Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Naftule.
Ashley, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I’m a writer and theater artist based in Phoenix. I started out doing open mics and variety shows in the downtown area: Conspire, Caffeine Corridor, The Firehouse. I found my voice (and my home) as an artist at Space55, a black box theatre founded by Shawna Franks. I saw a production of Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Roi” there that blew my mind. I started attending shows there regularly until I got the guts to sign-up for a spot on their 7 Minutes in Heaven variety show. I had never harbored any ambitions of performing when I was younger- I was NOT a theater kid by any stretch. But performing at 7 Minutes awoke something in me. I started taking Kim Porter’s playwriting and solo performance workshops, which drew me deeper into the world of theater and live performance.
Since then, I’ve been doing performance art around the Valley (at venues like Lawn Gnome Books, ASU’s The Empty Space, The Trunk Space, and The Alwun House). I wrote and performed a one-man show called “As Above, So Below” for the 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival. I became a Space55 ensemble member and resident playwright; I’m currently the space’s Associate Artistic Director and showrunner for the 7 Minutes in Heaven series. I also act, write short plays, and direct pieces for the theater. I’ve written two full-length plays: 2017’s “Ear” (which has been nominated for four Zoni awards, including “Best Over-All Production”), and “The First Annual Bookburners Convention” (which premieres this September at Space55, running from Sep. 7-30).
I also work as a freelance writer. I’ve had pieces published in Phoenix New Times, Pitchfork, Bandcamp, Vice, Under The Radar, The Outline, Cleveland Review of Books, Vinyl Me Please, JAVA Magazine, Invisible Oranges, Aquarium Drunkard, and The Hard Times. I’ve had fiction published in Four Chambers Press, The Molotov Cocktail, Hypnopomp, Ellipsis, and I’ve also had poetry published by Rinky Dink Press, Ghost City Press, Amethyst Review, L’Ephemere Review, Mojave Heart, and Occulum.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
While I act and also do chalk artwork, my main art is writing: Playwriting, prose, poetry, and journalism. What I’m interested in is rubbing contrasts together like pieces of wood to get a fire going: comedy against humor, tension against relief, cynicism against wonder, concrete reality against supernatural weirdness. I’m drawn to the work of writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Roberto Bolano, H.P. Lovecraft, Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, Thomas Pynchon, Ramsey Dukes, Grant Morrison, Doris Lessing, China Mieville, and Michelle Tea. I love Surrealism, Dada, Oulipo, and the occult. I’m also a huge cinephile, so I tend to think of my work (either on the page or on the stage) in visual terms.
But while I’m drawn to abstract and avant-garde concepts and artwork, I like to my own work accessible. One of my biggest heroes is Luis Bunuel, who was able to create really bizarre and heady films that were also hilarious, sexy, and fun to watch. In terms of messages and what I hope people take from my work: I’d honestly rather not say. As a creator, I’m more interested in what people see in my work than in having a message or moral to convey. It’s why, as a playwright, I rarely act in or direct my own stuff: I’m much more interested in seeing how that work gets distorted and refracted through someone else’s lens.
It’s also why as a performance artist I love doing audience interactive work: Art is way more fascinating to me when it goes off the rails. Our society keeps pushing this idea of control on us, valorizing the idea of the Artist as some uncompromising control freak. I think its way more fun to give up control and let other people play with your toys.
How can artists connect with other artists?
Set up obligations and associations that get you out of the house. I’m fortunate that, as a theater person, I have all sorts of reasons and commitments that get me out the door on a regular basis. If you’re doing an artform that’s a solo venture, find a writer’s/artist group out there. There’s all kind of mutual affinity groups and meetups where you can engage with people, share your work, and get useful feedback.
Also: go to shows. Go to readings. Don’t just go out to share your own stuff: Support others in your community. That’s how you form community, by being in the same room as someone and cheering them on. If you have a chance to act as a support unit- as a curator, an editor, a volunteer, a journal’s reader, even just picking up trash after a gig – take it. Help is always needed in these communities, and the people who stick around and lend a hand get remembered.
And don’t be afraid to ask. If you want to be in a show, ask. If you want to get published in a zine, ask. If you want to get your work up for a certain show, ask. Don’t wait to get cast in a play: Sign up for auditions. Ask to be a part of something you want to be a part of. Don’t wait for people to reach out and invite you to shit. Ask. Be polite about it, be humble, don’t make demands. Just say you’d like to be involved and tell people what you do. Make it a soft sell. Organizers, show runners, curators, publishers are constantly on the lookout for new blood, new faces, new voices. Trying to find people is hard: Just throwing yourself in front of them and saying “Hi” makes their lives easier.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
“The First Annual Bookburners Convention” is playing at Space55 from Sep. 7-30. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm. You can get tickets at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/31495/1535774400000.
For creative writing:
Four Chambers Press published a sci-fi short story of mine as part of an artistic collaboration with Malena Barnhart for their “In Sight II” series. It’s Volume #5 and you can get it here: http://fourchamberspress.com/insight-ii/. I have a micro-chapbook for sale via //https://ghostcitypress.com/2018-summer-microchap-series/epoch-olivetti-sing-all-the-hits.
And I also have a Wu-Tang Clan/Egyptian mythology inspired micro-poetry chapbook that’s available from the fine folks at RInky Dink Press: https://rinkydinkpress.com/basic-instructions-before-leaving-earth-excerpt/. If you’d like to see my online work, here’s a few more links-
- Website: ashleynaftule.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ashleynaftule/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ashley.naftule
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Emperor_norton
Bookburners poster by Andrew Goldfarb
Ear poster by Amy Carpenter.