Character and Process Questions with Ashley Normand
1. What made you want to be an actor?
I actually didn't realize I wanted to be an actor until I was already doing it.
When I was in middle school, my friends convinced me to audition with them for Seussical: The Musical. I wasn't too keen on it at first, but somehow I got cast (as Cindy Lou Who, I might add), and had an absolute blast! I essentially just got to spend my evenings playing around with a bunch of great, talented kids.
That was ten years ago now (and holy crap, that makes me feel old), and my passion for the stage grows with every show I get to be a part of. I love creating a different reality to show an audience. I love getting to escape from myself for a few hours, and yet at the same time (sometimes) drawing on the most vulnerable aspects of myself. Most of all, I love the community. I have never met more kind, genuine, and fun people than my theatre families. And it really does feel like family; for a few weeks we get a family away from home. Then, suddenly, we're scattered to the four winds, and it might be weeks or months or even years until we run into each other again, but when we do, we greet each other with such warmth. Like family members that we're actually excited to see.
Or I'm just a sentimental sap. Whatever.
4. Favorite Original Practice:
My favorite original practice? That's a tough one. I think it's a toss up between audience contact and cross-gendered casting. The latter is a bit of a no-brainer: if it weren't for cross-gendered casting, I likely wouldn't be cast at all, for one. But that aside, I truly enjoy the challenge of playing a guy. You have to be aware of, and change, minute physical characteristics that you normally don't even notice. Don't sway your hips when you walk. Don't laugh like a girl. Don't do that thing when you're standing still (you know, that 75% of your weight on one leg, hand on your hip, thing). Not to mention speaking like a man... I'm still working on that one.
As for direct audience contact, I love it because it makes it so much easier to feed off of the energy of the audience. When the audience gets to be involved, even minimally, it brings a whole new dimension to the performance. You can tell they're more invested in the story, because they're now part of the story. Whether they like it or not.
3.What physical/vocal choices have you made for this character and why?
What I've striven to do with Biondello as far as his physicality goes, is to make what he does as big as possible, without getting in his own way. Biondello wants to get a rise out of everyone he interacts with while keeping in mind he is of a lower social standing than most of the other characters. However, he does sometimes get a bit carried away. He sees the ridiculousness going on around him and does his best to throw it into overdrive.
It's a bit exhausting, really...
4. What was the last role you played (for Pigeon Creek or any other company)? Describe some key differences between that character and your current character:
Comparing Biondello and Verges:
The last role I played was Verges in Heritage Theatre's Much Ado. I would say that the biggest difference between my Biondello and my Verges rests in how they handle the craziness that surrounds them. (If you aren't familiar with Much Ado, Verges is a member of the Night's Watch, the bumbling patrol that inadvertently catches the villain's lackeys and saves the day)
Where Verges resigned to and almost annoyed by his fate as being the most sensible man among his wacky comrades (and even has a bit of a booze habit to deal with it), Biondello thrives on the insanity of it all, and will contribute if given half a chance. He knows there's no escaping the shenanigans, even if he wanted to. And so he's going to enjoy himself, damnit!...And make a profit.