Ashley Mitchell is an extremely unique actress/writer/director who is so good at performing comedy that she took a supporting role I gave her and turned it into a starring role without changing a word of dialogue. I've become convinced while animating her voice work that she is one of the finest comedy actors I've ever heard or seen. There's no way that what I wrote was half as funny as what she read! This woman, I thought, is born to do comedy and will be making people laugh their asses off for many years to come.
Last night was the first time I ever saw Ashley perform drama, in the play “Call Us Cowboys,” at Roy Arias Theater, and I'm at a loss to put into words how blown away I was by her moving performance. Anything I write down just seems like I'm kissing ass and you won't believe me because I work with her, but I don't work with her doing drama. I have no reason to encourage her to do that!!! I need her to do my funny cartoons! Also, I've worked with some decent actors over the years, I think, going back to CHUD when I was a kid, haha (Daniel Stern, John Heard). Ashley can do things I've never seen an actor be able to do before. I don't just mean laugh on cue or cry on cue with real tears (which she does painfully convincingly), but this girl was commanding the attention of the audience sometimes even when she turned her back to us. I don't only think that she would stand out in small theater productions like this one, I think she would stand out even among the most accomplished of performers. This girl is in her early 20s and after the show I saw actors older than her asking her to go into teaching. But although Ashley's techniques are clearly well thought out, and she could probably make any actor better, there would be no way to teach someone how to be as good as Ashley Mitchell.
See? I told you, it sounds like I'm kissing butt. This is one of my problems with live plays-- there's no evidence left after the performance, it's disappeared already into the ether. If it were a youtube video, I could PROVE my points by linking you to it, but because it was live, you only have word of mouth to go on. Live theater is so ephemeral. If you can check this play out tonight or tomorrow afternoon, you'll be able to see for yourself what I'm saying, but if you miss those shows, you'll never know what you missed.
The play itself is intense and sad, about the effects of war on people's lives. There are flashback scenes of Viet Nam and Iraq, and Aki Tsuchimoto stood out most in those scenes with her quirky and interesting performance as a Viet Namese artist who gets close to the wrong Yankee. But the play comes alive in the scenes of domestic quarreling between Ashley's character Wanda and her husband Frank, played by Kevin Ploth. At points I felt like I had been trapped at my parent's house after Thanksgiving, so genuine was the writing and the performance of domestic bliss turned to an ongoing and worsening, inescapable Hell.
I thought the ending, without getting into details, was a bit “deux ex machina” as written but the remarkable way Ashley chose to perform the scene was the main topic of conversation among the audience after the show, from what I could overhear. I don't want to give spoilers concerning the plot details, but let's just say that Ms. Mitchell managed to do things not written in the script and not using words at all (!) to completely sell the ending of the play and make it seem entirely emotionally satisfying and believable. She'll make the hairs on your arm stand on end and you will know you have witnessed something very special.
Although the play was well-written and all the actors did their jobs, my thought leaving there was, “I bet I could even give Ashley ten pages of gibberish to act out but by the end of it, she'd have the audience crying or laughing or feeling whatever she wanted them to feel.” She's just out of school and has no representation yet-- a situation not likely to last all that much longer. The idea that her skills are likely to improve with time is nearly frightening.
I'll tell you now the same thing I told her after the show: Ashley Mitchell has acting super powers.
Ashley Mitchell in
Call Us Cowboys written by Bruce Colbert and directed by Jorge Navarrete
Roy Arias Theater, 300 West 43rd Street, 5th Floor, 212-957-8358
FINAL TWO PERFORMANCES:
Tonight (Saturday 11/27) 8pm, tomorrow (Sunday 11/28) 3 pm http://royariasstudios.com/ http://www.ashleymitchell.net/
I was riding the train to Queens in the rain, wondering why this seemed logical to me and simultaneoulsy wondering about my sanity. As I got off the train, the first thing I saw was a rainbow. The rain was letting up.
After I took the above photo, other people stopped and took pictures too.
I'm not sure they would have noticed, everyone was in a rush and unhappy because of the weather or for whatever other reason.
As would be appropriate after a deluge, the God of water greeted me.
They have giant spiders in Queens, they come out of huge pumpkins and assault houses!
418 Show #5, Live from the woods in Saugerties, NY
Running time around 19:55
I apologize for speaking so quietly in this audio, I was sitting on the swing on the front porch as people were leaving the area in droves to bring their kids back to school the next day,
Audio Link: http://onsug.com/archives/4261 Contents of audio:
Robot intro, closing the cabin door, swinging on the porch, there's the chipmunk, humans are squirrels, thinking about family and kids, white kids can be annoying, be happy with what you've got, people staring at me, I want a hot meal, cabins and tents vs. Washington Heights, squirrels-- playing or mating?, maybe I should be a “serious artist” instead of trying to make people happy, Jim Morrison's shamanism, the day I died, lay people becoming interested in shamanism, Skidoo, Cary Grant, Monkey Business, organic food supermarkets, trees all colors, wanted hot breakfast, enter zen through fried mushrooms, territorial pissings, look out for low stone fences, I am not an expert of anything, I know nothing about show business, music or anything else, in NYC people tell me who it would be good to work with, the chipmunk is living under my cabin, I never understood bar hopping, here comes a tractor trailer.
Photos related to this episode: http://snevilistic.blogspot.com/2010/10/pictures-of-saugerties-and-woodstock.html
Mystery cat video-- please help me solve the mystery of what this cat was:
Around 10 after 7 am on the morning of 10/15/10, the birds started making a fuss and I looked out the screen door of the cabin to see a cat run past from left to right. I had not seen ANY cats the entire time I was up there but saw plenty of chipmunks and squirrels. I grabbed the camera and turned it on and ran outside. I saw the cat sitting in the dark. I tried to lure it out by talking cat language to it. When it finally came out into the light, it was larger than I had realized and I'm sort of glad it was scared of me. Video and photos here: http://209show.com/418/spottedcat.html
It looks sort of like a bobcat but has a long fluffy tail. Maybe it's a large house cat mixed with a wild cat? If you can solve this puzzle, please forward along your findings to email@example.com.
The bus had a 209 in its name, prompting me to contemplate "fate" as I rode north.
I listened to episodes of The Rampler. He was talking about the same things I was thinking,
and he was broadcasting from the Port Authority I had just ridden out of.
It all seemed as though this must be part of the script and I should just play my part.
Here's where I stayed.
Here's what I read. (Meditation book a gift from Checker Phil)
Many spiders came to keep me company all over the floor.
Swing on the porch-- much appreciated and used.
This is the best place to get breakfast in this area, and I hear the place is really happening on Sundays.
Also, this is where Jimmy Fallon hangs out when he comes back to visit his family up here--
at least that's what they tell me.
Art inside the Cafe.
Fresh Brown Eggs!
This beer is 50 cents a can and available only from Stewart's which I think is a gas station.
The label looks like it was drawn by a teenage hillbilly and it tastes like Schaeffer.
Apparently the first white people to live up here were my people--
Lutherans from Germany.
There were older tombstones, I shot video that I have to sift through as well.
I'll at last send it to my sister, she's into all this cemetery stuff.
CONTENTS OF AUDIO EPISODE: INTRO (video intro), Frankie the Good Luck Black Cat, been sick for a week, getting ready to go upstate and not think, sitting in the forest for a week, projects with or without partners, "writing:" what is it?, What is "cartooning?," work in service to the idea, "writing" for other media as opposed to "real" "writing," my antipathy for theory being taught in school as fact, John K's cartoon theories, going upstate, 418 Show as a sign of a change in direction for me, discovery of a lost D&D notebook from the 1980's, doing things not meant to be shown to other people, working with partners, not bringing a computer on my 5-day trip, if I survive, I will talk again soon.
Esteemed public access producer Checker Phil
studies the mysterious art in the windows of the Roger Williams Hotel.
Who created this art? Well... we both forgot to make note of the artist's name.
And I can't find anything about it on the hotel's website!
If you can end this enigma for us, please do so,
because I don't feel like walking all the way back there.