AAPEX Interview: Ashley Bishop — AAPEX Interview — AAPEX

Friday, July 10, 2009

AAPEX Interview: Ashley Bishop

Ashely Bishop
One of the recent highlights of the Nashville theater scene was the Tennessee State University production of LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR AND GRILL, featuring the amazing Ashley Bishop in the role of Billie Holiday. The production is headed to Winston Salem for The National Black Theater Festival. I asked Ashley to tell us something about herself and how she has prepared for the role of the legendary singer. Here is her response.
What role did theater and the arts play in your childhood?
Growing up, I was surrounded by people and family members who were older than me. Many of my siblings were older than me by far. So, I was introduced to a lot of genres of music, including soul, gospel, and jazz. As far as I can remember I have always sung along with Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Ruth Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, and many more soul and jazz artists. So, music has always been my first love. But just as I loved music I loved watching classic movies and watching soap operas with my mother. When I was a youngster I used to act out commercials and movies all the time while other children watched cartoons and played outside. I always wanted to watch the “grown-up movies,” my mother used to tell me, and then act out the scenes and make them my own. Later in life, I found myself on the stage once I entered grade school, whether it was singing or in the annual spring and winter plays I would participate. I have always had a love for the arts. Once I realized I had been blessed with the talent of singing and acting I jumped at every chance I had. I would like to think that my exposure to great music and great actors helped to mold me into the aspiring actress and singer I am today. In my eyes, theatre and music have always gone hand in hand. If I were asked to choose between the two, I would pick both!

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
Everyone says that striving to be an artist is a hard task, which is true to say the least. I have witnessed my share of hardships along this journey. But, just as I have had struggles, I have endured blessings that have weighed out any negativity I have encountered. Though I am young and still learning everyday, I have learned to take every piece of criticism and turn it into positive knowledge. I believe that every good artist has had their share of criticism, making them stronger and wiser. During high school, I had a math teacher tell me a few days before my graduation day that I would never amount to anything and that my dreams of acting and singing was only a mere fantasy, simply because I was absolutely horrible in math. But, I never allowed her negative thoughts and words stop me from what I have had to accomplish. Just as people have supported me, they have doubted me; many friends, many classmates, many professors. I simply look at them and laugh now, for I know that if I continue to stay positive and stay focused I can be what I’ve always longed to be. My growth as an actor has been sparked by the doubts people have had in me.

How did you prepare to play the role of Billie Holiday?
Preparing for the role of Billie Holiday was one of the greatest experiences of my life. You hear people talk about such legends as Billie Holiday and you gain a respect for them. But, I got to take a trip into Miss Holiday’s life, and experience the pain and the suffering along with the love she shared for her music, her man, and her “moonlight.” When I first received the news that I got the part I was breathless, excited, and nervous all at once. “A one woman show,” I said to myself. “This is an actor’s dream, but plenty of work,” my director said to me. I was up for the challenge. I went head first into this role. Spending every waking moment I had to spare in getting in sync with my character. I read books on Billie and listened to every single recording she had done over and over to get those eerie notes she’s so popular for, down to a science. I watched footage of her on YouTube as well. Many of my friends thought I was going crazy, for I had gotten so deep into my character my mannerisms were no longer my own, but Holiday’s. When it came to Billie’s drug addiction, I went around the local street corners (as dangerous as it seems) and watched the heroin addicts and alcoholics, and boy, I tell you when I got the shakes and the sniffs down to a science I scared myself! It was quite an experience and so many enjoyed the show and told me how believable the show was that they forgot they were NOT in a night club. And in my mind, I never understood what was so wonderful about it! I know it sounds strange, but true. I saw myself as a regular college student doing what I love, and I love to make people happy and seeing them enjoying themselves. I never thought this show would make it as far as it has. When people see me out and recognize me they always say, “Hey, Lady Day,” I don’t think anyone remembers my name is Ashley anymore!

What are your thoughts on Nashville as a theater town?
This is my 4th year in Nashville, and I absolutely love it. I don’t think there could’ve been a better place for me to be at this time in my life. Nashville’s music scene is great and there are so many wonderfully talented people around the city. The theatre scene is great as well, so many aspiring actors and actresses participate in the community shows as well as come out and support the shows at the local Universities and colleges. With that being said, I do wish that there was more exposure for the theatre based actors of Nashville. I see so many flyers around town about music concerts and independent artists, I would absolutely love for the actors (including myself) of Nashville to expose themselves a bit more.

No comments:

Post a Comment