October 8, 2012

Blog: The Ashley Plays

The Ashley Plays The Ashley Plays

Do you think you know all of York University’s hiding places and secrets?  As anyone who has been on campus knows, York is a maze of corridors, doors and staircases.  The theatre department’s Playwrighting and New Play Dramaturgy class takes advantage of York’s nooks and crannies in their project The Ashley Plays.  Conceived by Professor Judith Rudakoff, The Ashley Plays are a series of site-specific works all connected to a character, place, object, or idea named Ashley. 

What is site-specific work, you may ask?  Site specific refers to a play where the location of the performance is a major influence on the subject matter.  This leads the playwright to ask, “Why here?  Why now?”  Why is this space significant to this character?  Is the space public or private?  How does it feel to be in this space?  Exploring the possible answers to these questions helps to shape the piece.

At the beginning of the school year each fourth year playwright is assigned a site specifically chosen to challenge and inspire them.  They are also given a list of circumstances to work with.  Each week the playwrights bring in drafts of their monodramas and gain feedback from Professor Judith Rudakoff and the dramaturgy students.  This feedback consists mainly of questions that hopefully clarify the piece and ignite further exploration.  Sentence by sentence, The Ashley Plays appear.

On the day of the performance, audience members travel from site to site and witness each playwright perform their own work.  The plays range in subject matter and will include adult situations.  The plays’ non-linear narrative style allows for audiences to discover connections between the diverse pieces.  This year some of the sites include a window in a classroom, a hallway full of paintings, and an underused staircase. 

Judith Rudakoff has worked with this project all over the world and has found that most cultures have a name related to Ashley.  It could be Asho in Persia, Ashling in Ireland, or Ashanti in Ghana.  The bones of the project remain essentially the same as the piece travels, but the individual plays investigate different themes and issues.  The Ashley Plays are an opportunity to consider connections between diverse experiences both globally and locally. 

—EmmaRose MacDonald


The Ashley Plays will take place at 12:45 on October 13, 2012 in the Centre for Film and Theatre at York University.  Please meet at the Joseph Green Box Office.  The performance is free.  For more information please see The Ashley Plays facebook page.