Interview with Ashley Berridge, former President of the WAM Board

Ashley Berridge with WAM Board Vice President Tammy Valicenti at the 2015 100 Club Party.
Ashley Berridge with WAM Board Vice President Tammy Valicenti at the 2015 100 Club Party.

Ashley Berridge has stepped down after five years on the WAM Theatre Board, the last three and a half as President. Married to sound designer and WAM Associate Artist Brad Berridge, Ashley and her family live in North Adams, where she works as Director of Special Events and Conference Planning at MCLA. We sat down with her to find out how her time on the WAM Board affected her personally and professionally.

WAM Theatre: What inspired you to get involved with WAM in the beginning?

Ashley Berridge: My husband had worked with Kristen van Ginhoven on a show at Barrington Stage, so I met her socially at that time. I had just read Half the Sky and attended a screening for Nicholas Kristof’s documentary on the book, and someone mentioned that Kristen and Leigh Strimbeck were starting WAM. After I attended A WAM Welcome Kristen and I became friends. I have a background in theatre and dance, and I had been increasingly interested in creating opportunities for oppressed women and girls. Joining the WAM board was exactly what I needed at that time.

WAM: What were your greatest joys, challenges, and surprises as Board President?

Ashley: My greatest joy was always when we presented the big check to the beneficiaries and saw the impact we were making to marginalized women and girls here at home and around the world. When Brad and I got a card in 2014 from Susie Weekes and the housemothers of the Mother of Peace Orphanage in Illovo, South Africa, that really touched me and helped me understand the real impact of our work.

The greatest challenge every year is finding the right beneficiaries and the right plays – finding a match that makes sense. The challenge is in considering the impact and what will be best for WAM. That is a fun challenge. The not-so-fun challenge, which any board of a small non-profit faces, is recruiting board members. This is a small board and very active board, we all do a lot of work. It is hard to find people who have both the passion and the time to give.

My greatest surprise was how much WAM felt like family, with all the people involved being so committed and passionate. I didn’t know all the donors, but when we were in the same room it felt like family. What I initially thought of as a business relationship became a more personal one.

WAM: How do you envision WAM’s future?

Ashley: I am hoping for tremendous growth, of course. I hope that the company continues to be financially stable. We have really laid the foundation for that – we have been in the black every year and yet grown the budget tremendously each year. I would like to see programming expanded, salaries increased, and have WAM produce more than one Mainstage production per year.

WAM: What’s next for you?

Ashley: I foresee continuing to work with organizations that benefit women and girls, either as a volunteer or as an employee. My work with WAM has made me realize how important it is to me to do that kind of work. And of course I look forward to continuing to support WAM as an audience member and donor.

The state of our world can be really depressing and one of the things I love about WAM is that it is a place to escape all that, and a way to engage with the important issues and make a difference. Not every WAM show is deadly serious, we offer plenty of opportunities to laugh at ourselves and our world. WAM is a really happy marriage of important social justice work and the magic of theatre, which I love.  In the world today, it is really important for theatre to play that role and help people bridge that intellectual gap between art and activism.