Ashley Hearon had a dream career. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan with a degree in communication arts after attending The Hudson School in Hoboken, interned for the “Martha Stewart Show,” and was hired full time as a talent coordinator for four years. She then worked for six months as the junior talent booker for the “Wendy Williams Show.”
Hearon left all of this behind to try and rape a pizza man.
Fortunately, for her police record and her seemingly bright future, she will be unsuccessful. She also will not be herself when she tries.
Hearon will moonlight as Julie in Darlene Craviotto’s play “Pizza Man” – which she has also financed and produced herself – later this month at Manhattan’s Theater 54.
“Like my character, I decided to take control and put this together myself; well, minus the illegal violation part.” – Ashley Hearon
So why choose a show featuring women who plan to rape a pizza man?
“It’s all about power in society and in your own life,” Hearon said. “I’m a year into truly pursuing my acting career, and there have been times when I’ve felt powerless, as if I’ve had no control over it.”
She went on to explain that compared to a 9-to-5 job, say, which usually lays out the steps one must take toward career advancement, acting “or any creative endeavor” is far more dependent on the luck of the draw.
“You have to be at the right place, at the right time, look tall enough or short enough or blonde enough,” Hearon said. “Like my character, I decided to take control and put this together myself – well, minus the illegal violation part,” she chuckled.
From the frying pan into the brick oven
Years ago when Hearon was browsing for a good monologue at the Drama Bookshop in New York City, a clerk recommended “Pizza Man.” She instantly loved it for its comedy, silliness, and simultaneous hard-hitting realism. She filed it away in her brain.
Last summer, she quit her job with Wendy Williams and moved in with her parents in Weehawken. “It was time to make up my mind,” she said. “I could either keep helping the talent, or be the talent, so I went with me.”
Last summer she remembered “Pizza Man,” and two months ago she began the process. She found a director, held auditions the next week, cast the show that day, and began rehearsals the following week.
Hearon connected with Craviotto only a month ago, and just recently earned the rights to put the show on. She and Craviotto have emailed back and forth, and Hearon’s boyfriend Matthew J. Smith (the play’s musical coordinator) joked the two would soon become best friends.
“I’m not even sure what she looks like,” Hearon said, “but she’s a lovely woman and funny as all hell.”
One hot night in the early 1980s while Craviotto was living in Los Angeles, she was feeling particularly powerless in her own life. She had always done the right thing and she wanted to be bad, and for whatever reason, the idea of raping someone came to mind.
Craviotto decided to order a pizza and write it out instead. Thus, “Pizza Man” was born.
Desperate measures for desperate times
Hearon plays the role of Alice, a woman who, like Craviotto, feels powerless in her own life. She emerges from a three month marriage to her high school sweetheart and is fired the day the play takes place.
“Nothing has gone Alice’s way, she’s always done the right thing, and it’s never paid off,” Hearon explained. “We can all relate to that somehow. I was always good, I always did the right thing, and I finally said, ‘Screw it. I’m going to do what I need to do.’”
In Alice’s case, what she decides she needs to do to regain control is to rape the pizza man; partly because she’s been mistreated by every man in her life, and partly because in the society she finds to be upside-down, such an act is rarely committed by a woman.
The play also confronts society’s double standard as to how men and women are permitted to express emotions, such as anger. “Why are men allowed to get so angry when women are not?” Hearon posed. “Alice thinks, if I were a man, I could get into fights, but as a woman I’m a [female dog].”
It’s not all about women, however. The last fifteen minutes lend dramatic complexity to the play, Hearon said, and tackle all human emotions within a societal context, regardless of gender.
“If we sell out I would love to do the show again,” Hearon added. “I’m very excited for it to happen, but I will be sad to see it end.”
“Pizza Man” will be performed at Theater 54 at Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th St., in New York City from Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28 at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance on www.smartix.com.
For more information on Hearon and her play, visit www.ashleyhearon.com or 2girls1pizzaman.tumblr.com.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org