Broadway Star Ashley Park Talks “Mean Girls,” Auditions and Burnout

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Rowan University students learned about the adventures of being a Broadway star in a virtual Q&A session with actress Ashley Park, hosted by the Student University Programmers last Friday, March 19.

Park – known for her roles in Broadway’s “Mean Girls: The Musical” and Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” – was streaming from Dublin, Ireland, for the event, where she’s had to travel for her role in the upcoming romantic comedy “Mr. Malcolm’s List.” She went on to discuss her prior experiences traveling for work, as well as how she feels about it.

“I’ve found such a love for traveling,” Park said. “But I would never go to another country now unless I could really spend at least two weeks there, because I really like to be there and really understand it.”

Park described her early experience traveling across Europe as “an upheaval,” having to find new coffee and juice shops in every city. The four months that she spent in Paris, France, led to her love for traveling and she recommended that others to do it too.

“Travel is so important, in terms of opening up your perspective,” Park said. “That’s why theatre and film is important. For people who don’t have access to that [travel], they’re able to go to a different place and see different cultures [through film and theatre].”

Park discussed her experience performing in the musical “Mean Girls,” revealing that she was the last cast member hired. During her first day of rehearsals, she was shown the full choreography that had already been completed for the show, leaving Park feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. Between this and performing in another show at the time, Park described herself as being “like a total zombie,” and had only gotten through it because of the help from other cast members.

Park also revealed that the show changed extensively during this time.

“I think there was a week in D.C. where every single day there was a different beginning of the show,” she said. “Like at one point the show started with a big fight, and then they did a flashback, and then there was a big puppet in the beginning. We just tried everything.”

As time went on in production and Park learned more about her character, she began to make suggestions for things that should be added or cut. She praised the team for being collaborative, explaining that this allows you to have a voice when developing a new show.

Park also revealed one of her pre-show rituals that allows her to connect with fellow cast members. She has several small, inspirational cards with words like “light” and “love” on them, and she has each cast member pick one out.  According to Park, this can help the cast with motivation, whether it’s something that their character needs or something that will help in their own life. It also allows her to check in with everyone, providing positive interaction before the show.

Park then discussed the issue of burnout and her experience working through it. She explained that she deals with it by knowing herself and what’s meaningful to her, which leads her to take on projects that surround her with a good team, as well as doing panels — like the one at Rowan University — that allow her to feel fulfilled and invigorated.

“You have to really understand yourself and know what is meaningful to you,” Park said. “For me, I’m not burned out, because the stuff I say yes to is with people that I [expletive] adore and people I respect, and who see me and are willing to help me grow.”

She added that everything we do is a learning experience. Whether it’s a good or bad experience, if you are able to learn and grow from it, you shouldn’t experience burnout. Park also explained that she does not like the advice people often give that the theater industry is hard to break into, so you shouldn’t try. She emphasized that if you have a passion for it, you should continue working toward it.

“If you love doing this, then you should do it,” Park said. “As soon as you don’t love it anymore, and you’re not passionate about it, you don’t have to.”

Toward the end of the session, Park gave advice for those interested in going to auditions.  She explained that when you audition, they are hoping that you’re the one who will get the role. Knowing this allows much more freedom than if you were to go into an audition with the mindset that they’re going to say no, and you’re going to have to convince them otherwise. According to Park, you should do things your own way, rather than attempting to mimic others.

“You’re the only person who can get in your own way,” she said.

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