendship with him or her? Well, in that case “lucky” transcends to “blessed.”
I remember the first time I met Gene-Gabriel. It was 1999 and I was working in the scene shop at the Alliance Theatre. On a lunch break from a load-in, I stepped into the Chick Fil-A at Colony Square. Sitting there was an elderly gentleman, his face distorted with the telltale signs of a stroke. He was eating lunch and, as I recall, reading a newspaper. On his baseball cap was a button that said “Theatre Person.” Well, being a new kid on the Atlanta theatre block I was anxious to meet as many theatre people as possible. I said to him, “I like your button.” We struck up a conversation and a friendship was born.
Over the years, I saw Gene-Gabriel frequently. Sometimes it was at Starbucks by chance. Sometimes we sat down together in planned meetings to discuss potential projects (or life, or Tennessee Williams, or politics…). But most often it was at a theatre. Gene-Gabriel was, you see, a man of the theatre. And despite the ravages of illness, his energy for the theatre knew no bounds. There he would inevitably be, often on the front row. I think my favorite moment seeing him at a theatre was at the brilliant 7 Stages production of Caridad Svich’s Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell that was Once her Heart: A Rave Fable. Part of the staging conceit was that the audience stood in the midst of the play as it happened around them. There was seating available for those who needed or wanted it, but Gene-Gabriel stood. There he was, his physical abilities limited by the cruelty of a stroke, but he wanted to have the full experience. So he stood. There’s a mighty metaphor in that moment.
He was an inspiration to me in ways I can’t begin to describe. To do so in this way almost seems tawdry, for to put it into printed words seems automatically to reduce it to the sum of the letters on the page put together to describe it. Certainly, his life as a theatre person inspires me. But his spirit was transcendent and he inspired in ways that were much more expansive than simply theatre-related.
Last year my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor and subsequently suffered a significant stroke, leaving severely disabled and in need of acute medical care. Talking with Gene-Gabriel about his similar experience was one of the things that got me through the initial tough times adjusting emotionally to my mother’s drastically altered new life circumstances. It was Gene-Gabriel who urged me not to give up hope – ever – and to continue believing in the capacity for her improvement. I don’t know if he ever knew how much that meant to me.
There is a lot of talk going on in Atlanta theatre circles right now about Gene-Gabriel’s legacies. There are many. Some are wide and some are intensely personal. But know I mean it when I say that the hole he leaves can scarcely ever be filled by anyone else. And now that this remarkably transcendent person has transcended in that most ultimate of ways, I know his memory will shine brightly for a lot of people. Anyone who knew him is richer for it.
07/10/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
This past Tuesday, the Angry Inch had the great opportunity to perform on the stage of the legendary music venue Eddie's Attic in Decatur. Our drummer, the excellent Jen Lowe, was holding a CD release party for her new disc entitled "From the End of this Hallway." (Incidentally, it's available on iTunes!)
Click HERE to check out photos of this exciting night!
07/07/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
Check out new photos of Hedwig's recent appearance with the Angry Inch at Smith's Old Bar here in Atlanta. Big thanks go out to The Vagabonds, a fabulous Atlanta band, for inviting the Angry Inch to come play! Click HERE to check out the photos...the one to the left is just a taste! (Photos from the event are at the bottom of the thumbnails along the right side of the screen.)
07/03/2008 - Posted by Freddie Ashley
By now you may have heard about the uber cool one-night-only event coming up next week here at AE. It's the hilarious one-man show My Life on the Craigslist written and performed by Jeffery Self.
Jeffery has performed this show in NYC to SOLD OUT houses. And let me tell you, it is a scream.
Come check it out next Friday, July 11, immediately following that evening's performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Click HERE for more details!