Why I Go...

11:19 AM / Posted by Ashley /

This is an excerpt from a piece I did during a COTE "Home and Garden" rehearsal. The prompt was "Why Do You Go to the Theatre"?

A friend of mine, who’s a pretty well respected Manhattan therapist recently asked me, “Ashley – why are you in theatre?” and my response was “I imagine it’s the same reason you’re a psychotherapist.”

This threw her off guard.

“And that is?”

“I have a lot of unanswered questions about myself and the world that can only begin to be explored through art.”

“Oh?” Her eyes got big and invested like she had hit gold. I probably should have stopped there, but apparently since I like to “test boundaries” (something she often brings to my attention) I add, “Yeah. And I’m sick of being lied to…”

I have no idea where this even came from but I think that’s what she was looking for because she smirked. Not a big grin, but just enough that I could tell she’s onto something. She’s totally baiting me but I’ve been around too many therapists for far too long to fall for this so I make an allusion to “In Treatment”.

“Don’t Paul me..” I say.


Paul is the psychoanalyst on HBO’s drama “In Treatment”, Gabriel Byrne’s character, the role he should have received the Emmy for… God, there’s nothing I like more than making obscure television references to make awkward situations slightly more… awkward.

Of course, she brings me back down to earth or back to the conversation at least.

“Who’s lying to you?” She asks it sweetly at first and I pretend not to hear which only makes her ask it again with more motivation, “Who’s lying to you?”

I shrug. Alright, I admit, that was the wrong can of worms to open. Now I would be forced to give an explanation. I should I give her something deep, something worth pondering. Something about my childhood. Therapists love that shit. It’s like on that episode of the X-Files where Mulder undergoes hypnotic regression that totally brings up severe childhood traumas stemming from when his sister was abducted by aliens … I digress.

“Well, you see, as a kid my only solace in my broken home was through becoming someone else. It was the only place I could find my true self, my many selves…” Insert “United States of Tara” reference right here.

I guess there’s no need to manipulate. Perhaps she really does want to know why I feel I have been so mislead by my family, my country, my government, the whole damn world that the only place I can be free is on stage – whether it be through the characters I develop as a playwright, breathe life into as an actor or the incredibly deep worlds I invent as a director, the worlds that most of the time I wish I could dive into and live in forever. The truth is, for a number of reasons, I don’t feel safe exploring the controversial and sensitive material that my work deals with outside of my “workspace”. Blame it on whatever you’d like, the twenty six death threats I received in my e-mail box after speaking on CNN World or the third “terrorist watch list” my name was added to after directing a show about Palestinians, and no not Hamas fighters, just the regular day to day happenings of life under military occupation.

“Have you heard the saying ‘Politicians use lies to cover the truth while artists use lies to tell it?’ It’s in the film V for Vendetta. I’ve seen too much truth and the only way to even begin to scratch the tip of the iceberg of rage I’m feeling is through theatre. I am one angry mother fucker. And if I didn’t have an outlet for it, I guarantee you I’d be painting a white padded cell with my own blood and shit… like Miguel Alvarez in Oz. Oh, don’t tell me you missed Oz… I’m not talking about Dorothy’s Oz either…


Maybe I “go to” the theatre to avoid the hard stuff.

In recent months I’ve become so good at transforming my pain to paper that I’ve forgotten how to feel.

I don’t pretend to think this is a good thing.

Or a funny thing.

Or something I should be particularly proud of.

Well, it’s not entirely a bad thing either.

There’s no shame.

It just is.

It is.

It is perhaps the only way I have been able to get through the day.

It is a survival mechanism of sorts.

I once played this character who was incarcerated for arson. She would get mad and just light shit on fire in her cell. She was bad ass. Crazy, but bad ass.

I want to be bad ass.

Jolene Shatila, a character I penned, handled the illness of her beloved life partner a lot better than I have my mother.

I want that courage.

And assistant directing Ragtime made me almost forgot how abandoned I feel by my own father when the curtain falls.

I go to the theatre when I can’t go home.

At some point I learned that it’s easier to have the dialogue I want to have in real life through my characters. You know what dialogue I’m talking about, the one that most recently has been ending with me making references to obscure television shows…

I guess you didn’t expect to hear that, huh?

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Comment by Wondering K on April 14, 2011 at 10:46 PM

this is simply beautiful. YOU are beautiful.

Love you.

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