Spotlight Series: Meet Ashley Griffin, an L.A. Actor Who Moved to NYC to Follow Her Theatre Dreams


This Spotlight focuses on Ashley Griffin, an actor in Los Angeles since the age of five who moved to New York City to follow her theatre dreams - and is now both writing and acting in shows.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background, beginning in Los Angeles which led you to decide to move to NYC?

Ashley Griffin (Ashley): I'm a 5th generation Californian (possibly 6th), but I'm the first actor/dramatist in my family. I grew up at the wonderful rep company, The Santa Monica Playhouse, and made my theatrical debut when I was 5. I worked professionally as a child actor in theater, film and TV and attended the Hamilton Academy of Music Performing Arts High School. I adore Los Angeles theatre, but was always a bit frustrated because it's much more challenging to do theatre in LA than in NYC since there aren't as many theatrical productions in LA and Broadway and touring shows rarely audition here.

Ashley Griffin playing Denise off-Broadway in the revival of "Dubarry Was a Lady," directed by Evan Peters

It’s my experience that the culture is much more TV/Film focused here which was never my true performing interest. But I did appear quite a bit in productions at the Will Geer Theaticum Botanicum (making my Shakespeare debut when I was still a young child), as well as at Royce Hall, The Santa Monica Playhouse, the Morgan-Wixson Theater, and in touring productions, including taking the wonderful show Mary-Mary to the UK where I played Mary-Mary in London, Warwick and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

But at the end of the day, it always felt like if you wanted to do Film/TV you needed to be in LA, and if you wanted to do theatre, you needed to be in NYC. After doing a good amount of Film/TV, I realized my heart was always still within the theater. So, I went to college at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and stayed in the city after graduating, but I'm occasionally still doing work in LA when the right opportunity presents itself.

(SB):  What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Ashley): I'm a Broadway person, and I was literally on my way to a show when I was told Broadway was being shut down. In addition, I had just finished directing The Middleman at the Hudson Theater where we were fortunate to be able to complete our run, and was in meetings about productions I had coming down the pipeline which have obviously been postponed. We're still trying to figure out next steps for three shows of mine in the wake of the shutdown.

Ashley Griffin playing the lead role of Arcadia in "Trial" off-Broadway, directed by Lori Petty. Photo by Micah Joe

(SB):  How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Ashley): By the time we received an email about the closure, most of us had already seen it on the news.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Ashley): It depends. Some are being shut down permanently, some are figuring out how to reschedule, and some are in limbo. A lot will depend on when the shutdown actually ends, which is basically out of our hands.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Ashley): I have three specific shows that have been directly affected, but since none of them have been officially announced yet, I can’t really say anything specific about them. I can say one is meant to go up this fall.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Ashley Griffin playing the lead role of Astrid in development with "Snow" off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Photo by Micah Joel

(Ashley): I'm fortunate that I'm a writer, so I'm working to get as much writing done as I can. I'm in talks to be a part of some virtual readings of projects, and my collaborators and I are meeting online to work and make future plans. I run a podcast for the Onstage Network and I've been doing episodes of that.

I am also taking some dance classes online whenever I can, and really enjoy Kathryn Morgan’s wonderful classes on YouTube. I also love Claudia Dean, anything from the Royal Ballet, and Westside Academy of Dance where I grew up studying - special shout out to Celeste Amos, Chason Greenwood, and Johnny Chong's classes - and I'm very excited to stream Ashley Shaw's class from Matthew Bourne's New Adventures Company.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Ashley): I think this is a great opportunity to showcase work online and bring it to the attention of people outside our normal communities. I think this could be a great time for LA theatre to be seen and appreciated by audiences all over the country, and hopefully when we're all back, the online experience can be a doorway to better supporting live theatre in the Los Angeles area.

If anyone's interested in virtual Arts classes in acting / writing / directing / Shakespeare / business of theatre, I'd love to offer my services. You can reach me on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, my podcast on Onstage Network, and of course through my website.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Simon Levy, a Director and Producer Who Calls The Fountain Theatre His Home


This Spotlight focuses on Simon Levy who began his directing career in San Francisco, then moved to Los Angeles in 1990 where he has been the Producing Director for the Fountain Theatre since 1993. His directing and producing credits are numerous, with over 100 productions in Los Angeles and San Francisco that have won more than 200 awards. His journey has been blessed with having wonderful mentors along the way, which has enabled the talented director to earn his living doing theatre and earned him great respect from the entire LA Theatre community.


Shari Barrett (SB):  What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Simon Levy (Simon): I started off as a sax player, but when I got bored with some of my music classes at City College of San Francisco, I decided to take an acting class. I immediately became friends with two very talented dynamic actors, Harry Groener and Peter Kors, who are still friends to this day, and because of their encouragement, I fell in love with acting and switched my major. Then it was on to San Francisco State, a national tour doing Hamlet with the rag-tag/caravanning San Francisco Shakespeare Company, a season at the Alley Theatre as an apprentice actor, then back to San Francisco State to finish my degree, where I fell in love with directing.

Simon Levy as Hamlet with the San Francisco Shakespeare Company

My friend, Michael Lynch, a playwright, was having his plays produced at the One Act Theatre Company, and he and I became a playwright/director team which allowed me to really earn my chops as a director. At the same time, I worked at Steve Silver's "Beach Blanket Babylon" for 7 years as everything from House Manager to Stage Manager to General Manager, where I learned to appreciate the business side of theatre.

Eventually I ended up in LA in 1990 and the Fountain Theatre in 1993, where I've been ever since. I've been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors along the way and to earn my living doing theatre.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Simon): I was literally days away from going into rehearsals for Steven Levenson's magnificent play If I Forget at the Fountain with a really wonderful cast and creative team.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

Stephen Sachs and Simon Levy at The Fountain Theatre

(Simon): It was pretty obvious to Stephen Sachs and me at the beginning of the week of March 9th that our lives were about to change, so we started preparing. We were supposed to have a meeting with the cast and designers of If I Forget with our consultant, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila (who was one of my consultants on The Chosen) to start prepping for the background work on the play. We cancelled that meeting out of a growing concern about being in the same room together. Then on March 12th, we made the decision to suspend the production of Human Interest Story and rehearsals for If I Forget. We really wanted to do both in person, with everyone in the room. But, again, out of a heightened sense of precaution and uncertainty, we decided to communicate with everyone by email. By then it was pretty obvious where the news cycle was going.

Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings in "Daniel's Husband", directed by Simon Levy at the Fountain Theatre

(SB): I am so happy I was able to attend the opening weekend of Human Interest Story and have featured Spotlight interviews previously on the show’s two stars: Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander. I also interviewed Bill Brochtrup, one of the stars from Daniel’s Husband which you directed last year at the Fountain, which was one of my favorite shows last year.  And I treasure the Make America Kind Again badge you gave to some of us in the audience on opening weekend, and I proudly wear mine every day. It’s an important message, especially right now.

Are plans in place to present those two postponed productions at a future date?

Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander in "Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre.

(Simon): Both productions are currently suspended, but it's our intention to re-open Human Interest Story and go into rehearsal for If I Forget once we get an All Clear from the City and State. We recognize, of course, that re-opening businesses, especially theatre, will be a helter-skelter, slow rolling out and testing, but we will adjust accordingly. Safety first for our artists and patrons, above all else.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Simon): We have the rights to two very exciting projects, Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone and Lucy Kirkwood's The Children. Future announcement about all Fountain Theatre productions will be posted at FountainTheatre.com.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Simon): There's a stunning amount of material online right now, from local companies like Impro Theatre to readings by Skylight Theatre and L.A. Theatre Works and others, from Broadway and London, and world theatre from Berlin to Japan, plus all the Zoom meet-ups. So I'm sampling a lot of that, and I like to listen to Broadway musicals. Ironically, I haven't been able to read any plays yet as I feel like the real-life world drama that's unfolding on TV and my news-feeds supplants everything else right now... though I'm starting to feel the urge to dig into the huge backlog of plays sitting on my desktop.

But as much as I appreciate all the online content available right now, you can't hit the ‘pause’ button when you're attending live theatre. I miss that immediacy... that visceral thrill... and the danger of it. But I recognize that we're about to enter a "new" normal, which will include theatre online, because this pandemic has forced us to think/create in different ways, and we have to be aware of and sensitive to those changes. Creativity is about growth and moving into the future, and artists will always find a way to be creative. Who knows, perhaps there's a future for Mask Theatre! One thing I know for certain: We artists are phoenixes and we will blaze anew!

(SB): As always, Simon, thank you for your insightful words and presence in the LA Theatre community. For more information about Simon Levy and his projects, please visit:

SimonLevy.com
FountainTheatre.com
TheGreatGatsbyPlay.com


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



PODCAST: Interview of "Coin & Ghost's" Rob Adler and Zachary Reeve Davidson, 2nd Season and 'Bad Hamlet' at 'New American'

An interview with Artistic Director and C0-Producer, Zachary Reeve Davidson, and Director, Rob Adler, of Coin & Ghost, on their world premiere play, "Bad Hamlet: An Irreverent, Interactive, Inventive Bootleg," which opens today at New American Theatre in Hollywood and their second season, MYTH-REMEMBERED.

Davidson and Adler, discuss the interactive aspect of "Bad Hamlet," which is based on the legend of “the bad quarto," and explores the "intersection of Shakespeare, memory, modern technology and Los Angeles."

"Bad Hamlet" kicks off Coin & Ghost's MYTH-REMEMBERED, which includes Cecilia Fairchild's "Mama, Mama, Can't You See," directed by Davidson, a simultaneously "modern war story and a spirit dance on the outside edge of death," and "Breakfast in Moscow," directed by Alex Demers, which is based on Chekhov’s "Three Sisters" and reimagined as a rock-opera using music from the 1979 Supertramp album, "Breakfast in America."

In addition to Davidson, the "Bad Hamlet" ensemble includes Casey Dunn, Julián Juaquín, Akshaya Pattanayak, Chris Schultz, Hannah Trujillo, Lauren Vitz, Marguerite French, and Elisa Rosin.

"Bad Hamlet" is every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. from Thursday, July 25, 2019, through Saturday, August 24, 2019. Tickets are $25 for general admission. They will also offer a healthy mix of Pay-What-You-Can (PWYC) tickets for certain shows, which includes the Preview on July 25, 2019, as well as every ticket during the second and third weekends, August 1 - 10, 2019. For tickets and more information visit Coin & Ghost.

The New American Theatre is located at 1312 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Suggested age limit is 16-years or older due to adult themes and conversations. Mobile phone use will be encouraged for this production.