This week Playbill catches up with Ashley Pérez Flanagan, who stars in the world premiere of the new rock musical The Tattooed Lady. It begins previews October 29 and runs until November 20 at Philadelphia Theatre Company. It is penned by Obie-winning playwright Erin Courtney (Map of Virtue) and Lortel winner Max Vernon (KPOP, The View Upstairs), and developed and directed by Drama League winner Ellie Heyman (Space Dogs).
The new musical casts Broadway favorite Jackie Hoffman (The Addams Family, Fiddler on the Roof) as Ida/Imagena Gibson, a grandma and model citizen happily concealing her shocking past. Then out of the blue, a parade of tattooed ladies hijacks her living room to stage an otherworldly intervention.
Flanagan plays the younger version of Imagena. She has been seen on Broadway in Freestyle Love Supreme and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. She has also starred Off-Broadway in Oratorio for Living Things, In the Green, The Lucky Ones, Hadestown, and In Love With Jobim. Flanagan is also a member of the band Moondrunk.
What is your typical day like now?
Currently, my typical day begins with coffee and greeting my cat, Marty. Then I run to the subway to travel to Ripley Grier for rehearsal for The Tattooed Lady, where I get to play a younger version of Jackie Hoffman! The day usually ends in a stroll through Prospect Park to decompress, enjoy beautiful fall in New York, and listen to some tunes. I just arrived in Philly to begin our tech and run for The Tattooed Lady, so now my days will consist of new Philadelphian adventures.
How did you become involved with The Tattooed Lady? Tell me a bit about the character you are playing.
Over the years, Max [Vernon] has reached out to me about concerts and readings of The Tattooed Lady, and the timing has never worked out. I remember reading the summary of the show and telling my agents that it was definitely something I wanted to be a part of in the future, and here I am!
I love that it is a story centered around badass, fearless women, who paved their own way through a patriarchal culture. Imagena is a young, curious, and vibrant woman with a lust for adventure, freedom, and love. She is on a journey to find out who is she is and where she belongs in the world. Through love and radical self-acceptance, she finds her community and her purpose.
Are there any parts of your role or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
Yes! 100% yes. This is a story about female-identifying people having agency over their own bodies and carving their own path through a society that doesn’t celebrate or support them. In the musical, we also address intense racial conflict and discrimination against minorities. Unfortunately, it is eerily similar to the times we are living through with women’s rights being taken away as well as racial injustice. It serves as a reminder for us to come together to protect our right to have agency over own bodies, and the rights of the underserved and BIPOC communities.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I think it’s important for people to be aware of who they are, where they come from, and how they show up in the world — specifically in a creative space. I think most of us could use greater perspective and having challenging conversations to support the theatre that we need today. We need to hear the stories we haven’t heard, the voices who haven’t had the opportunity to be heard and seen. I hope that people will support new BIPOC writers, designers, and performers. In addition, I think that we need to consider making theatre more accessible to the masses, not just for people who can afford it. Community outreach and engagement will help us use art, and specifically theatre, as a catalyst for evolution and aid in creating diverse communities.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years that you didn't already know?
I gained clarity and a deeper sense of who I am and what and who is important to me. It reinforced my love and need for time in nature, being with people that I love, and acknowledging and embracing how strong my body is and how patient I can be.
When you look back at your Broadway performances, is there any one production or performance that stands out as the most memorable?
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 stands out because it was my Broadway debut and will therefore always hold a special place in my heart. It opened my eyes to what theatre can be. It was thoroughly unique, exciting, and pushed boundaries in a multitude of ways. I worked with some of the most multi-talented unicorn performers, creatives, artistic collaborators, and met lifelong friends through Comet. I still miss my amazing red tassel skirt! We ate pierogies, danced, sat on audience members’ laps, and twirled with abandon. I will always be grateful for this show.
Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
I do! [After] The Tattooed Lady, I will be doing a world premiere of a musical in early 2023.