People say 'yes' to Ashley. She is a dynamic leader with many skills but chief among them may be her ability to get people to say 'yes'. Without 'yes' there would have been no festival. Any skills she has for organization, fundraising, and creative problem solving would not have mattered without so many 'yes's' along the way.
There was a resounding 'YES' from women when asked if they wanted a festival, 'yes' from different venues, 'yes' from volunteers, 'yes' from directors, casts, and crews. 'Yes' from donors of both time and money.
The 'yes' that mattered most in my life was the one I uttered when Ashley asked me to help her manage the festival.
I have been involved with theatre literally my whole life. My debut was as a fetus when my mother was in Fiddler on the Roof. I am a singer, actor, and sound designer. I have spent time working props, costumes, and assistant directing. I have never worked as a producer on a show, let alone an entire festival.
My participation started off slowly. I was on the Organizational Committee primarily approving play pitches and functioning as liaison between plays and venues. But as things progressed, Ashley became enveloped by the avalanche we affectionately call the festival. She called me and asked for more help. Some one who could come in and just help with things here and there. We quickly moved from here and there to everywhere.
Everyday there was a new project to focus on; ordering swag, finalizing contracts, procuring insurance, meeting with committees, putting out fires (so very many fires), working to reassure different elements that 'it would all work out', borrowing costumes, props, and set pieces. The list really goes on and on. And on... If one show always has a crisis imagine what happens with 8 mainstage shows, 22 staged readings, and 16 panel discussions and classes.
At some point Ashley and I began to joke that she was the President and I her Chief of Staff. She is the face of the organization, the idea person, and one of seemingly endless connections and resources. All of which is exhausting. Ashley spent a lot of time creating opportunities, resolving conflicts, touching base with participants to make sure everything was ok. That left me with a lot of long term projects, detail work, and creating timetables and schedules, list and reminders to ensure that all jobs were done. The longer we worked together the more I was able to initiate and take on tasks for myself like the newsletter and blog.
Going into this endeavor I knew I could accomplish whatever was thrown at me, which was true, if lacking in imagination (I never would have predicted half of what I accomplished!) I was continually surprised by how willing people were to help in a pinch, how many resources our women had, and the skill and creativity found among our ranks. It has made me very proud to know that much of the festival would not have happened without my efforts behind the scenes.
I will say though, as a person used to the accolades of the stage, it has been hard to be the silent partner. Ashley has definitely worked hard to give me praise and respect in public settings but still not many people really know all that I have done. I've struggled with knowing how much ownership I can claim for myself.
I think it is a good reminder for me though, for all of the plays I have been in over the years, how much have I given credit to a producer? How often have I gone out of my way to say thank you directly? A general 'Thanks!' of course, but I suspect that I have failed in this respect previously. So now, I say thanks to all of the people who make it all possible. The gift of being on stage is not possible without the work of many who work in ways rarely acknowledged and often very little in terms of recognition or gratitude. I encourage you all to reach out and say thanks and maybe take that person to lunch. I mean... Everybody likes lunch...