101 Stories: Former Actors

By The Children's Theatre

Celebrate TCT’s 101st season as it comes to a close as we applaud and appreciate those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout our century-long journey.  During 10 weeks of recognition, we honor individuals who have been instrumental in the success of TCT, and who have not only helped TCT grow in mission, but also thrive, thanks to their passion.  It is these people and their moments in our history that shaped TCT to become what it is today. We encourage you to consider giving a gift in their honor to ensure the sustainability of TCT’s mission for the next 100+ years. 

TCT is thankful for the many many many Actors who have worked with us these 101 years! 

Ashley Morton

We got a chance to speak with Ashley Olivia Morton. 

Ashley is a well-rounded performance artist and choreographer with experience in a wide range of dance, from ballet, to color guard, to various Asian movement forms as well as classical and musical theatre vocal repertoire.

Last seen with TCT in Casper: The Friendly Musical, Ashley cannot wait to get back on the Taft stage! Select pre-pandemic credits include Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (The Carnegie), the world premiere of Blind Injustice (Cincinnati Opera), and American Idiot (The Carnegie). Ashley performs with Pones and InBocca Performance, making devised, sight-specific works whenever she is not on the proscenium stage. That skillset came in handy over the past year in order to continue making art during the pandemic. As a full time preschool teacher, Ashley loves performing for TCT…and maybe even getting to see some familiar faces in the audience!

Ashley Morton as Princess Gerda in Sleeping Beauty, 2019

What prompted your involvement with TCT? 

“My involvement with TCT was kind of an accident really because I used to do “Awaited,” a Christmas show by CrossRoads church.  Then that last year the director Paula Rakestraw sent an email to a bunch of us sharing that this show has been cancelled, but if you are interested The Children’s Theatre does a Christmas show and their first show of the season is Superman and I’m choreographing it, please check it out. Of course, auditions were the next week and I had never seen anything at The Children’s Theatre so I went and auditioned and I did not get in the Christmas show but I got into Superman and that was my first introduction to The Children’s Theatre and I’ve loved it ever since.”  

Can you share a moment or a turning point in your work with TCT that just enhanced or brought a little change in the program? 

“I guess I would say probably Disney’s The Jungle Book KIDS.  The way it works is you audition for two shows at the same time, so I was auditioning for Jungle Book and Sleeping Beauty and I was cast in both shows.  It was surprising to me as I really wasn’t thinking about Sleeping Beauty because I’m not really the princess type.  I thought, they want me in both shows so I guess I’ll be in both shows! I was excited to be cast, but didn’t really understand completely how the shows would each be portrayed.   

Disney’s The Jungle Book KIDS was produced with the aesthetic of traditional Indian culture which influenced the costumes along with traditional Indian dance choreography. I was absolutely blown away; the whole production was stunning.  I love learning about other forms of dance especially in non-western cultures. Through my arts interests and training, I have learned a great deal about different cultures.  It was such an honor to work with Anupa Mirle who introduced us to the Indian culture through her dance choreography.  The movement was so very different but beautiful and fun.  I never expected to enjoy Disney’s The Jungle Book KIDS and learn as much as I did.   My dream would be able to do an actual full-length version of The Jungle Book with that exact same production team and aesthetic. I loved it so much.”

Ashley Morton in Disney’s The Jungle Book KIDS, 2019

Was there a situation where you witnessed that TCT’s mission specifically enhance the growth and development of the children’s imagination and creativity?  

“I interact more with the kids that happened to be in the show and it’s interesting because I learn so much from them. When I was growing up, I loved theater, but I was primarily a dancer until about four years ago.  I was always too shy and terrified to sing or speak in front of people so the fact that these kids are doing it honestly, I’m in awe of them and so inspired by them.  All the kids are just so delightful.  I’ll never forget Kip in Superman; he was the youngest and he always knew all the choreography.  If anybody had questions, we would ask Kip who I nicknamed Dance Captain Kip and he was a great help.”

“Then there was Casper the Friendly Musical and Jack had to fly and roller skate and wear body makeup that made his skin break out and yet he was so sweet all the time and just happy to be there.  At one point the production team had to remind him his microphone was on because you could hear him backstage thanking the people backstage every time they hooked him up to fly:  “You’re being so sweet and polite but you have to stop because we can hear you.”  

What do you love most or miss about your work at TCT? 

“Oh my gosh, I miss all of it.  It is such fun to be in the green room with the cast.  The work that I had more traditionally been a part of was devised theatre and multidisciplinary performance art type with content that tends to be a little darker. I work in childcare full-time so I love kids and always thought that working with The Children’s Theatre would be fun but I was hesitant and afraid that if my focus was on theatre for young audiences that I would miss some of the depth of adult theater.  I’ve been surprised and so fulfilled by the amount of depth that’s in children’s theatre.”

“Additionally, I have also had the time to pursue other freelance performing opportunities as well.  Because I work in childcare full time as well, I have witnessed firsthand how theatre helps with cognitive development along with use of imagination and putting pieces together. At work a couple of my older kids had gone to see some of the shows and then they say they would see me. I was in Casper the Friendly Musical and in the dance number featuring tap dance where our feet appeared to be separated from our bodies and one of the kids said, “You got your feet back.”  His sister was in my room and he was in kindergarten and each day he would stop and just continue the conversation as though the conversation never stopped from the day before.  It was fun to hear his questions and explain how things worked.  I just love seeing how live theatre impacts the kids and people who get to watch it very cool, indeed.” 

What else comes to mind about your experience with TCT?  

“I think mostly that never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would get the chance to play a Princess and then I got a callback and they wanted me to play a Princess and I just felt that was really cool because it was after I fully embraced myself that someone decided that that was exactly what they were looking for in this “Be Who You Are” fairy tale.”

“In Sleeping Beauty, I thought I was auditioning for the ensemble so when I got the email I had to go back on the website and look at the cast list. I was cast as the ice princess named Gerda (the Elsa-like character).  At each show when my character was introduced as Princess Gerda…..I could hear the children in the audience audibly mimic “Gerda.” I so enjoyed this role and the opportunity to be a princess along with an Asian Snow White, a Latina Rapunzel, and a sweet and spunky Princess Rory (Aurora).” 

“I can’t wait for theater to be back!  I love it so much!  This next TCT season looks so amazing. I can’t wait to finally do Matilda.  I can’t wait for more people to experience the music from The Wiz ’cause if you think “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is a good song, like yeah, you have clearly not heard “Home” or “Ease On Down The Road.” You are in for the ride of your life!

Would you honor Former TCT Actors with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?

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