Ashley Dillard has always been involved in theater.
“Theater is the only thing that has ever made sense to me, and it continues to make me happy,” Dillard said.
A second-year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts, Dillard will play Antigone in IU Theatre’s production of “Antigone” in December.
She completed her undergraduate at Indiana State University with a degree in theater and a minor in dance, but her career in theater began long before that, she said.
“The Wizard of Oz” was the first production she saw, and she fell in love with theater after that.
“I started theater in second grade through school plays and community theater,” Dillard said.
One of Dillard’s main passions for theater derives from the relationship between the audience and the cast.
Each audience responds differently to the performance, she said.
“Theater provides a sense of community between the cast, the creative team and also the audience,” Dillard said.
Dillard also finds passion in performing, especially as it relates to a character’s conflict and resolution, she said.
“Performing on stage is cathartic in a way, especially with a character who experiences a lot of conflict but finds resolution in the end,” Dillard said. “It feels like a release that is super tiring.”
Her experience in theater continues to grow at IU. Beyond being cast as Antigone, Dillard said she was in four plays last year.
Director of “Antigone” Katie Horwitz said Dillard’s ability to take direction sets her apart from other actors.
She is open to trying new things and willing to work with her peers, Horwitz said.
“She is everything you would want in an actor,” Horwitz said. “She comes prepared, ready to work and willing to change.”
Dillard knows how to follow her director’s lead respectfully but also knows when to step up and be a leader for her fellow cast members, Horwitz said.
As Dillard prepares for the opening of “Anitgone,” she said she finds herself working a lot with movement.
She said she must balance her strength along with her emotion in order to put on a successful performance.
“I’m doing my best to mold theater and dancing together,” Dillard said.
Dillard has rehearsal five to six times a week, along with classes for her graduate program. She said she also volunteers to perform in scenes with fellow graduate students for their classes.
“I barely have time to leave the theater building, but theater is why I am here,” Dillard said.
Dillard will graduate from IU in 2017. She plans to continue theater after graduate school, she said.
“The other day I was just researching warm places to live and do theater,” Dillard said.
Horwitz said she sees Dillard going to some place with a smart choice of musical theater after IU.
“She is bubbly, supportive, optimistic — but most of all, she is focused,” Horwitz said.
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