A Star Brighter Than The Rest

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On Sunday night I ended up having an intense discussion with a friend about our shared experiences with the loss of a parent. We talked about grief and how it affected everyone differently and about how we had coped with loss following our parents' death. It was refreshing to speak with someone who could relate so closely to my own experience and felt more deeply connected to him as a result.

On Monday morning I was flooded with a wave of grief as I learned of the passing of a friend who had attended theatre school with me. I met Danielle in 2003 when I started at theatre school. SANY4672I liked her instantly; she was bubbly, honest and grounded. Danielle was a talented & energetic performer who loved music and dance and wasn't afraid to take risks and give everything she had on the stage. Danielle ended up leaving our term for personal reasons at the end of first year, but re-enrolled a semester later.

It was prior to her fifth term show that Danielle was first diagnosed with leukemia. It came as a shock to everyone and her classmates surrounded her with love and light to help her persevere. Filled with positivity, hope, and being the spunky fighter she was, she kicked the leukemia in the ass, regained much of her health and re-enrolled in school as soon as she could to finish her studies. She graduated alongside her new class and was truly an inspiration to everyone.

Then Danielle got sick again.

Never a quitter, Danielle maintained an optimistic attitude and continued to amaze and inspire all of us with her courageous spirit. A bone marrow transplant was going to save Danielle's life and a wave of relief spread across our community when a match was found. We were confident that this was the end of the unnecessary fighting and that beautiful Danielle was going to be able to move forward with her life and career as a dynamic performer.

The last time I saw Danielle was in August at a dear friend's surprise birthday party. She looked so happy and beautiful and was bursting at the seams with love for life. We talked about the classes she was getting back into, the new headshots she was going to take. She was incredibly enthusiastic about the Ashleyx2 cabaret and said she couldn't wait to be there and that she felt inspired by us and all that we were doing. I gave her a big hug when she was leaving and told her how much I was looking forward to seeing her new headshots and having her at the show.

It was soon after I saw her, that Danielle got sick again. She was always updating her facebook with her progress and I noticed over the last couple weeks that those updates had ceased. More messages were showing up on her wall to keep fighting and on Friday I was chatting with a friend about the situation who told me that while she was in a coma she was doing better every day.

On my way to school on Monday morning I received a text message from my best friend to tell me that Danielle had passed away. I was shocked and incredibly sad. It didn’t even make sense to me. Monday was a very sad day, but also really beautiful in the way that our whole school community came together to share love, hugs, and beautiful memories of our gorgeous friend who had touched our lives so deeply.

In my WW meetings this week I’m talking about the importance of celebrating and positivity in one’s weight loss journey and have shared the following quote to end off each meeting: danielleDanielle embodied positivity, light, energy and love with every ounce of her being. She touched so many lives in her short time on earth and I know that it was as a result of her uplifting, courageous and determined spirit. She was one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and we will all carry her positivity and enthusiasm for life with me forever, and I encourage you to do the same. Her approach to life really helps to put things into perspective. I am thankful for the friendship that we had and feel blessed to have known such an incredible woman. Danielle 2“Everywhere I go, every smile I see, I know you are there smiling back at me, dancing in the moonlight, I know you are free cuz I can see your star shining down on me”

~Janet Jackson, Together Again

Expressing My Gratitude

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians! I hope you had a great SANY4639weekend with your family and friends and were able to find time to enjoy the gorgeous weather and beautiful colours of the leaves that have been changing rapidly over the last few weeks. I had a wonderful weekend and was reminded of all the fantastic things in my life that I have to be thankful for. While different than last year’s list in some ways, many of the elements remain constant.

I am thankful for my beautiful friends and family with whom I had the pleasure of spending a lot of quality time with this weekend. I neglected to take a ton of pictures of my beautiful walk through our neighbourhood with Nicole (my new roommate!), but managed to snap a photo of our delicious almond chai lattes from Broadview Espresso.SANY4641 On Friday I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Fresh SANY4644with a delightful friend and then spent the afternoon basking in the sunshine on the U of T campus. [insert giddy Ashley here]ButterfliesFriday night also marked the first of two shows I saw this weekend, fuelling another one of the things that I’m thankful for this year: performing and being inspired. I’ve been so lucky this year to be a part of some amazing shows and it’s absolutely wonderful to go see other talented folks onstage and feel inspired. Ashley and I had the pleasure of seeing [title of show] at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. SANY4648I’m so sad that it has since closed, because I would tell all of you to go see it. It was smart, hilarious and brilliantly performed and both Ashley and I left the theatre feeling inspired. I laughed my face off, left humming the songs and plan to adopt the song Die Vampire, Die! as my new theme song when I’m feeling insecure. I loved the show and was so thrilled that I had the chance to see it.

The Ashleyx2 adventures continued with a matinee of Banana Shpeel on Saturday. SANY4655SANY4653

We had a lot of fun at the show. The sets, costumes and lighting were breathtaking, the featured performers were ridiculously talented and the ensemble were awesome too. We had fabulous seats and truly enjoyed ourselves. Cirque du Soleil is pretty amazing…

Both shows left me wanting more and feeling inspired to come home and work on my own art. I want to be performing more and more these days and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people to influence my art.

It goes without saying that I’m thankful for my health, and one of the reasons for the way that I feel is how I eat! Gluten-free vegan living is so normal to me now and I was thankful to enjoy some delightful fall/Thanksgiving inspired treats this weekend including Fitnessista pumpkin chocolate chip muffins SANY4649Snobby joe lentils stuffed into acorn squashSANY4662and my weekend pride and joy – a gluten free vegan apple pie!SANY4658SANY4659SANY4661I’ve never made a pie crust before, so it was pretty exciting that my first one was actually gluten free and vegan! As usual, Meghan’s recipe rocked and the crust was super easy to make. I made the apple filling from 2 lbs of peeled & diced apples (Granny smith/Pink lady combo), cinnamon and agave. It was delicious!! I had so much fun baking, eating and sharing it – I felt so domestic and the house smelled amazing.

It was such a great weekend and demonstrated that I have a lot to be thankful for on top of a pretty amazing year… what are you thankful for?

I Can’t Remain Quiet (Video of the Cabaret Included)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It started with a text message…

Ashley and I had been talking about putting on a cabaret for a few months and an innocent text message that I sent to her that read “I guess there’s just something about Ashley” became the catalyst for our show. It was that text that catapulted us into action and the planning began. 16763_356682125603_559840603_10269384_2402642_nAshley and I have been friends since our musical theatre school days, but became really close after running into one another on the subway a few years ago. We have since worked on two shows together and have become one another’s confidantes in life, but especially in our performing careers. ashleyfunnygirl (2)We started planning our show extensively while on vacation together this summer. SANY4278We came back with two very long to-do lists, song ideas and some great story-telling material for the cabaret itself and got moving. We started working with our pianist extensively in September and worked our butts off to get the show together.

There’s a lot of amazing contemporary musical theatre out there that Ash and I were dying to sing. Composers like Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, Scott Alan, Jonathan Reid Gealt, and Kooman & Dimond are making beautiful music and telling amazing stories that need to be told and we were thrilled to have the platform to do just that. It was so fun to put together our set list with songs that showcased our voices and personalities, but also told the story of what it’s like to be an Ashley. 4924122502_84a815c24d_zThis year has provided me with some pretty exciting performance opportunities. I didn’t think I could top the high that I had reached after meeting Sheldon Harnick whilst doing REX in Feburary or the experience of my first Fringe this summer, but putting together our cabaret was absolutely phenomenal. I felt so inspired, every single day, and it absolutely solidified my love for performing and being onstage.

Last Thursday I practically jumped out of bed, ready for our big day. SANY4594After one final rehearsal we prepared to hit the stage. SANY4595I was giddy.

We hit the stage and it was magical. We had a great audience of people from many different parts of our lives who were incredibly appreciative of all that we did. Ash and I had planned some little bits of banter which flowed smoothly (much to the audience’s delight) and our songs and harmonies were totally there. SANY4600SANY460163071_10150288164165125_865410124_15107146_3162775_nI left the stage at the end of the show on a total high. I was so proud of the work I had put out which was reciprocated by the audience’s reaction. The show was followed by a pretty amazing after party and I had a wonderful night mingling with our friends and supporters while dancing and indulging in the Ashleyx2 drink special. SANY4609SANY4607SANY4605I left the party feeling excited, proud, giddy and most of all INSPIRED. The show reiterated for me that I need to be performing and often. So I’m working to make that happen.

In the meantime here’s a video of me singing “Quiet” by Jonathan Reid Gealt at the show.

It’s funny because I originally chose this song just because I loved it; It sat nicely in my voice, the lyrics were great and it fit right into the show. But once we got into rehearsals, the sentiment of the song started to resonate in various areas of my life and by the time I sang it on Thursday it had taken on a whole new meaning. Amazing.

I’m so thankful to have had such an incredible opportunity to perform so beautiful material with one of my favourite people. The show has left me feeling so inspired to perform and put myself out there and for the first time since musical theatre school, I truly feel ready to do so. Thank you to everyone who came and watched… and if you missed it, I’m sure it won’t be the last! I’m excited to see what opportunities the future brings…

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