Being the artistic director of a local nonprofit theatre means you’re part producer, part collaborator, part visionary. For Freddie Ashley, who’s at the helm of Actor’s Express in West Midtown Atlanta, he also wears the hat of conversation catalyst, presenting urgent work vital to the discussions that open hearts and minds and reflect life and emotions that undergird our city.
During AE’s 30th anniversary season, Freddie curated the watershed epic Angels in America – known for its inclusion of an ensemble of characters facing HIV/AIDS – and new works such as the fiercely feminist and funny new comedy The Flower Room by local playwright Daryl Lisa Fazio. His current roster of productions includes dramas by up-and-coming artists Charly Evon Simpson (Jump) and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon), sure to get Atlantans talking.
Freddie got his first taste of theatre by participating in one-act play competitions during high school. That experience enticed him to major in theatre in college, and he’s never looked back, directing more than 40 productions. He has received the Elliot Hayes Award for Dramaturgy from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and in 2007, was awarded an Arts Encouragement Award from the Charles Loridans Foundation.
Actor’s Express is a theatre that challenges and reflects contemporary human experiences in an inclusive environment. Of the theatre’s recent works, Freddie is most proud of his award-winning production of The Crucible, which he also directed. “It was a classic play in a new context that highlighted its resonance with the current American political moment,” he said.
Freddie and his team are committed to championing emerging voices of the American stage. To that end, he was recently selected to serve as vice president of the Board of Directors of the National New Play Network. He has been lauded for his work developing world premiere productions, such as Serial Black Face, a drama that unflinchingly forced audiences to confront one of the darkest periods in the city’s history, The Atlanta Child Murders, which has all but disappeared from our collective consciousness. Freddie reflects, “The play dealt with the vulnerabilities that exist for women and children of color who live in isolated economic hardship, vulnerabilities that allowed these atrocities to occur. We have to keep talking about this story.”
Look for continued boundary pushing from Freddie and his team as he works to nurture the next generation of playwrights through workshops, readings, and full productions of new plays; to develop and cultivate Atlanta’s artistic community through rigorous theatre training; to inspire the dialogue essential to the vitality of our neighborhood and our city; and to enhance Atlanta’s reputation nationally as a thriving center for live performance.
The theatre is always looking for volunteers and organizations to bring more people to see its productions. From helping with the theatre’s famed intern program to assisting with fund and friend-raising, opportunities abound.
Through his work Freddie is helping lift our city’s vital voices and tell these incredibly personal stories. The next conversation is yours.
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