The Lead On, Creatively series highlights TCU College of Fine Arts alumni, students and faculty who are putting their passion into practice.
We spoke to Ashley Parks ’21 about her successful career as a playwright and advice to young theatre artists. Her first play, “Windswept,” was recently published by Next Stage Press, a publisher promoting emerging artists. The play follows siblings Bianca and Evan as they are left with unraveling secrets after a tragedy.
During her senior year, Parks enrolled in the Department of Theatre’s playwriting class with Professor Thomas Walsh, Ph.D. A requirement to pass the course was to complete and submit a play to a theatre, publisher, or festival.
The inspiration for “Windswept” came from a writing prompt Walsh passed out during the first week of class. Students had free rein to take the play in any direction they wanted, regardless of whether they used the prompt as a starting point or not.
“I used a slightly reimagined version of the prompt to get started with ‘Windswept,’” said Parks. “I was also really into true crime, so it definitely influenced the story’s direction.”
Parks sent the finished play to Next Stage Press, a publisher she learned about from Chantel Carlson, Ph.D., her creative writing instructor.
Parks is now working on new pieces and is co-writing another play with a friend in New York City. “We meet weekly to write and discuss our story,” Parks said. “We had a table read of our first draft in March, which was very surreal.”
A Deep Dive with Ashley Parks
Why did you choose to attend TCU?
I chose TCU because it was close to my family in Oklahoma City and for its community. That sense of community only compounded tenfold upon deciding to pursue a degree in theatre and writing. I loved the opportunity this path gave me to pursue both of my passions. The broader TCU community is unmatched, but the smaller internal communities made my experience truly memorable.
What was your favorite experience at TCU?
One of my favorite experiences and greatest accomplishments at TCU was being a founding member of Theatre TCU Black Excellence. This group of passionate and fearless artists were the first to perform my original poetry onstage and helped show me that my writing was good enough be performed. It’s this community that made my college career the most special.
What advice would you give to other students pursuing a career in theatre?
Run your own race. Worrying too much about what others are doing will take away from the time to pursue your projects and passions. There’s room for everyone, and your time will come. Also, don’t be afraid to create space for your own work.
What’s next for you?
I’m gearing up to start applying to Master of Fine Arts Playwriting programs! My co-writer and I hope to have a staged reading of the latest draft of our new play soon.