UNION — Local audiences are within driving distance of a special nationwide one-night-only movie theater showing of a stage play — filmed in London’s West End — which features a Union County native who has found success as a stage actor in both London and New York.
Lockhart native Ashley Robinson lives a life which revolves around theatre, as he explained to Ralph Lawson’s GT Drama class at Union County High School Wednesday morning. Students asked Robinson questions about being a professional actor. The Lockhart High graduate told students he once sat in those same seats in Lawson’s class and that anything is possible.
Several students said they weren’t sure if they wanted to devote their lives to theatre, but they would like to stay involved somehow.
“You don’t have to do it professionally to enjoy it,” Robinson said. “If you are going to do it, you have to commit to it. It’s risky. You have to want it bad enough to starve for it.”
After high school, Robinson attended the acting conservatory at the North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA). GT Drama students were interested in hearing about the unique college experience offered at the university. He explained that he had classes which covered various aspects of acting, some of which included movement, voice, speech, ballet, modern dance and stage combat.
Robinson explained that many NCSA graduates go on to successful careers.
Students also asked Robinson about dealing with confidence issues.
“I spent the whole time (in college) feeling less than the other kids,” Robinson said. “You just have to push through any sort of fear of ‘I’m not good enough.’”
Robinson described a shifting point he experienced while acting in the play “Floyd Collins.”
“I know this may sound crazy, but when I did ‘Floyd Collins’ I actually felt the presence of God through that score and piece — in a way I’ve only heard described by poets,” Robinson said. “It was like suddenly, I wasn’t there. The piece was going through me. It is a really transcendent piece.”
That experience changed Robinson’s perspective.
“I knew after that show that’s how I wanted to approach acting,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever touch that again. I’ll be lucky if I get a tiny fraction of that again on stage.”
Robinson reminded students that, like any art form, theatre is a form of self expression. He mentioned some advice he was given by Mandy Patinkin, an award-winning stage actor who is best known for his tenor singing voice and roles in numerous films such The Princess Bride and TV shows including Homeland and Criminal Minds.
“You have to know what you want to say,” Robinson said. “You have to have an umbrella of choices — things you want to say — as an artist. Mandy Patinkin said that to me.”
Lawson said he was happy for his students to talk with Robinson and see that a career in the arts is within reach.
“It’s always good when former students come back, and current students see what is possible,” Lawson said. “It’s so important. And Ashley answered their questions in a way they could understand.”
Robinson starred in Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along” — from the book by George Furth — under the direction of Maria Friedman. The award-winning production originated at the Menier Chocolate Factory and made it’s way to London’s historic West End. The production received more five-star reviews than any other musical in West End history; picked up the London’s Critic’s Theatre Awards for Best Musical; and was named by Broadway.com’s Matt Wolf as one of the top five London productions in 2012.
One of the London productions was filmed, and will be shown one night only — Wednesday, Oct. 23 — in movie theaters throughout the U.S. The film — presented by NCM Fathom Events, CinemaLive and Digital Theatre — will be shown at Hollywood 20 in Greenville and Simpsonville Stadium 14, as well as Columbiana Grande Stadium 14 and Sandhill Stadium 16 in Columbia.
“It’s wild that I did a play in London and it’s showing in Greenville and Columbia,” Robinson smiled.
Robinson is the son of Steve and Sheila Robinson, and after spending a week with his family in Lockhart, he will head back to New York for more auditions.