Cutting Through the Cliche’s…

There are many things I wish I had been told as a theatre student. Most of them, I might not have understood until I had experiences of my own, but I felt compelled to share my thoughts with those who are graduating from theatre programs this month.

“Welcome to the theatre- you fool! You’ll love it so.” -Applause.

Photo by Ashley Fox Linton

Cutting through the Cliché’s: Advice to Theatre Students.     

By Ashley Fox Linton

As a theatre student, I was never surprised by the repetitive advice professional actors would give to those pursuing a career in the arts. “If you could be happy doing anything else, do that,” followed by a collective groan. I would sit there and think, “We’re actors. We can do anything! We want to do so many things in our short lives that we’re choosing a career that taps into an endless amount of human experiences. We’ve been told a million times how difficult this business is, yet we’re still here studying and moving forward. Don’t you have anything useful to tell us? Sheesh!” They would go on, feeling pressured to list their accolades, and my mind would drift to selected scenes from “Funny Girl.”

We must be capable of finding joy and humility in other pursuits in order to be effective actors. Our experiences and imagination are all we have to draw from. In a creative, freelance lifestyle, it seems senseless not to fill our time with meaningful work that enhances our gift for theatrics. Only a very shallow actor believes they can’t do anything else. And, unless one is a wizard at false sincerity, a shallow actor is not an effective actor. People love to tell you that the ‘secret’ to having a great audition is just to “be yourself.” I’ll let you in on a little ‘secret’; if you’re a wildly neurotic a**hole, DON’T be yourself. Learn to be compassionate, kind, prepared and excitable. Then, being yourself might be a viable option.

“Success” is a relative term, and we create our own definition. While one actor feels like a failure because his film only made 3 million in it’s opening weekend, another actor is just thrilled to have a role in an Off-Broadway play. Your life and career will change monthly, even daily. It is important to set up a budget and learn to live frugally. We gypsies rarely lead a life of luxury. (Cue music for Stephen Sondheim’s “A Glamorous Life.”)

Acting coach, Rob McCaskill, gives his students a wonderful exercise. If there’s a flaw you spend time concealing, spend a day with that flaw exposed and celebrated. Let it all hang out! Now, that’s vulnerability. Learn to be confident and take pride in what makes you undeniably unique, even if it’s a quality or physical feature you’ve been trying to hide.

You will consistently be told that you are too old, too young, too fat and too thin, over and over, until you feel like you’ve been living in a Fun House full of distorted mirrors. It’s like dating. At some point, someone won’t care about the surface qualities. Your essence will be just right for a role, the stars will align, and what you’ve been dying to express will be scattered between the lines of some brilliant piece. What is for you will not pass you by. There is nothing that you can do to get the role if it isn’t yours, and nothing you can do to keep from getting it if it is. You know what belongs to you, and you know it before you walk into the room.

The truth is that you’re going to get your heart broken… over and over. It is going to be painful. There will be times when you will want to give up. You will be sitting in the lobby of Anonymous + Co Casting, next to Meryl Streep’s daughter, an Olsen twin and the film producers’ niece, wondering why you spent twelve hours of expensive coaching fees on the material. Don’t let this keep you from wanting it. Don’t let it keep you from enjoying the steps you took to prepare.

Actors love to say, “I always get the jobs I don’t care about.” Who would want to create art with a person who doesn’t care about the job or take pride in the work? The person that is best for the role is not the person who doesn’t care. It is the person who cares more about the character than what the casting director thinks of them playing the character. You must care! Becoming passive or complacent is boring. No one will care if you don’t.

It’s so easy to be a critic. Don’t be deceived into thinking it’s sophisticated to cut down those that are creating. There’s a difference between a discerning artist offering their expertise and an envious cynic. We are each responsible for our own participation and how we improve life on this planet. If we claim to be creators, why would we participate in destruction?

For the sake of pursuing your art, you will probably spend some time in a day-job that you are overqualified for. These are relevant experiences that make for some great material! An actor is always at work. You will use it. Trust me on this. Write it down. Nothing is wasted.

Everyone thinks they know what it’s like to be an actor. The human nature of assumption will become irritating. Their perception of you is not your business. People will never stop asking “Have I seen you in anything?” They will never stop referring to you as an “aspiring actor” even though you’re a “working actor.” Aunt Lucinda, will call with advice she learned from “Smash.” They won’t think twice about inquiring publicly how much you get paid. They will take an unhealthy interest in your sex life. These things never change. Don’t mind the Muggles. Do not be prideful. Learn to set boundaries, be gracious and move on.

You’ll have that teacher that scoffs when you tell him you’ve never seen “Little House on the Prairie,” as if you have time to sit at home watching every TV show ever made. Don’t worry about it. You’re never going to be familiar with every story ever created. Just watch what you enjoy because you will naturally pursue the things you like.

Do your research when it comes to agents and managers. Some industry folk will throw around big names and glitter like the perfume spritzers at Macy’s, constantly checking for your reaction and sneaking the periodic glance at thy bosom. The Hollywood manager that only takes appointments on Friday and Saturday nights is not trying to help you. Just run.

Do not let a photographer persuade you to change your look for your headshots. The point is to look like you. Also, be wary of anyone who uses the terms “fierce” or “boo” with too much ease. Not really… but really.

When moving to a big city like NYC or Los Angeles, find out where the major studios are. Map out your travels so that you’re not overwhelmed on the day of an important appointment.

Stop by the makeup counter at Bloomingdales for a quick consultation. Guys, this means you too! Take responsibility for the things you can control because most of the business is out of your control.

Keep in mind that universities and conservatories only advertise their success stories. Most people don’t think you can do anything until you’ve already done it. Don’t do it to impress them. Do it because you have something to express. Success may be the best revenge, but if revenge is your motivation for creating art, you’re going to run out of steam. Love lives longer. Period.

‘Tis a far, far better thing to be a part of a life-changing event than to worry about the opinions of strangers. Who won the Tony for Best Play in 2008? Tough to remember, huh? Name a piece in the past five years that deeply affected you. Much easier.

My Dad always said “Take your work seriously. Don’t take yourself seriously.” Of course, that’s different than taking things personally. If you’re proud of your work, it’s personal. Be gentle with yourself if you are feeling sensitive. You must stay sensitive to be an artist. All this talk of “building a thick skin” is rubbish. When it’s your job to feel things, that brick wall is only an occupational hazard. In order to stay an artist, one can never grow numb to the emotions felt when under critical attack. It is ammunition to add to our emotional palette, which can take some time to acquire.

Learn to be wary of your expectations. Allow yourself to have as much fun in an audition room as you would onstage after weeks of rehearsal. The business is never going to be fair. Like any business, there is always the guy who got the promotion because his father owns the company. Most people are working hard and truly doing the best they can. How can it be fair that some people are born with exceptional gifts and some are not?

Keep studying. Appreciate and nurture your talents. With care, they can only grow and multiply.  The average person has 7-10 jobs in their lifetime. As an artist, you can create a career suited to your specific skills.  There will always be the need for art. Art is our primary source of healing. If you have something to say, a creative medium will find you. You are never just an actor. You are a poet, singer, dancer, storyteller and communicator. Technology is constantly creating new forms for expression for us to embrace.

Why do we subject ourselves time and again to constant scrutiny? Because fulfilling that inherent need to create is worth the pain. Remember that you are a trained and educated professional. Appreciate the tools you have been given and be patient.

As a fellow artist, take this with a grain of salt and a slab of perspective, since it is only the view from my little corner of the universe. Consider it a tithe of my time, from one actors’ heart to another. We are made to grow, improve, connect, listen and give life its’ due reverence. All of life is about human relationships. That’s all we really have, and it is our privilege to explore, share and communicate with joy and respect.

Now, go out into the world and follow your love!

Photo by Ashley Fox Linton

BMI, Holiday Magic & Moxie!

BMI: “Everything You Long For” by Matthew Hardy and Randy Klein, was chosen as one of the new songs to be presented at this years Tony-Honored BMI Theatre Workshop Showcase. The song is from the musical “Flambe Dreams,” previously titled “The Thing About Joe.”

Read the article at Broadway World.

The BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop held its biannual showcase November 3 in New York. Pictured at the event are (first row, kneeling) Goldberg, Mary Liz McNamara, Jill Abramovitz, Raissa Katona Bennett, Gwen Hollander; (middle row) Jeannine Frumess, Ashley Fox Linton, Aron Accurso; (back row) Sara Wordsworth, Kellen Blair,Andy Monroe, Dina Pruzhansky, Steve Sislen, Tracy Higgins, Michael Ogborn, Charlie Soehne, Matthew Hardy, Leo Ash Evens, Christine Bokhour, Beth Falcone, Frank Evans, Raymond Bokhour, Randy Klein, Michele Foor, Trey Compton and Matt Van Brink. (Photo by Joshua Sarner)

HOLIDAY MAGIC 2011: For this years Holiday Magic CD, I wanted to write something from a child’s perspective. I collaborated with Denver Casado once again to record “I Just Can’t Sleep,” about a little boy/girl filled with anticipation on Christmas Eve. The entire album can be heard on the  website.

We’ll be visiting San Diego’s Children’s Hospital on December 15th to distribute CD’s personally. The project takes donations year round to contribute to the cause. For more information, visit HolidayMagicCD.com.

MOXIE MADNESS: Moxie Street Picture Shows held a spectacular Holiday Fiesta to celebrate another year of creative collaboration. Many thanks to Patron for providing a fantastic venue and  Yogaworks, Bodyshop and Sephora for their generous contributions.

Event photos can be viewed at http://www.moxiestreetpictureshows.com

The Moxie Street Picture Shows Gang: Michelle Loucadoux, Victor Anderson Bonnici, John Keabler, Ashley Fox Linton, Kimberly Yates and Katie Fabel.


98 BOTTLES: I’m excited to perform in a Christmas concert for San Diego’s new downtown hot spot, 98 Bottles (recently featured on the cover of San Diego magazine)! The club owners have been dear friends of mine since childhood and I’m thrilled for their success. If you live in SoCal, add it to your list of favorite night spots. Hope to see you there!

Merry Christmas,          

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

BOOK: “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. A beautiful book that melts all over New York City.

PLACES: Coney Island’s Night’s of Horror,  The Natural Gourmet Institute (Cooking School).  Follow my reviews and suggestions on Yelp! ashleylikes.yelp.com

MY LATEST ARTICLE:  Cooking Sites for the Concoctions You Crave for 24/Savvy.

“The Journey of the Noble Gnarble” & “Bedfellas.”

THE JOURNEY OF THE NOBLE GNARBLE: On Saturday, we celebrated the book of launch for “The Journey of the Noble Gnarble” by Daniel Errico, with illustrations by Tiffany Turrill, at Books of Wonder on West 18th in NYC. Books of Wonder is the oldest children’s bookstore in the city, with scores of old and rare treasures. Such a magical place! Jose Sepulveda and I sang a song from the musical adaptation of the “Noble Gnarble,” which is currently being spun by Denver Casado. It’s an adorable and uplifting tail tale of a little fish who longs to swim to the top of the ocean. Visit www.noblegnarble.com for more info.

BED FELLAS: I’ll be playing Amy Parker in a workshop of the new musical “Bedfellas,” by James Olmstead, Omri Schein & Andrew Smith. Also starring Ben Nordstrom, Mark Emerson Smith, Kristen Mengelkoch and Omri Schein.

Pearl Studios: 519 Eighth Ave. NYC. October 17th. 7:00pm.

LATEST ARTICLES: A Practical Accessory for Autumn Adventures for 24/Savvy & October’s What’s Worth Listening To for Feather Magazine.

Golden Corral Industrial with Josh Grisetti, Kristen Mengelkoch and David Brannen.

Hotchacha,          

“First Real Love” & “Flambe Dreams”

New Jersey the Song: Check out “All You Long For,” written by Matthew Hardy & Randy Klein, and sung by yours truly. Soon to be posted at www.NewJerseyTheSong.com. It’s the eleven o’clock number for the show we’ve been working on for a few years now. I think even West-coast folks’ll dig it!

About the showFlambé Dreams tells the story of a young man from Preston, Idaho who comes to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a great Maitre D like his father who was killed in a freak flaming bananas foster accident.

The demos are done and available at www.FlambeDreams.com.

Here are a couple tunes from this crazy show…

First Real Love: We recently received the promo copies of “First Real Love.” It’s exciting to have a final product in hand after all of our hard work. So, now we’re taking the next step to find the project a home. I’m beyond thrilled to debut these original tunes.   

Google Doodle

Les Paul’s 96th Birthday (Global) – Jun 09, 2011

Little Miss Google Doodle May 9th 2011

Les Paul, the creator of the legendary Gibson guitar that bears his name, would have been 96 years old on June 09th, 2011. Les’ son Gene Paul did the mastering for my album. I ate up all his stories of Barbra, Bette and Aretha in the studio. I mean, the guy recorded Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Such a treat!

FUN FAMILY HISTORY: A very dear and thoughtful friend spotted this gem at the Strand Bookstore and kindly passed it along. My grandfather, John Marion Fox, is in the book along with my Aunt Ditty and others in the family tree of the Bennett sisters. The book is out of print. John Fox wrote an autobiography before he died that was never published. On my mom’s last trip to the city, we scoured out spots he used to frequent. Turns out, he lived only a few blocks from me! Funny how things come full circle.

On set of an Olive Garden commercial with Scott from wardrobe.

LATEST PUBLISHED ARTICLES:

Tirana Jewelry” (a great find at the Crest Hardware Show in Williamsburg) and Lavish Lipliners for Less (my personal favorites) and ONEXONE Charity Friendship Bracelet for Rock This Style, and Creative Cookin’ in the Summer Sun and Eco-Fab Coffee Table Gobbles Garbage to Create Art for 24/Savvy.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

GO: Midsummer Night’s Swing in NYC, Griffith Observatory in LA, “Little Shop of Horrors” at Cygnet Theatre in SD (running through Sep. 11th).

ALBUMS: Steve Marzullo’s “Show Some Beauty.” One of my absolute favorite composers finally has an album of his own! It’s marvelous!

Adieu, adieu to yieu and yieu,        

Spring, Singin’ & Savvy…

This past month has been busy and exciting. I’m absolutely thrilled that my album is almost completely mixed and will be  mastered sometime in the next couple weeks. I’m bursting to share it. Soon… Soon…

Merton of the Movies

As for theatre, Donald Brenner and Doug Katsaros have written a fantastic little musical, “Merton of the Movies,” based on the novel, turned radio play. We held a casual reading last November and performed the first staged reading at the Richmond Shepard Theatre on April 27th with dear chums Josh Grisetti, Erik Liberman, Martin Van Treuren and many funny folks. It’s always extra exciting to be working with old friends and this is a fun piece for me since I get to play a whole slew of silly broads.

Speaking of comedy, LIVE FROM HEAVEN: Richard M. Nixon’s Mandatory Fun-Time Concert at UCB Theatre was a hoot! Funny-man Lee Rubenstein wrote and directed. I played Pat Nixon opposite writer, Aaron Glaser as Mr. President.

I was honored to take part in the Sing for Hope concert at the Leiderkranz Club, in conjunction with Opera for Humanity, benefitting the Ronald McDonald House of NYC. Amy Shoremount-Obra put together a beautiful night of opera and musical theatre.  Adam Monley and I sang “All I Ask of You” from “Phantom of the Opera.” Amy Decker Gibbs, Eve Gigliotti,  Rebecca Nash, Patrick Blackwell, Michael Corvino, Jennifer Tiller, Julia Mintzer and accompanists Carol Wong and Carmine Aufiero all gave wonderful performances.

Set your DVR! I’m playing Amy Sawyer, the sneaky gal hiding important documents from the FBI, on USA Network’s “White Collar,” set to air in June. The show is great and I’m excited to be a part of it! Episodes are also available online at  www.usanetwork.com/series/whitecollar/

Had a blast recording Denver Casado‘s latest project “Musicville,” written with Betina Hershey. This new show teaches children about music through a fantasy tale and is packaged with the previous “Monsterville.” I also have a new animation reel, engineered by the talented Nina Negri. She just recently opened her new studio on the Upper West Side.

I’ve become a contributing columnist for a fabulous online magazine, 24Savvy. Check out my latest articles on “Spring Beauty Cleaning,” and why “Mario Badescu Might Be the Best Goo!www.24Savvy.com.

Cheshire Fox has a new logo! Thanks to Norahead at 99Designs, we have a fantastic trademark emblem to represent all creative projects developed through Cheshire Fox Productions. I’m hoping to get started on some shorts very soon. We  held a reading to examine the possibilities and, as always, they are endless! New projects will be posted at www.CheshireFox.com.

The gals and I at Moxie Street Picture Shows are hustling to produce Elizabeth Meriwether’s “Mistakes Madeleine Made” in Los Angeles, May 11- June 4th. It’s going to be quite a ride, so if you’re on the West Coast, be sure to catch the show at:

The Lounge Theatre     6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, Ca.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

Books: “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss, “The Loved One” by Evelyn Waugh.

Albums: Train- “Save Me, San Francisco,” Linkin Park- “A Thousand Suns.”

Places: B&H, Stumpton, Zabar’s, Dylan’s Candy Bar, MoMA.

Websites: Boston’s Big Picture, Astronomy Pic of the Day, Bakerella, CraftGawker.

Cheerio,        

Welcome!

2011 is off to a fantastic start with numerous creative projects in the works…

The recent developmental reading of the new musical “Flambe Dreams” by Matthew Hardy and Randy Klein at The York Theatre was a great success! I’ve been involved with the production since 2008 when it was called “The Thing About Joe” and we held a reading at The Snapple Theatre. I play the role of Gloria, as well as Joe’s fantasy of Julie Andrews. The show has gone through extensive rewrites and I’ve grown quite attached to this quirky little piece. I’m always grateful to be involved in the development of a new production. There is so much to learn from the way a piece evolves and improves with every little tweak. Visit www.FlambeDreams.com.

The talented Charlie Bloom has whipped up another mini-musical, “Frank and Phyllis,” for which I recorded the voice of Phyllis, opposite Kevin David Thomas as Frank, Christy Faber, Austin Lesch and Charlie himself. It is now available for listening at www.CharlesBlooMusic.com. Previous recordings for Charlie have included “Going Through a Stage,” “You’re Gonna Love Your 80’s” (a tribute to Stephen Sondheim) and “Character Breakdown.” Charlie writes clever lyrics and gorgeous melodies. Enjoy!

After a successful run of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Wonder of the World” last Spring, and a December reading of Sarah Ruhl’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” Moxie Street Picture Shows will be establishing itself as a bicoastal company with “Mistakes Madeleine Made” in Los Angeles.  If you happen to be on the left coast, swing by to see the show. Visit www.MoxieStreetPictureShows.com for more information.

I’ve just recorded Denver Casado‘s “We Are Monsters,” an adorable children’s show. Denver and I recently collaborated for the third time on Holiday Magic, produced by Jeff Gelder. Every year, Jeff generously assembles a compilation CD of songs and stories for those who will be spending Christmas in Children’s Hospitals. They accept donations year round at www.HolidayMagicCD.com.

In the voiceover world, my ads for NY Lotto and Captain Morgan are still running. If you haven’t had a chance to prank your friends through Captain Morgan, visit www.CallingAllCaptains.com and choose “cutie” to send a prank phone-call straight to your friends cell phone. You can choose from a list of names, descriptions, etc. It’s hilarious!

Funny how something things come back to haunt you after years. I shot some stock footage for a photographer when I was 14, and I’ve seen the photos everywhere from depression billboards in the midwest to Facebook ads. Yup, that Facebook ad of the sad girl who used Yaz is me! Makes my friends giggle…

As an artist in a freelance industry, people often ask me what I do for steady work when I’m not performing. Of course, nothing is ever quite steady, but for many years I’ve landed gigs as a shoe model. Last month was the shoe show for the end of Winter and the upcoming Spring season.  Impo Shoes had an impressive and comfy lineup. Cute stuff! Hint: Ankle boots with faux fur are in! Oh, and just wait ’til you see the adorable boat shoes.

I also have my shop on Etsy.com. I sell prints of my photographs taken mostly from unique spots in New York City. More of a local’s point of view. Etsy is my favorite site for special gift ideas. They sell vintage and hand-made items from artists all over the country. Warning: One can easily become addicted to this website!

Next week, Randy Klein and I will start the final mixes on my debut solo album, “First Real Love.” It has been a very long process, but we’re determined to deliver a really fantastic record that you will all be able to listen to for years to come.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Albums: Eliza Doolittle– “Rollerblades,” Adele– “21,” Paper Tongues– “Get Higher,” Metric– “Fantasies,” Bruno Mars– “doo wops & hooligans.”

Books: “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls, “Epic” by John Eldredge, “The Shack” by William P. Young, “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder.

PlacesThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, Freeman’sMax Brenner’s Chocolate Bar, Alice’s Tea Cup, Strand Books, Chelsea Flea Market, Union Square Farmers Market, Limelight Marketplace, Eataly.

Podcasts: Timothy Keller, TED Talks

Ways to help out and have fun: NYCares.com, KEENnyc.org, Kickstarter.

Thanks for reading. I will be sure to make updates as often as possible! Wishing everyone a happy (almost) Spring!

Ciao for now,