Story by Katrice Williams • Photos by Sheila Scott
Ashley Dalsania is a junior at Savannah Christian Preparatory School (SCPS), where she has been a student since third grade. In fact, that is where the talented young lady first discovered her love for the stage. Ashley, alongside the SCPS drama team, recently concluded their production of the popular musical Newsies, which they performed at the Lucas Theatre on March 8th-10th. In her very first leading role, Ashley starred as Katherine Plumber. The musical proved to be Ashley’s favorite production thus far and one that revealed her phenomenal talent. It became very obvious to Ashley where her true passion lies.
“It was the first school-wide musical where I was actually a lead in the show; I had always been ensemble. It was so much fun. This show opened my eyes. I found what I love to do,” she stated.
Prior to auditioning, Ashley figured it would be quite challenging to acquire a part in the performance, as it contained minimal female roles. That said, she was utterly delighted to be chosen for the role of Katherine after diligently preparing for her audition.
All-in-all, Newsies tells the real-life story of the 1899 Newsboy Strike in New York City that is a result of publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer raising newspaper prices at the newsboys’ expense. The strike is led by discontent and daring newsboy Jack Kelly. The newsboys’ cause is aided by the support of a beautiful young reporter, Katherine Plumber, who falls in love with Jack. The entire city cannot help but take notice when Katherine and the newsboys take a stand.
Ashley felt privileged to work alongside all the other brilliantly skilled young thespians who she has come to know and love over the years. She, too, was truly grateful to be a part of the entire production and was especially thrilled to play the role of bubbly, ambitious, kind and funny Katherine Plumber, an exciting and versatile character.
“Newsies was different; we hadn’t really done anything like it before. The storyline was amazing. Once I saw the role of Katherine Plumber, the lead actress, I loved it. We did so well, it was so much fun. We were all prepared; we were all ready, so when we were on stage, we were purely having fun. I loved it so much,” Ashley asserted.
It is of little surprise that the role of Katherine is Ashley’s favorite part of all time, especially with it as her first time being out front and center.
“It was my first time in the spotlight. It was scary at first, but once I figured Katherine out and made her my own character, I felt more confident,” she said.
Interestingly enough, Ashley was initially inspired to take on the Newsies role after being chosen to attend the Schuler Awards in Atlanta last year. It motivated her and made her more confident.
Ashley actually began her dramatic endeavors in 6th grade, acquiring an ensemble role as a mermaid in Peter Pan.
“I was on stage for about a minute, and I loved every second of it. The next year, I auditioned again, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she stated.
Each school year thereafter, Ashley took on ensemble roles in various big productions, including: Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, Cinderella and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, respectively. In addition, Ashley registered for drama class in 7th grade, where she has also done some small productions.
Further, besides Newsies, Ashley enjoyed participating in a couple of plays this year: Into the Woods and Our Place. She was especially proud of her performance in Into the Woods, as the entire cast was challenged with having only four days to practice the very well-known production. Still, they all pulled it off splendidly.
Ashley also competed in a couple of Regional One-Act Play Competitions this year. She performed Into the Woods at Georgia Southern University in Savannah and Our Place for the contest in Macon. Ashley received 2nd place for her Into the Woods performance.
The driven young lady was also chosen to compete in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Literary Competition, where she was asked to do a ten minute oral interpretation for the dramatic monologue Ashes. The story reveals the deepest feelings of a young girl as she emotionally sifts through rubble to find memorable and nostalgic possessions left from her home that had been recently destroyed in a fire. Ashley earned 2nd place for her performance, allowing her to move on to the state competition. At the state contest, she performed Ashes once more and won 1st place. She was ecstatic for the incredible accomplishment.
Ashley is proud to give credit where it is due, as she is immensely thankful for her drama teacher Mrs. Donna Stembridge, who she has been privileged to work closely with for several years now. She appreciates Mrs. Stembridge both as a teacher and as a phenomenal mentor. she feels that Mrs. Stembridge’s tireless commitment and dedication to her students has played a monumental role in her success.
“She’s amazing; she’s at every show. I love her so much. She’s like a second mom,” Ashley insisted.
The bright young lady also knows that one’s own success is often a direct reflection of the team they work with. Hence, Ashley has long been honored to work alongside some of the most talented kids she has ever known. “I’ve been working with the same group of kids. We’ve all moved up in the grades together; we’ve been like a family…a drama family for sure. We’re all friends; every year when the seniors leave, it’s a big deal,” she remarked.
There is definitely an impressive brain behind all that talent. Ashley holds her academics in high regard and is in various organizations. She aspires to attend nursing school after graduating.
“I like helping people and building relationships,” she said. That is not shocking at all, with her mom, Reshma, being a pharmacist and her dad, Sergio, being a doctor. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Reshma was certainly never surprised about her daughter’s future goals.
“She grew up in a doctor’s office,” Reshma laughed and said.
Ashley is appreciative for the opportunity to attend SCPS all these years. She is grateful to all the teachers and staff who have made it possible and feels that she has really learned the value of both hard work and teamwork there. “It’s a good school. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” she said. Ashley’s parents share in that gratitude and enthusiasm.
“It’s a family, and you’re being prepared by all means for college,” Reshma added.
Family means a lot to Ashley, and her own family is tremendously supportive. She proudly admits that her parents are her biggest role models.
“They’re super supportive and involved with everything that I do,” she said. In fact, they have watched every show. Her mom often “helps with costumes” and her dad acts as the “team doctor” on the set. More so, her young brother Veeraj played as a “little Newsie” in the musical.
In her spare time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her friends, though she admits that normally her work with “drama is the center of her world.”
Ashley Dalsania is a talented young lady with a bright, beautiful future in store. The world is certainly her stage.