To make life easier
(or at least to make
my life easier) please
use this form when you
want to send something.
Just to get you started, I’ve papered the house and asked a few people to write something:
Miss El Centro
Howard Ashman was an amazing man and an amazing artist. He cared so much for his actors and his characters alike. I worked with Howard for 2 years on SMILE, a true labor of love. My favorite recollection of the final audition for the workshop was Howard and his colleagues running it like it was an actual beauty pageant...we had to show our special talents and actually face a panel of judges asking us questions about how we wanted to change the world...it lasted all day and was so much fun. He cast me as the understudy for Robin and in the ensemble as Patti Lynn Byrd, Miss El Centro. I worked on the workshop and the Broadway show.
Howard was a true believer in the power of theatre and a fierce believer in his actors. I loved and admired him so much. He went out of his way to let you know how much he cared about you and also how much respect he had for you as an artist. For the opening of the workshop he gave me a Disneyland pencil case with this note enclosed: “Mana- What a special gifted, truly remarkable person you are. Your unselfishness, professionalism, and personal sparkle have been such a key element in the chemistry of this thing. I really do love you very much + whatever the outcome, you’re a big part of my positive feelings about this whole thing. Let’s do it again, OK? Love Howard.” To a young actor, that note went a long way in helping me believe in myself and my worth as an artist for years to come.
On New Years Eve 1986, with a blizzard blowing, I got the call to go on for Anne Bobby (Robin). I had never had any understudy rehearsal as the show kept posting its closing notice. Howard drove in the snowstorm from Pennsylvania to Times Square to see me and support me. I have never been so touched. His behavior as a human being proved to me over and over that Howard Ashman was the real deal inside and out. Twenty-five years later, he still inspires me.
Submitted by Mana Allen
Assistant To The Director
When I was dating Howard in high school, he was very generous in allowing me to participate in several productions he wrote and directed. These were all musicals and I couldn't carry a tune to save my life. In fact, he cryptically and diplomatically told me that I sang "in the key of a virgin", though to this day I have no clue what that means. But I was well aware of my vocal shortcomings. So, if there were any non-singing roles, he would award me one of those or give me the job of assistant to the director. A little wild at the time, whenever I overbounded my steps (as Stan Laurel would say), he gently reminded me that I was not assistant director, but assistant TO the director. He always managed to rein me in with humor.
When prom time came, we were not permitted to go - for dress code violations and because his hair was too long (half an inch past the collar of his shirt). So, instead, we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant (Mee Jun Lo's, I think) and to see the movie "I Am Curious - Yellow". We had such a great time and I never regretted missing the prom.
Some of my favorite moments, throughout high school, were of sitting in Howard's bedroom while he read me plays he had written and did perfect impressions of The Supremes. I remember being very impressed that, at the age of 14, he was copyrighting his work. I chuckled when I saw his love of The Supremes echoed in Little Shop of Horrors.
I also recall the Ashman household as a warm, inviting place to spend time, with Shirley singing as she cooked dinner, and lots of laughter.
Submitted by Delin Colon
A Smile on Broadway
I can honestly say this is a picture of Howard Ashman as you’ve never seen him before. Though smiling gamely, Howard is kneeling precariously on the shoulders of puppeteer Marty Robinson (who created the original Audrey II for Little Shop).
It was the summer of 1986. The musical Smile, which Howard not only wrote book and lyrics for, but also directed, was coming to Broadway and anticipation was running high. Sixty Minutes had been following Howard, Marvin Hamlisch and the entire cast through workshop, out-of-town tryouts in Baltimore, and pre-opening rehearsals.
I was in the process of shooting the large Smile Poster on Broadway, when none other than my brother-in-law, Howard, should appear. He and Marty were headed toward the Lunt-Fontanne.
I decided I would one-up the CBS team by getting a shot of Howard with the Smile poster as backdrop. CBS had no doubt passed on the opportunity, given the impossible angle involved. I am made of sterner stuff. The entire setup, once the traffic had been kind enough to pause for us, took no more than five or six minutes. I like to think the results speak for themselves.
Wouldn’t be much of a site if you couldn’t join in. So please feel free to write, send a photo, share a memory, vent about the state of American theater or all of the above.
Submitted by Ron Gillespie
The Snow Queen
A new children’s theatre musical written by a graduate student. So? There were auditions posted practically weekly for graduate students’ productions. But this wasn’t any run-of-the-mill graduate student. This was Howard Ashman’s Playwriting & Directing Master’s thesis production. And we all wanted to be in it desperately.
Somewhere out there were Howard’s latest, soon-to-be legendary, leading ladies waiting to play the key female roles—Gerta and the Snow Queen. It would not be his star from The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. Although Kim Waters would have made a commanding Snow Queen, she couldn’t meet the musical demands of the role. So, whoever Howard cast, they were going to be two of the luckiest, most envied divas in all of IU’s Theatre Department
Howard treated his leading ladies with a respect, reverence, and admiration that surpassed any actresses’ expectations. It never felt like work with Howard. It was an ongoing melodrama filled with passion, desperation, empathy, and love. There were never any wires, but Howard’s leading ladies always soared to great heights with performances that came from deep within. And the joy that came withtaking flight in such amazing, loving, and talented hands was a feeling we would all remember and cherish forever.
Submitted by Nancy Parent