Story by Layli Brown, Staff Reporter
Featured photograph provided by Heather Ashley
Sociology graduate and actor Heather Ashley, speaks of CNM’s theatre program, its top notch instructors, and the Coal Avenue Theatre.
Heather says, that even though her degree is in sociology, she did a lot of theatre courses at CNM because they have a really good program, the instructors are well known around town and they know their stuff.
Suzanne Erickson is known for writing and she’s a director as well, “being trained by her has benefitted me as an actor”, even in a class of 20 students it wasn’t generalized information it felt like a one on one class, said Heather.
Chad Brummett actor on film and television is known for the private classes he does, and we have him as an instructor at CNM. Heather said, she knows people who aren’t in any program at the college and will sign up just to take a class with him.
The teachers at CNM are really strong, the staff is not isolated to the campus, they are active in the theatre community here in Albuquerque, and are able to use that knowledge and experience to help the students, she said. Leonard Madrid is involved at Blackout company, Martin Andrews writes and direct around town.
It’s a great place to learn if you want to be on the stage or in film, but even if you want to be a veterinarian you should still take voice and movement, it’s worth your time to have that experience. It helps with having a better sense of who you are, how you use your body, and how you’re feeling inside and out, said Heather.
Taking an acting class really helps with self-confidence and public speaking. Heather said, she recommends the program even if you’re not a theatre major, even if you’re not interested in being on stage.
This is a small program which is really nice. Heather knows most of the instructors and said they work together which makes the program more cohesive, this has been a great way for her to get more acting training, she added “I know that the money I’m paying is going back into the school and the community.”
She said, the addition of the CAT has been huge for the program because its providing a space and lighting system for students to learn how to do the technical aspects of theatre, to perform and to act in.
Heather is stage managing this summer’s play Tragedy Plus Time at the Coal Avenue Theatre (CAT), she has been in three productions there. She did stage management in high school, and is having to relearn a lot of things but again, in her own words:
“I’m in a great program amongst friends, in a space that is very supportive and allows me to take risks, I felt comfortable taking this position because I know I’m amongst people that want me to succeed.” Said Heather.
Heather said, she appreciates the CAT because it does a lot of new plays and allows a lot of play writes to use this space as was recently done with the spring production Tortilla Sun which was adapted for stage by Leonard Madrid, and shown to the community casting CNM students.
Heather has been acting since she was eleven, she went to a performing arts high school in Minnesota. Getting the lead role in CNM’s play Trojan Women was her introduction to theater here in Albuquerque back in 2015. She added, it was directed by Joanne Camp Sobel who is fantastic and of high caliber, “she worked us as if we were professional actors.”
She said, even once you’ve graduated as a former student you are still included, the space is still available to us, the teachers still know and support our work. It’s such a caring environment, the teachers are there to support the students, and the students are there to grow and learn.
The point of art is self-expression and to connect with other people on an emotional level, and the best way to do that, is to be vulnerable and have space to feel safe enough to take risks and this program does that, said Heather.
She added her favorite quote, “I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.”
-Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia)
Heather Ashley will be on stage again at the Vortex Theatre in the fight cast of She Kills Monsters, which opens August 25th and runs through September 10th. She said, there’s a whole cast dedicated to the fighting because it’s a dungeons and dragons show. There’s hand to hand combat and sword combat, it has 19 instances of violence; which is a lot for a stage play.