by Anna Wehr
You may know Ashley Park from the smash hit Mean Girls or the revival of The King and I. Her role as Gretchen Weiners alone earned her seven award nominations. Many people, however, don’t know Park’s Broadway journey began in the ensemble of Mamma Mia!
She recounts of her time in Kalokairi island with joy. She said she was “dropped into a family environment,” where it was safe to learn and have fun. Not only did she have the opportunity to dance on stage with the ensemble, one of her favorite things, but she was able to let loose backstage and start building her Broadway community. She stated, “take the work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously at all.”
Park also learned many important life lessons as part of the company, and especially in the ensemble woman’s dressing room. The ensemble women would share trends with each other such as pilates or brown butter scrub. At one point coconut oil was the hot topic. Park observed the women as they participated in coconut oil pulling, which is essentially rinsing your mouth with the oil, but Park misinterpreted the activity and thought they were eating it. She followed suit and learned that wasn’t her best decision and called out mid-show for the first time.
One of her fondest memories, however, of working on Mamma Mia was interacting with Judy McLane. She was touched by McLane’s commitment to check-in with each cast and crew member before every performance. McLane would have everyone pick a card with a word on it that would be their purpose for that specific performance.
This further inspired Park to spend time connecting with her fellow cast and crew members before each show. Ever since Mamma Mia she’s utilized cards just like McLane. Park desires to interact with each performer and crew member before stepping on the stage. She shared this connection point is what Broadway is all about. To Park Broadway is about the people and the relationships.
Want to learn more about Ashley Park’s experience in Mamma Mia? Listen to her on our recent podcast #156 My First Time.