“I don’t remember how the bug first bit me. Storytelling has always been my passion. I love reading books aloud, and as the oldest of 7 children, I had plenty of opportunities to experiment with accents and captivating telling styles. My parents invested in piano, horseback riding, ballet, tae kwon do, and it was all wonderfully expansive. I would have happily traded every extra-curricular activity for theatre! I remember as early as when we first moved to Carbondale in Southern Illinois, hearing about the Stage Company, and knowing some kids who were acting there. I would have been about 9 years old, and already the story was that theatres are unhealthy places and that acting was not an appropriate pursuit for a good Christian girl.

Thankfully, I had a few theatre experiences in my childhood that were sanctioned and supervised enough, and they kept the dream alive. Eventually, I moved out of the house, and began pursuing more projects. Although it’s taken some time to deprogram my training against the performing arts, I am gradually learning to celebrate my love of performing. I’ve done some screen acting, children’s theatre, started a few talk radio shows, and sung with a big band and a jazz quartet!”

The theatre is catharsis, for the actors and the audience. Cloistered in the dark, breathing, laughing, and crying with strangers, or staring into the stage lights imagining you’re the only person left on Earth – live theatre holds space for emotional experiences that most modern Western lives don’t make room for any more. How relieving, to be sad, and go to see a play, and have the opportunity to weep along with a character on stage, protected by the privacy of the darkened theatre.

As an actor, I love the immediacy of theatre. My real-time emotions and actions, my castmates’ organic and calculated reactions, and the delight, or horror, of the audience, all combining in a delicious soup of Here, Now. Co-creating. Working on the production side of plays and musicals, I get to be the magician. I know the tricks behind the sudden wardrobe change and the seamless decor. When kids and adults alike gasp and giggle, my team and I were pulling the strings.”

Bible Temple

“Bible Temple was a mega-church we attended briefly in Portland, Oregon, when I was about 4 or 5. I was part of the “Pajama Choir” one year, for their annual Christmas production. Being a massive church, they had to find a way to include everyone’s babies. This resulted in a few large groups of the youngest/rawest kiddos being ushered out on stage to sing a song at some point in the play. My group lined up backstage in our footies each night, to toddle out into the blindingly bright lights and sing “Joy to the World.” It was a powerful feeling to be elevated on stage above 3000 people watching me (and several other bejammied babies) sing my guts out for the Joy of the Lord.

A weird little memory that has always stuck with me from that experience happened one night while we were standing in line waiting to go on stage. I was feeling all wiggly and excited to get out there and do our thing, and having a hard time waiting quietly. I decided to pull the kindergarten version of the “come here often?” joke, I suppose, and said to the girl in front of me in line, “Hey, nice PJs.” So witty- as if we hadn’t been seeing each other in those jammies for a while now. She turned and gave me the dirtiest look, and a roving teacher told me harshly, “That was so mean, apologize.” Still befuddled by that one, but I suppose it’s one in a long string of misunderstandings fueled by my disconnection from mainstream US society. “

More of Ainsley’s Projects