May 2021 Member Spotlight – Ashley Brooks

Ashley Brooks is from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She graduated with a degree in Theatre from Florida State University, after which she came to Naples to pursue a career at Gulfshore Playhouse. She is passionate about culture, the arts, and about continuing to grow the theatre community in Naples. In her spare time, she likes outdoor activities, spending time with her fiancé and pets, and baking.

YP: Did you grow up in Naples?

AB: I am not originally from Naples, but I have always been a Florida resident. I was born and raised in sunny Jax Beach and from there attended Florida State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Theatre.

YP: What was it like finding a job after having majored in Theatre?

AB: Steady jobs in this industry can be few and far between. I was lucky enough to land a job after graduation as Kristen Coury’s Assistant, who is the shining Producing Artistic Director and CEO at Gulfshore Playhouse here in Naples, and I made the move to the beautiful Gulf Coast. Since then, I have been promoted to the Patron Services Manager role I am in today.

YP: What have you learned from assisting the CEO of Gulfshore Playhouse?

AB: Being the CEO’s assistant, I was able to experience the ins and outs of how the business is run first hand.

YP: And how about from the Patron Services Manager position?

AB: From switching to a more business-oriented role, I have learned how to provide concierge-level customer service with some of the most established citizens of Naples. It is through constantly engaging with them and learning that I am now more eager than ever to thrive and become a successful businesswoman.

YP: Tell us a little bit about the dedication and hard work you’ve put into your role as Patron Services Manager.

AB: Whether it is on the weekends, evenings, early mornings, etc. I am ready and available to pick up the phone and handle our patrons needs. If it can benefit our non-profit and help it thrive as an artistic beacon, then I am ecstatic to do so.

YP: As we all know, the pandemic put a stop to many large gatherings. How was the theatre industry and Gulfshore Playhouse affected?

AB: It is evident that both Broadway and regional theatres alike have been shaken this past year. I am blessed to have been part of a company that never faltered and has always pushed forward, and for that reason it is still standing today (and better than ever). Through constant work and creative, safe solutions, as well as the generous support of the Naples Community, we were able to produce two of only a handful of professional productions in the entire country during the pandemic.

YP: How do you feel about being part of keeping culture and the arts alive in Naples?

AB: There were some points over this past year where I feel like I was on the phone with our patrons 24/7, for months on end. If this effort was even a fraction of what helped keep us alive, then I believe I’ve done my part and that alone keeps me smiling, because humans need the arts. A wise woman once told me, “Theatre changes the world” (Kristen Coury), I’m just happy to be along for the ride.

YP: What was the response like to Gulfshore Playhouse remaining active?

AB: The support and outreach from the community is one of the many reasons why Gulfshore Playhouse is able to still provide an artistic outlet in Southwest Florida.

YP: What does the future hold for Gulfshore Playhouse?

AB: I confidently believe in Gulfshore Playhouse, which I am lucky enough to be a part of, and we are well on our way to breaking ground for our new, state-of-the-art theatre and education center that will be a pillar of the cultural community for generations to come. Who knows, maybe one day I will be running the whole production!

YP: Speaking of which, what’s your future vision for yourself in the theater business?

AB: I very much hope to become a successful girl boss. Now, what my hopeful trajectory looks like, I am not quite sure just yet. But, I do know that I am hungry for growth and am not afraid to make it known. I am still learning of ways to make an impact in our community, and am hopeful that by joining Young Professionals of Naples, I can surround myself with more like-minded people to move in a positive direction.

YP: What advice do you have for others looking to make a career in theater, or really anything?

AB: Some of the best advice that I could give is to always think long term. How does my decision today impact my life five years from now? It is forward thinking that I believe will continue to open doors and drive success in my life.

YP: Any other fun facts we should know about you?

AB: When I am not working or attending events at Gulfshore Playhouse, you can find me paddling in the Imperial River, catching a sunset at the beach with my lovely fiancé, or cuddling with my fur children. Part time amateur baker thanks to The Great British Baking Show.