We had the good fortune of connecting with Freddie Ashley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Freddie, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
Early in my career, I was told by several well-intentioned mentors not to have multiple areas of focus in my career path. I had trained as an actor, but was working as a dramaturg. People from each sphere were telling me to give up the other. But my work as a dramaturg made me a better actor and my work as an actor made me a better dramaturg, and both things combined to make me a good director. I think it’s generally best to avoid unsolicited advice, particularly when it involves telling you what you shouldn’t be doing.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I direct plays and run an amazing theatre in Atlanta’s Westside called Actor’s Express. I seek out challenging work and then do all I can to bring it to life in a collaborative atmosphere. My professional path was unconventional and took many winding turns. I grew up in a small blue-collar town with little exposure to the arts, started college with no acting experience, and worked insanely hard through graduate school only to come to grips with the realization that my natural abilities as an actor were pretty limited. But happily, I discovered that I have a good deal of natural ability as a director so eventually I moved my professional and creative life into that direction, though I still have a passion for performing and work very hard when I have the rare chance to be onstage. I think one thing that defines me is that I believe personal integrity should be the driving force behind any creative life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I often plan trips around food, so I’d start by making sure Mary Mac’s Tea Room, the Collonnade, Manuel’s Tavern and Nuevo Laredo Cantina were on the agenda. I’m a coffee nut, so we’d also have to hang out at Chrome Yellow Trading Company in Old Fourth Ward and get some late night doughnuts at Sublime on 10th Street. We would go to Piedmont Park and walk the Beltline, of course. I would also take them to the High Museum, which is one of my very favorite places in the entire city. Our nights would be filled with attending theatre, so we’d check out the Alliance, Theatrical Outfit, True Colors and, of course, Actor’s Express.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to Monica Hayes, my professor and mentor from the University of Southern Mississippi. Even though I finished graduate school over 20 years ago, her voice still rings in my head every time I’m working on a project. She taught me the value of solid technique and rigorous artistic process and remains a dear friend to this day. She also introduced me to Indian food, so that alone is worthy of a shoutout!
(from top) Kennedy Center; Casey Gardner; BreeAnne Clowdus; BreeAnne Clowdus; Casey Gardner; Ashley Earles-Bennett; Christopher Bartelski; BreeAnne Clowdus; BreeAnne Clowdus