Cue & A: King and I Star Ashley Park on Bartlett Sher, Onstage Tumbles and the Time She Played Stevie Wonder

News   Cue & A: King and I Star Ashley Park on Bartlett Sher, Onstage Tumbles and the Time She Played Stevie Wonder
 
Ashley Park, who appears as Tuptim in the Lincoln Center Theater's new revival of The King and I, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Ashley Park
Ashley Park

Park made her Broadway debut in Mamma Mia! and is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan.

Other stage credits include stepsister Gabrielle in the first national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella as well as regional and university productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Bat Boy, Chicago, Brigadoon, Crazy for You, Miss Saigon, Jekyll & Hyde and The Sound of Music.

Name: Ashley Jini Park
Where you were born/where you were raised: Born in sunny California. Raised bearing the snowpocalyptic (pretend that's a word?) winters of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Siblings: I have one younger sister, Audrey, who is infinitely cooler than I'll ever be. She’s a total jock, so words like "Hammerstein," “Playbill" and "fight call" are foreign to her... and I love that. She's always the first to call me out and the first to be on my side.
Special skills:

I can recite over a hundred digits of pi (3.1415926...). I memorized them for a high school-wide competition because the prize was a free pizza. I think I came in second place. But I still won that pizza. So that was a pretty awesome day. Moral of story: I'll do anything for pizza. And I may be a huge nerd.

Something you're REALLY bad at: An Irish accent. I sound like a drowning Avatar.
Who were your major mentors/inspirations when first starting out? My mom is my champion. She has always been the most encouraging and resilient person. She teaches me by example to be smart, strong, humble, and above all else — to be kind.
First Broadway show you ever saw: The Lion King. I was a Make-A-Wish kid in high school, and the foundation not only granted my wish to watch a Broadway show, but brought my whole family on my first trip to NYC inclusive of not one but four Broadway shows (the other three were Wicked, Spring Awakening and A Chorus Line.)
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends:

Queen of the Night for a deliciously wild time! I went with some castmates and we ate lobster, got spoon-fed and whipped, and I got led to a room alone by three strangers... so, ya know, just a typical evening. And Hamilton! Everything I've ever seen at the Public has left me affected and wanting more.

Favorite showtune of all time: I'm all about Overtures. Especially from the Golden Age... lush orchestrations and sweeping melodies, I can listen to them all day. YUM.
Some favorite modern musicals: Once. Wicked. Light in the Piazza. Spring Awakening. Rent.
Some favorite classic musicals: West Side Story. She Loves Me. My Fair Lady. Carousel. The King And I.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: My resume of roles in elementary school plays included Scott Joplin, Chief Joseph and Stevie Wonder. Needless to say I had a type. #EthnicMale
Worst costume ever: I'm sure my homemade costumes for the above answer were offensive to somebody somewhere.
First stage kiss: Ew kissing, boys have cooties. (Except Conrad Ricamora, I guess.)
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would have most loved to perform with: James Dean, Gene Kelly, James Stewart. And Audrey Hepburn! Gosh, I wouldn't even need to perform with her. I'd be happy with a hug.
Your personal vocal idols, living or dead: Joni Mitchell. Her songs have a way of moving my heart from one direction to another. Barbara Cook, Celine Dion, Julie Andrews, Sara Bareilles. And I currently get to cry in the arms of one of my vocal idols eight times a week: sweet Kelli O'Hara.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Hmmmm... well it will be a while (if ever) before I forget Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I definitely recommend this one, too!
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Epic film soundtracks, especially when there are strings involved. And music that accompanies the obligatory montage that happens in every romantic comedy, when the protagonists are sad and/or lonely. Those always get me.
Most played song on your iPod: Awwwww I miss iPods!
Last book you read: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Must-see TV show(s): "Downtown Abbey," "Modern Family," "How to Get Away With Murder," "Chopped," but most importantly "FRIENDS"!! Quite honestly, they're always there for you.
Last good movie you saw: "Cinderella." Visually stunning with gorgeous storytelling by the actors and director Kenneth Branagh. I was in a constant eruption of tears. Also "Imitation Game." Fascinating subject matter and riveting performances.
Some films you consider classics: PIXAR just gets it.
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Nick Rehberger
Pop culture guilty pleasure: One Direction, "The Bachelor(ette)", Christmas music. Oh, and ONE DIRECTION. Also Taylor Swift's "1989" deluxe album. People, I'm ALL about her new sound!
Three favorite cities: I need to travel more. But Ann Arbor will always be one of them!
Favorite sport/team/player: My parents and I have always loved watching tennis and it's my dream to go watch the Wimbledon one day! Also Serena Williams is a bad-a**, I want to be her.

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And as a University of Michigan alum, I say, "Forever GO BLUE!"

First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin's "Hush"
Favorite pre-/post- show meal:

Pre: Salad bar from Whole Foods with some kind of meat. Me like meat. Meat goooood. Post: green juice and something sweet. I live across from a Magnolia Bakery... so that's relatively dangerous.

Favorite liquid refreshment: "The Tahitian" from The Smith, "Gravity" from Juice Press, anything ginger, anything green, anything sparkling, and any red wine that Paige Faure approves.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:

At half-hour before our show, I visit all the dressing rooms and offices backstage to deliver Angel Cards. I love getting to chat and check in with each cast member, dresser, stage manager and whoever else is around as they pick their "Angel" for the day out of my little bag (ie "joy", "integrity", "risk", etc). Judy McLane did this while I was at Mamma Mia! and it's a pre-show tradition that I hope to continue forever!

What drew you to this new project and what has been the biggest challenge so far? Bart Sher and Bart Sher. *tehehehe*
What has been the most fun or fulfilling part of this project?

In all seriousness, I have learned so much from Bart and his process starting from my very first audition for this production last summer. He's challenged me, pushed me, and guided me to dig deep into every layer of this role and story. He's constantly steering this mammoth company masterfully as we navigate what questions we are posing through our piece. Also getting to sing some of my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein ballads with a 29-piece orchestra led by Ted Sperling still gives me giddy goosebumps. Working at Lincoln Center Theater is a dream come true, and doing it with over 50 brilliant, dedicated, disciplined, and lovely storytellers has made this experience incredibly fulfilling.

Every person comes from a different background, whether the person is making their Broadway debut, or is an international film star, or has been nominated for Tonys, or is a 6-year-old, or has a 6-year-old, or is Christopher Gattelli, or is Christopher Gattelli's biggest fan (i.e. Me). Everyone in the room has been about the work... and that's when the fun happens!

Oooof... sorry for the gushy novel. I just got overwhelmed with how thankful I am right now!

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:

Well I sneeze uncontrollably... a lot. It's happened many an inconvenient time. Also, while on the road with Cinderella, I'd trip in my ballgowns endlessly and was often one with the floor. One time in particular, I ended up on the floor for half of the Prince's (Andy Jones) verse of "Ten Minutes Ago." I tripped as I was backing up and had hit the floor by the time the whole company had to pose in frozen vignettes... so on the floor of the Ball I stayed. I looked up to see ballgowns shaking with laughter as my castmates tried to hold it together.

I think I did my best to gracefully roll offstage into the arms of one of our stage managers. Andy saw this all from across the stage while singing, and I'm still not quite sure how he made it through the song. After this, my cast generously coined the catchphrase "Tuptim takes a tumble."

Leading lady role you've been dying to play: G(a)linda, Juliet, Amalia Balash, Clara Johnson, Eliza Doolittle
Leading man role you wish you could play: Any Sondheim or Shakespeare leading man. And then probably Horton the Elephant.
Something about you that surprises people: I used to be bald. I'm a cancer survivor! I had Leukemia in high school.
Something you are incredibly proud of: The semesters I spent working at the Maxey Boys Juvenile Facility with PCAP (Prison Creative Arts Project) and co-founding MPOW (Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop) while at the University of Michigan.
Something you're embarrassed to admit: I'm scared of the dark.
Career you would want if not a performer: Somehow integrating my interest in music therapy and the power of the arts to transform and heal with the priority of educating children around the world. Either through work with UNICEF or through another venue of International diplomacy.
Three things you can't live without: Music. Taste Buds. Faith.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: "You can't move forward if you're looking side to side." —  Brent Wagner (Chair of the University of Michigan's Musical Theatre department). Be supportive and kind to others, cherish every learning experience, and trust in yourself and your journey.
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