for people who CAN sing and dance...

8:06 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Am I an artist who does anthropology or an anthropologist who does art?

Because "I like them both", "'Cause I feel like it" and "How is it any of your business if I had 14 liberal arts/humanities majors in undergrad?" are no longer valid answers (and most definitely won't be on my PhD applications), today I will finally attempt to tackle my personal relationship with anthropology and theatre, and the relationship that they have to each other in my twisted Utopian head...

Throughout undergrad and graduate school, I struggled with the fact that according to various experts in the field(s), I was too "anthropology" for theatre and/or too "theatre” for anthropology. Boiled down, what they were attempting to say is they don’ t believe I’m “commercial” enough for many theatrical projects, and I'm too "mainstream" to appeal to many academic audiences.

Like theatre, it is the art of storytelling that draws me to anthropology, and makes me want to pursue higher education in the field. I want to tell stories. I want to read other’s stories, learn about other people’s stories. I want to create my own story.

I refuse to list here the many benefits of a degree in anthropology because it's obvious and easy to see this relationship from an artist’s perspective. After all, having extensive knowledge in anything outside the craft potentially can inform my work. I could also list the benefits of a background in the performing/visual arts for an anthropologist, but once again, there are plenty of articles and websites that already do that, and it seems that also would be a waste of time.

On the most elementary level theatre is about becoming the "other" and/or telling the “other’s” story, whereas anthropology is about studying the "other" and/or telling the “other’s story” (yes, “other” is a problematic term, I know…) but through that lens, the lines between "us" and "them" blurr and eventually disappear. Engaging in the arts also helps us gain a better understanding of our own culture and identity. My involvement in academia, community organizing and activism has led me to question how information, personal agency and awareness of my own community’s struggles are being transmitted to the broader society which may not be as familiar with these issues. Where can an evangelical Christian housewife and transgender street performer find a common connection? Through what methods can we seek discourse between a Palestinian farmer and Israeli school teacher? Through theatre. Theatre is an imperative starting point for new dialogue and giving us hope. This is what theatre and the arts potentially can do. Nothing has informed my theatrical work more than what I've done as an anthropologist. Granted, I'm still young in the field - I'm thankful to have had an incredible mentor who has given me the opportunity to have experiences one would most probably find in graduate school.I look forward to working more on bridging these disciplines.

The things that make me reconsider academia are as follows: I have no desire to be - a pretentious egghead, someone who is so out of touch with the world that they can’t communicate beyond the ivory towers. While there is nothing wrong with this, it’s not me. It never will be. I refuse to lose sight of reality or how what I’m studying can positively affect the real world. Nor do I want to spend the rest of my life in a library regurgitating other people’s theories. I’m not particularly interested in academic publishing as I am in writing for the general public. In fact, every time the anthropology news magazine comes in the mail, it makes me a little sad to know that the amazing information inside will only be seen by people in the field. I definitely think I could do something to change that.

Why I do want to get a PhD: I've been invested in working with the group that I'm proposing to write my dissertation on since undergrad. Though I'm not posting details on my topic up here yet because I'm still working everything out, it deals with theatre in conflict zones. It’s clear that I want to do applied anthropology ( ) and that I want to attempt this using theatre and the arts. I want to eventually teach college and publish because I think it's important to empower the next generation of artists/scholars.

I don’t know if these are good enough reasons for wanting to pursue a PhD, I guess in a few months that will be determined. I’m a little frazzled over finding time to take the GRE with all my other projects happening (which, to clarify, I didn’t need to take for my Master’s at NYU because I was in Tisch and they’re too progressive for standardized tests). I once had a professor tell me that PhD’s were for people who can’t sing and dance. I think about this comment often, and while I agree (especially in the context of what we were discussing at the moment) I hope to be the exception to the rule, without sacrificing one for the other.

So, back to the question I asked in the beginning of this post... Am I an artist who does anthropology or an anthropologist who does art? Perhaps I am neither. Perhaps I am both.

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Brief Update...

10:01 AM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

I've been spending a lot of time outside, hence my lameness in recent updates. Lots happening! Will post more in dept a little bit later. Check out GirlPower, officially on the FringeNYC website as of last night. Much more coming soon...

Happy Memorial Day!


Commentary: War on women in Congo by Eve Ensler

8:51 AM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Commentary: War on women in Congo

Editor's note: Eve Ensler is the playwright of "The Vagina Monologues" and the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day has funded over 10,000 community-based anti-violence programs and launched safe houses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. This commentary was adapted from remarks Ensler made Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs and the Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues. Playwright Eve Ensler says conflict in Congo is taking a terrible toll on women and girls.

(CNN) -- I write today on behalf of countless V-Day activists worldwide, and in solidarity with my many Congolese sisters and brothers who demand justice and an end to rape and war. It is my hope that these words and those of others will break the silence and break open a sea of action to move Congolese women toward peace, safety and freedom.My play, "The Vagina Monologues," opened my eyes to the world inside this world. Everywhere I traveled with it scores of women lined up to tell me of their rapes, incest, beatings, mutilations. It was because of this that over 11 years ago we launched V-Day, a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls. The movement has spread like wildfire to 130 countries, raising $70 million. I have visited and revisited the rape mines of the world, from defined war zones like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti to the domestic battlegrounds in colleges and communities throughout North America, Europe and the world. My in-box -- and heart -- have been jammed with stories every hour of every day for over a decade.

Nothing I have heard or seen compares with what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where corporate greed, fueled by capitalist consumption, and the rape of women have merged into a single nightmare. Femicide, the systematic and planned destruction of the female population, is being used as a tactic of war to clear villages, pillage mines and destroy the fabric of Congolese society.In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.I think of Beatrice, shot in her vagina, who now has tubes instead of organs. Honorata, raped by gangs as she was tied upside down to a wheel. Noella, who is my heart -- an 8-year-old girl who was held for 2 weeks as groups of grown men raped her over and over. Now she has a fistula, causing her to urinate and defecate on herself. Now she lives in humiliation.

I was in Bosnia during the war in 1994 when it was discovered there were rape camps where white women were being raped. Within two years there was adequate intervention. Yet, in Congo, femicide has continued for 12 years. Why? Is it that coltan, the mineral that keeps our cell phones and computers in play, is more important than Congolese girls?Is it flat-out racism, the world's utter indifference and disregard for black people and black women in particular? Is it simply that the UN and most governments are run by men who have never known what it feels like to be raped?

What is happening in Congo is the most brutal and rampant violence toward women in the world. If it continues to go unchecked, if there continues to be complete impunity, it sets a precedent, it expands the boundaries of what is permissible to do to women's bodies in the name of exploitation and greed everywhere. It's cheap warfare.The women in Congo are some of the most resilient women in the world. They need our protection and support. Western governments, like the United States, should fund a training program for female Congolese police officers.They should address our role in plundering minerals and demand that companies trace the routes of these minerals. Make sure they are making and selling rape-free-products. Supply funds for women's medical and psychological care and seed their economic empowerment. Put pressure on Rwanda, Congo, Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes region to sit down with all the militias involved in this conflict to find a political solution.Military solutions are no longer an option and will only bring about more rape. Most of all, we must support the women.

Because women are at the center of this horror, they must be at the center of the solutions and peace negotiations. Women are the future of Congo. They are its greatest resource.Sadly, we are not the first to testify about these atrocities in Congo. I stand in a line of many who have described this horror. Still, in Eastern Congo, 1,100 women a month are raped, according to the United Nations' most recent report. What will the United States government, what will all of you reading this, do to stop it?Let Congo be the place where we ended femicide, the trend that is madly eviscerating this planet -- from the floggings in Pakistan, the new rape laws in Afghanistan, the ongoing rapes in Haiti, Darfur, Zimbabwe, the daily battering, incest, harassing, trafficking, enslaving, genital cutting and honor killing. Let Congo be the place where women were finally cherished and life affirmed, where the humiliation and subjugation ended, where women took their rightful agency over their bodies and land.

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8:57 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

This arrived in my e-mail this morning and couldn't think of a better place to share it...


GirlPower, FringeNYC and other stuff!

1:34 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Last week marked another production of GirlPower. Check out some pictures below and on my photo blog. We also found out that GirlPower was accepted into the annual NYC Fringe Festival (yaye!). I have been working on the paperwork to get all of that in order. I'm looking forward to being part of FringeNYC, as I have enjoyed so many productions in the past. This will be a wonderful opportunity for all of the girls involved, too. Can't wait to get the ball rolling on this...

GirlPower Photos:

Other than that, my high school is having its 25th anniversary of the visual and performing arts academy on May 29th, 2009. Check out an article about it here: . Looking forward to attending it and catching up with people that I haven't seen in years! Lots of people are doing great things, so it will be fun to hear all about it.
Speaking of catching up, I had a wonderful time with students, faculty and alumni from the Pace sociology/anthropology department last night. Below is a terribly pixilatd picture from the dinner. Roger is one of my mentors and favorite people in the world. Aseel, who is my other mentor and favorite person in the world, doesn't like her picture flaunted everywhere. I talk about them both A LOT... though I think this is one of the first times they've been mentioned on this blog. Sometimes I just say "My mentor ... " but usually when I say that, I'm referring to one of them.

Roger and me

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On Striped Bass and "Money Jobs"!

4:08 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Today, I signed up for University Settlement's "Health and Wellness Challenge" in which I have pledged (to myself) to loose 10 pounds. I have been adjusting many habits and cutting out sweets (including diet coke which makes me crave sweets). Living in NJ has had a good impact on this, as most everyone in my family is fit (they are at the gym every morning at 5am for 3 hours... no joke). I haven't committed to that *yet* but I should start. To reiterate, University Settlement is where I co-facilitate an after school Arts and Leadership program (a.k.a. job #1).

I have a new job at Battery Park Conservancy. It's great! I've been learning a ton about the environment, conservation and New York City's efforts in creating environmentally friendly parks and recreation spaces. We facilitate great events (that are FREE!) for the community. If you are in the area, you should come by and enjoy it. Not only are the parks gorgeous and right on the water, with the most perfect view of the Statue of Liberty ( I caught a striped bass at a fishing event last week. I've never caught a fish before. It was small, so I let it go.

Ashley's Striped Bass

One of the coolest things about starting a career in theatre (I think!) is the opportunity to work many different "money jobs" (as they are called in this business). Most people probably don't embrace this as enthusiastically as I do, but I've had some pretty fun (and ridiculous) jobs including:

- Dressing up as a giant Rubix cube in Times Square to promote "The Awesome 80's Prom"
- Jumping out of grounded airplanes to test safety equipment for the FAA (weird, scary, fun)
- Acting as a "Newsie" to promote the Broadway show "Gray Gardens!" (Extra! Extra! Read all about it...)
- Wrapping and shipping props in a prop shop to/from Martha Stewart's tv show set

Right now, I'm just so happy to have jobs and be saving money in this economy. For anyone in need of a money job, is a great resource. Craigslist and Idealist are also helpful. However, often the best resource (and the reason I got the new job at Battery Park) is a referral from friends. Ask around and network.

Aside from the commute (which, surprisingly has not been that bad) I would highly recommend living outside of Manhattan. Not only is it cheaper, but it has given me space to decompress and breathe, therefore, I've been getting a lot of reading, writing and editing done. I have also been saving LOTS of money. Most everything is cheaper outside of Manhattan (no more $9 cereal boxes from Gristedes). I have committed myself to no longer eating out at restaurants and spending needless money on food. I know this sounds obvious from both health and money saving perspectives, but ordering out was always the best option for my busy schedule. The habits I'm forming now must stay with me when I move again, which will probably be before the Lab beings.

I will be doing the GRE before the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. I have to. I will not be able to focus (on either) if I don't. I won't lie... I'm not looking forward to the GRE, in fact, I'm dreading it. I did a preliminary verbal GRE and did okay. I do not expect to do well on the quantitative section, as I have not done math since high school. I will not be posting much more on this topic, as it will only lead to me complaining about the ridiculousness of it and how one standardized test reflects nothing about my ability as an anthropologist etc. Kaplan says, "Complaining about the GRE doesn't make your score go up". They are right. It's unnecessary to put bad energy out there.

I've been thinking about changing the title of this blog to "The Director's Life"... but that's a little rigid since I do more than direct. I have also thought about "The Actor's Life", "The Anthropologist's Life", "They Playwright's Life", "The Artivist's Life"... but they are all a little rigid as well. I guess there is no need to box myself. For now, it remains "They Artist's Life".

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Statement on Boal

4:02 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

This statement about the death of Augusto Boal was released by the Center for the Theater of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro. It was written by Bárbara Santos on behalf of the CTO-Rio. I have copied it from Robby's blog... .


Brothers and sisters in arms, companions in the struggle. Our beloved comrade Augusto Boal, that tireless sower of seeds, whotravelled the four corners of the earth scattering the seed of theTheatre of the Oppressed, is on yet another journey. He set off in the early hours of the second of May. He spent the First of May, May Day, in a vigil of solidarity with the workers fighting for a fairer and happier world, a world of solidarity. He set off on this special journey, for which reason he was not able to be physcially present at any event. But, as was his habit, he lived, loved and worked to the last drop of his energy, leaving ready (for publication) the new version of his book, The Aesthetics of theOppressed. He also left express instructions that no event should be cancelled because of his absence. “Isnt that the very point of Multiplication?”

Yesterday, on the third of May, we held a farewell ceremony. The cremation of his body marked the start of a new phase of the Theatre of theOppressed, in the physical absence of the Master himself. We wept, we talked, we sang. Celse Frateschi recited, beautifully, a passage from*Arena Conta Zumbi*. We sang a song written by Nuno Arcanjo. And CeciliaBoal, with all her strength and vitality, told the world that her husband should be remembered as the warrior that he always was. We dried our tears and affirmed Boal’s leaving.His body has gone, but not his presence! This Saturday, the 9th of May,from 5 pm to 8 pm (Brazilian time), we will pay homage to him and his presence at the Centre of the Theatre of the Oppressed with music, poems, performances and videos. At 7 pm we stop for a moment of tribute in Boal’s honor. We will celebrate the life, the struggle, the productivity, the work of Augusto Boal and the continuity of that work. We ask that everybody do same as us, and pay homage to him this Saturday. It will not be easy to follow our Master, Partner, Friend and Comrade in the Struggle. But what has ever been easy in the trajectory of the Theatre of the Oppressed? Ethics and Solidarity will be our foundations and our guides. Multiplication will be our strategy. And our goal will remain the same: to create concrete social actions to transform oppressive situations into realities of peace and justice.Viva Augusto Boal!

Barbara Santos, 4 May 2009 Centre of the Theatre of the Oppressed, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

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A Prayer for Artists!

9:43 AM / Posted by Ashley / comments (1)

We pray for the dreamers of this life, O God,
for those persons who imagine new possibilities,
who long for what others cannot perceive,
who spin dreams of wonder and majesty in their minds.
Defend them from ridicule and harsh criticism,
from self-doubt and lack of faith in their dreams,
and from abandonment of this call to make things new.
Grant that from their dreams
may come forth blessings for humankind
to enrich the quality of life
and the wonderment of us all.

- Vienna Cobb Anderson

R.I.P. Augusto Boal

10:40 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Theatre of the Oppressed Founder Augusto Boal Dies at 78

By: Dan Bacalzo · May 2, 2009 · New York

Legendary political theater practitioner, director, and teacher Augusto Boal died on May 1, from complications arising from a long-term health condition, according to the The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory in New York City. He was 78.

Boal is best known for founding the Theatre of the Oppressed, an international movement and system for creating theater that seeks to examine forms of discrimination and oppression, with the goal of possible transformation. He conducted workshops throughout the world, and his techniques have been widely inspirational and influential.

Boal authored several books, including Theatre of the Oppressed, Games for Actors and Non-Actors, The Rainbow of Desire, and Legislative Theatre. He served as a Member of Parliament for Rio de Janeiro in the 1990s and was formerly the President of the Centre of Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro and Paris.

He is survived by his wife Cecilia, his sons Fabien and Julian, and several grandchildren.

From TheaterMania:
From the Associated Press:

More information on Theatre of the Oppressed:

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Quote for next Week!

9:59 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Clearly, I like quotes...

"You can go a month without food, you can live three days without water, but you can't go more then sixty seconds without HOPE." -Sean Swarner