Student actress lights up the stage in more ways than one

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Chris Patrinos

Ashleigh Taylor (left) and Claire Paul (right) pull double duty in the performing arts department's production of "Crimes of the Heart" by Beth Henley.

By Shannon Gray, Staff Writer

With Chaminade University’s performing arts department’s fall play in full swing, junior Ashleigh Taylor has had her work cut out for her.

Though the forensic science major is no stranger to the stage, the majority of her experience is in front of the audience rather than behind the scenes. This time, however, in addition to portraying one of the lead characters in Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart,” Taylor also took the task of lighting design into her own hands.

It’s been quite an experience. This is the first show I’ve designed, so it was an on the job-type learning situation,” said Taylor of her surprise appointment to the position.

Henley’s southern gothic takes place in the small southern town of Hazelhurst, Miss. In it, the three Magrath sisters reunite after the youngest sibling shoots her senator husband.

When not behind the light board, Taylor is on stage portraying Meg Magrath, the middle sister and black sheep of the family who ran off to Hollywood to pursue an ill-fated singing career.

“I think the hardest part was having to constantly switch from my designer mind to Meg’s mind,” Taylor said, recounting the challenging tasks of the past few months. “It made it hard to enjoy any praise I received as an actor when I was constantly worried about how the lights looked and vice-versa.”

Though she had expressed interest in helping in a technical aspect of the show she had no idea she would be names lighting designer. Luckily for Taylor, she had some very valuable help in the form of her older sister, Kathleen, a senior studying theater production with a concentration in light design at Ithaca College.

“I was interested in light design mostly because of my older sister.” Said Ashleigh of her sister who came to Hawaii this past summer to serve as a designer for St. Louis School’s Richard T. Mamiya Theatre. “I had the opportunity to see her design a show and it got me interested in the process.”

While many people would much rather work behind the scenes than have the stress of acting on stage, Taylor, who has now had experience with both, prefers the relative ease of life in the limelight.

I definitely like acting better,”she said. “I have incredible respect for technicians because their jobs are not easy and they take a lot of commitment. I don’t think I have the time to commit to a project like this again, but I don’t regret the experience.”

Due to the small size of the university’s performing arts department, Taylor has found herself in good company with other actors who also pull double duty as technicians and designers.

“Since Chaminade does not offer a theatre major, almost every technician we have is doing more than one thing. Claire Paul, who is Lenny in the show, was also the scenic artist, on construction crew and is our prop mistress,” said Taylor of Paul, who is also a staff writer with The Silversword.

“We don’t have people to delegate every job to, so we have to double up. We still want to put on the best shows we can, so I think I can speak for most of us when I say those sleepless nights are worth it.”

“Crimes of the Heart,” directed by Chaminade theater professor Bro. Gary Morris, complete’s it’s two-week run this Sunday, November 15. For information about showtimes and to order tickets online visit www.showtix4u.com.