All through this column we have met people that are part of the industry in one way or another. Today we meet two people that are the reason we do what we do. Jennifer Perry and Natasha Ashley do not work in the theatre but are part of the audience. Let’s face it – without audiences coming to support 0ur work – where would we be? These two sisters have taken many trips to see Broadway shows and one in particular they really hold dear to their hearts. The theater does many things and one of those things is that it strengthens the bond two sisters have for each other. Natasha is my sister-in-law and Jennifer is my wife – so today’s column is dedicated to them – and it’s all in the family.
What was the first show you saw together?
Natasha: The first show Jen and I saw in NYC was Wicked.
Jennifer: Yes, Wicked was our first “just us sisters” show in NYC. Before that, we went to see the national tour of Aida at the Kennedy Center on Tasha’s first trip to visit me in DC shortly after I moved here.
Did either of you perform in school?
N: I performed at Houghton College in numerous plays including A Christmas Carol, The Curious Savage, You Can’t Take it With You, and Our Town. Also, I have experience as an Assistant Director.
J: Yes, Tasha was fabulous as Lily Belle in The Curious Savage! One of my favorite performances I have ever seen (not that I am biased or anything)!!!
J: I’m definitely not an actress like Tasha and trust me, she’s REALLY good. I was a nerdy intellectual kid, but I did sing in chorus in high school, which I enjoyed very much. My chorus/voice teacher, Stephanie Suarez, loved musicals so we sang many showtunes in our concerts. Other than that, I sang in a few foreign language competitions/culture fairs that a local community college sponsored while in high school. It allowed me to combine my love for singing and languages. In college, I continued to sing in choir though we mostly sang classical music.
Which character from a musical best reflects your personality?
N: Galinda from Wicked is probably the character that best reflects my personality. I relate to her because she is high energy, at times can be shallow, and craves attention. Also, the relationship between her and Elphaba is similar to my relationship with my sister. Jen has had a great effect on the person I am today. Like Galinda and Elphaba, Jen and I chose different paths in life; however, we will always be best friends.
J: Like Tasha, the character I identify with most is in Wicked. As cliché as it is, I’d say I have a lot of traits in common with Elphaba. I’m pretty sarcastic and definitely have the “I can do anything/I will show you” kind of attitude (sometimes to a fault). In high school and college especially, I was always pretty odd and never really identified with many of my peers. I preferred talking with the teachers/professors like Elphaba does in the show. But perhaps most importantly, as Tasha said, the Elphaba and Galinda relationship pretty much parallels the relationship my sister and I have with each other. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my sister. Other characters and I have many similarities (for example, Grania/Grace O’Malley in The Pirate Queen, Ruth in Wonderful Town, and Jo in Little Women), but Elphaba is definitely the character that I totally get through and through.
What kinds of theater do you enjoy seeing?
N: I enjoy seeing happy, high energy musicals. I love shows that have a wonderful storyline that celebrates love, friendship, history, or the underdog.
J: I see pretty much anything and everything, but I will not miss any play that deals with political issues, particularly those that affect foreign states. That’s why I love Theater J so much here in DC. My philosophy is the darker and more substantial, the better! Originality is great too – particularly for musicals (hence my love for Signature Theatre). However, I’ve been known to frequent many a fluffy, light musical revival too. I particularly like seeing those kinds of shows with my sister. It makes us happy. I like seeing her enjoy them.
What is it about going to the theater with each other that makes it so enjoyable?
N: Going to the theater with my sister is always so wonderful because it makes such special memories. Each show we have seen together has its own special ‘sister moments’ that I cherish and remember every time I hear certain music. Going to the theater has always been a common interest for me and Jen. We have had a passion for musical theatre since we were young. When we were younger, we didn’t really have any chances to see shows in NYC, so we always loved creating and performing many different musicals in our yard or bedroom. The first time we went to NYC to see a show together was probably one of the best moments of my life. The first trip to NYC was just so magical and it was the start of many sister trips to the city. Basically going to the theater with my sister was enjoyable because we were together.
J: I echo what Tasha said. Though we’re extremely close (and always have been) we’re very different. Theatre is one thing that we both like, and it’s special to be able to share the experience of seeing a show with one another; doing so makes both of us very happy. I’m typically pretty serious, and she brings out my light/fun side (that few see) like no other person can – especially when we have our theatre trips. Now that we’re both married, have our own lives, and live 8 or so hours apart from one another, it’s harder to see shows together on a regular basis, so it makes it all the more special when we are able to see one together.
Watch a video of Natasha performing in Curious Savage at Houghton College, in April 2007.