Alumni network pays dividends for actress Ashley Archambeau Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Ashley Archambeau (COPA 2009) on a visit to Pittsburgh's South Side in December 2010. Photo by Martha Rial.
"Ashley has that magical thing called 'charisma,'" says Lynn Fero (COPA 1981) of Ashley Archambeau (COPA 2009).
Fero, a CBS television distribution executive, recently helped to arrange a movie audition for the young alumna, and less than a week later Archambeau was on her way to Portugal to play a lead role in the independent film Femena.
The story provides a lesson in the importance of networking, both say.
Fero became reacquainted with Archambeau at an alumni dinner held after the 2010 Showcase in Los Angeles, when the young actress made a point of reconnecting. Just days later, when Fero's husband, director and writer Matt Cimber, said he needed to replace the lead actress in his new film, Fero immediately thought of Archambeau.
"I hadn't seen Ashley perform, but I knew the training she received at Point Park and I knew the quality of the talent at the University," says Fero. "Add in her charisma, and I sensed that she might be able to carry the film."
Femena tells the story of a young woman who faces questions of love and loss while dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. Cimber wrote the screenplay based on the novel Letter to a Child Never Born, by (now deceased) Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci.
Cimber auditioned Archambeau for the lead (via Skype), checked out her references (including Point Park faculty), and arranged for her to meet the film's producers in Los Angeles. Pleased with the results, the director decided he was "willing to roll the dice" on Archambeau, in part because of Fero's recommendation and his knowledge of the extensive training at the Conservatory of Performing Arts.
Associate Professor Zeva Barzell says Archambeau made the most of her time at Point Park. Her "zest for life" and "strong work ethic" was evident from her earliest days on campus, says Barzell.
While earning a bachelor's degree in musical theater, Archambeau served as assistant director for Playhouse Jr.'s production of Alice in Wonderland and appeared in Conservatory Theatre Company's production of Ragtime, among a variety of other roles on stage and behind the scenes. She also worked at Pittsburgh's City Theatre. On campus, she helped found an experimental theater group to enable students to explore their own projects.
The actress credits Barzell, and theater department chair John Shepard, with helping her grow in all aspects of her life. "They inspired me to be a better artist and a better person," says Archambeau.
"Students earn relationships with coaches and find mentors here," says Barzell. "It's part of their Point Park training. We encourage them to share their victories and career challenges throughout their lives."
Archambeau says she considered leaving acting to pursue stage directing, but Barzell encouraged her to live in the moment and see what happened. "She often told us to 'be in the struggle because beautiful things will result from the work,'" Archambeau remembers.
Her professor was right. As a result of her performance in Point Park's 2009 L.A. Showcase, Archambeau secured an agent and began to pursue multiple opportunities.
The actress says she's learned that you should "try to do it all," so in addition to auditioning and participating in workshops, she's tried her hand at stand-up comedy, Vaudeville burlesque and creat- ing a cabaret. She's danced with John Quale (better known as Prince Poppycock of America's Got Talent television fame), and had a recurring role in Get Thee Behind Me, for Time Warner On Demand. And she recently shot a trailer for City of the Dead, a pilot being pitched to Showtime.
In 2011 the Ohio native will return to the Portimao region of Portugal to complete filming of Femena, which also features well-known Brazilian actress Sonia Braga, a Golden Globe nominee for such films as Kiss of the Spider Woman. Archambeau hopes that Femena will have a screening in Pittsburgh in 2012.
In addition to being a successful actor and director, Archambeau says that one day she wants to have her own production company. And she wants to become a philanthropist.
According to Fero, there's no doubt this young alum is going places.
Text by Colleen Derda
Photo by Martha Rial
This article appeared in The Point, which is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University.