By: Sydney Moody (Marketing Intern)
What an amazing few blogs! We’ve gotten so much insight from the cast of MATILDA, we’ve gotten to the technical aspects of theatre from our stage manager, now, we’re getting some perspective from the director, Ashley Wells. You know the drill, so let’s jump right in!
As we start off our interview, we asked Wells how she got into theatre and the professional setting.
Wells: “I started dancing when I was very young and then moved to musical theatre in high school and college. My first musical theatre job was at Lyric Theatre in the ensemble. When I moved back to Oklahoma, I was a casting director and at that time there wasn’t very much TV or film here, not like there is now. I started working in the business office at Lyric helping out the business manager at the time. From there I just kept moving up into different jobs within the organization and enjoyed every position and learning how a nonprofit theatre works.”
We feel as though there are two sides of how people got into theatre, one side with those who wanted to be in a professional theatre setting since they were young and those who had another career goal but changed their path. Let’s see which side Wells falls on.
Wells: “After I was on Broadway and toured the country with Carol Channing in HELLO DOLLY!, I moved to California and became a casting director. I loved that job, and if I was still in LA, I would probably still be doing it.”
Each job has something that makes everything worth it, so we asked Wells what that special thing was about her job that makes her “heart sing” and brings her joy.
Wells: “I love the casting process and making those phone calls to cast an actor in a show. The excitement on the other end of the line is contagious.”
COVID-19 changed the game for those in the theatre industry. It changed how people rehearse, regulations and their perspectives about theatre. We asked Wells if COVID-19 changed her perspective when it comes to theatre.
Wells: “I don’t think it changed my perspective on theatre, per se, but maybe the way theatre works. Meaning the show must go on means something very different now than it did in the past. The show can’t just go on, and we have to prepare for the fact that the show might not go on and what steps you need to take in case the show does need to go on. Meaning, in our Plaza space, we have more control of our shows, when they happen, how many shows and if we can extend a run. It is a little easier for us to cancel a show at the Plaza. This summer at the Civic Center we only run for 7 performances, so the show really does have to Go On. We can’t add any more performances or change our dates. So how do we prepare for something like Covid when people get sick, we can’t just say deal with it and go on. That has been the case in the past when say somone had a cold, allergies or even a stomach bug, the show would go on. Now they have to be gone from the production for 5 days and then 5 more days with a mask on. So to prepare for something like this we have to have swings and understudies. That is not something Lyric has done before (had swings and understudies). So this has changed the landscape of what we do at Lyric. This costs money and being a non-profit theatre company and trying to build back from two years off with COVID this has proven to be a struggle to prepare for theatre with COVID in our lives.”
With COVID-19 taking over 2020, slowing down a little bit in 2021, and still sticking around in 2022, we asked Wells if she was worried about COVID changing theatre permanently?
Wells: “Absolutely, when COVID first hit, it was hard to see where or if it will end, and now we are seeing it won’t end. We have to change to accommodate. We are doing that now. It is a little bumpy but we are making it work.”
As we conclude the interview, we asked Wells for some advice on how to get into professional theatre and for those who are in theatre in general.
Wells: “Learn as much as you can about all aspects of theatre. The more you learn, the more opportunities will be open to you. I would have never thought that I would be in the position I am in now, but as I look at how I got here, it is because I took the time to ask questions, make myself available and learned as much about theatre as I could. If you are a performer, and you take the time to learn the technical side of theatre, you might just find you like stage managing as well, now you have another skill and another door open to you. If you aren’t a great dancer, singer or actor doesn’t mean you can’t still be in the theatrical world, you can still be involved; offer to be an intern, apprentice, follow or assist someone and learn all you can, you might just find something you like even better.”