Ashley Brooks is the Assistant to the Producing Artistic Director.
Here we are. It’s been one year since I moved to Naples to be the Assistant to the Producing Artistic Director at Gulfshore Playhouse. I graduated from Florida State University in May 2017 and headed down to the humid, subtropical climate of Naples.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I accepted the position. I’ve had a few food service jobs throughout high school and college and spent one summer at Stagedoor Manor Theatre where I worked as an Assistant Stage Manager and Camp Counselor. I floated around the theatre scene in school working as a stage manager, dramaturg, director, and even occasionally as an actor. But would any of these experiences prepare me for a “real job?”
I was unsure of how involved I would be in the work we do here and thought it might just be what we stereotypically imagine an Assistant job to be like. I definitely make coffee/lunch runs, especially when Kristen is in rehearsals, but my job is far more fascinating than trips to Food and Thought (where they now know me by name).
I get to sit in on rehearsals and watch the process from first read to full scale production. I get to be in the room where artistic decisions are made regarding our future seasons, show art, literary content, etc. I find myself involved in more aspects of the company than I even realize sometimes. My official title puts me on the Artistic team, but I frequently work with the teams in Development, Front of House, Administration, Audience Services, Business, and Marketing. I’ve attended every Board Meeting since June 2017, as well as some Marketing, Development, and Finance Committee meetings that all teach me how much it actually takes to keep this organization running.
I consider myself (and everyone else who works here) a person who wears many hats. What I love about this place is the willingness to jump on board with anything that needs to be done. We all have one main goal: to serve the theatre and the art we create. If that means completing tasks that are outside of our job description, so be it. Why am I on my hands and knees vacuuming the debris from the carpet in the theatre before Opening Night? Because I care about this Playhouse, its mission, and how it impacts the people who walk through our doors.
My mother always wanted me to go into business and I would always shrug it off and say I could never do something I have no passion for. However, what I’ve learned the most over the last year is that there’s a business to everything, even art. We simply cannot create our art without practicing good business, and the way we do business directly impacts the quality of our art.
I think the most amazing aspect is observing and learning from a strong, hardworking, and truly indefatigable “girl boss” every day. She founded this company, turning what was once nothing into a very special something. This place isn’t just some organization that happened to employ us, it is the true meaning of a company: a family of artists who care deeply for each other, lift each other up, challenge each other, and are all here to create and inspire.
Needless to say, Gulfshore Playhouse is a daily reminder of why I love theatre and its people. This humble little powerhouse of a theatre is my home and my coworkers have become my extended family. They are the hardest working people I know, and the love and care they have for this organization is so beautiful. It’s nice to be among people who work not only for themselves, but for the belief in creating something magical for others. Kristen Coury’s favorite saying is “theatre can change the world,” and I believe it more and more every day.
Thank you all for an incredible first year. It is truly cool to be here.