My name is Ashley Kimball, and I will never stop being a child and one way or another, the universe was going to get me to do theater for the rest of my life. Growing up in a theater family in Stockton, I was surrounded by costumes, make up, sets, design, music pretty much every day of my life. With my parents being a dynamic duo producing shows for our local theater and my mothers high school drama program, I was born into the arts.
When it finally came time to decide what college I would attend, my gut immediately told me that Sonoma State was where I would be going. I immediately felt at home in the beautiful Bay Area, and I was excited about what the possibilities of the Green Music Center had to offer. Sonoma State is the place where I figured out that not only did I want to do theater for the rest of my life, but I in fact wanted to be a director. Though Sonoma State does not have a directing program, I had several professors who were very supportive of my endeavors and supported my outside education. I am forever grateful, as it is directly because of this that I found my calling – children’s theater.
I took one class with Judy Navas the same year as I got a one off gig at a dance school in a musical theatre class and I just couldn’t stay away. Professor Navas introduced me to one of the most influential theater workers in my life, Viola Spolin. This amazing woman who is focused so much on improvisation and play through the eyes of a child, really taught me that children’s theater was not only fun, but instructive, necessary for children. It moved from being something that I was just excited about, to something that I was passionate about. I could help children grow up in a secure environment where they felt they could take risks and try new things without fear of being made fun of. I love that about the theater.
I am so thankful for Judy Navas, Scott Horstein, Theo Bridant, Russ Wigglesworth, Peter Crompton, and Tony Bish for providing me the professional framework and support I need it in order to cultivate my own unique experience at Sonoma State. I was able to create a theater education that worked for me and my needs.
I am a proud owner of a children’s theater company that I founded in Sonoma County, called North Bay Theatrics. It has had many iterations over the last decade, but the heart has remained the same. If you are a young person, and want a place to explore the world of theater, I have created a safe space for you. I relish in watching first time actors walk through my doors nervous and scared, and sending them out that door few months later with a smile on their face and confidence that they can stand up and perform in front of people. This will never tire me. I have now taught people as young as two years old all the way to 103 years old. My time at Sonoma state centered me in the Bay Area and helped align me with the people who I am working with today.
It may have been a few years since I graduated, but I feel like I am just getting started with my work. I have an incredible business partner, Vanessa Frost, and together we are making it our absolute priority to be a safe and inclusive space for people of all nationalities colors and gender identifications. Theater has always been a safe space for me, and Vanessa and I are committed to creating a company that is able to provide that for our community. The pandemic has not stopped us, we have just reevaluated, reimagined, and moved forward, because the show must go on baby! We have started offering a variety of online classes, as well as outdoor theater classes (socially distanced and masked of course), and we are preparing for our summer camps that will be coming up before you know it.
Theater is not just a profession for me, it is my life, it is in everything that I do and it is how I am playing a small part in raising the children of the Bay Area. Come play with us some time!
North Bay Theatrics