Ashley Nowak

Ashley Nowak

Performing Arts Instructor


OnStage Studio, Central Catholic High School, Toledo Repertoire Theater, Croswell Opera House, Toledo City Paper


Not only does Ashley Nowak try to push herself to new creative limits, she also teaches and influences others on their own journey. As a Performing Arts Instructor, she runs the Showcase Company, which works with students and organizations around town. She also works as an instructor for OnStage Studios and as a choreographer for the The Toledo Rep, among other things. We caught up with her to talk about her current projects — one of which is Young Frankenstein, which premieres on June 6th at the Toledo Rep — as well as what gives her inspiration.

Tell us more about some of your past projects? 

We recently held a studio cabaret with my Showcase Company and some invited dancers at OnStage Studio. The most rewarding aspect of choreographing is seeing other dancers with their experience, interpretation, and energy breathe life into the ideas you see.It brings tears to my eyes in the best kind of way. Most of the projects, I get involved with — whether writing, dancing, or marketing — focus on the promotion and recognition of the humanity that grounds us.

What current projects are you working on? 

I have a book idea in the beginning stages titled The Dragon Drum and am setting up rehearsals for another OnStage production for our annual Summer Showcase. "Young Frankenstein" at the Toledo Rep (choreography) goes up June 6th. 

What advantages does being in Northwest Ohio/Toledo offer your efforts?

Well, for one thing, encouragement like this. People are reaching out here. I have the great advantage of being connected to family and learning in an environment that is full of collaboration and opportunity. It's nice to feel that there is still so much to uncover and to be on that wavelength where it's kind of scrappy and totally worth it. 

Tell us about one of your greatest successes.

Anytime I can contribute to building someone's confidence in performing or auditioning is a win for me. I love seeing how people change when they feel awesome about what they're doing. Art for a worthy cause. 


Tell us who or what gives you inspiration?

I like the spontaneity of moment to moment. I think Paul Taylor is inspiring because he celebrates the quirks in everyone and then flips around and does something that addresses the worst evils — a very influential mind. I have a great respect for the poetry in Martha Graham's letters and technique. She was the first person I read who said she did not choose to be a dancer, dance chose her, and I admire that belief. She was very passionate and focused. The unexpected is inspiring as well as the dedication to continuously be open to the unexpected. 

Tell us about your background.


Do you have a motto or favorite quote you try to live by?

I have a few. One is by Thomas Merton: "Be who you are (but who)/Be the unthinkable one you do not know". I am not sure who said this but I love the idea that "Process IS performance". My Dad's is the best: "It's not a race. Enjoy it." 


Favorite place for local culture?

The Valentine Theatre. 

Toledo’s “best kept secret” is. . . 

The people. 

My favorite place to chill locally is . . . 

At a round table with family or friends. 

My favorite natural space in the Toledo area is . . .

Walbridge Park, especially when they have outdoor concerts. 

When I’m not working hard, I can always be found at . . . 

A bar where my fiancé is playing. 

If you could change anything about the current landscape for creative, progressive people . . .

It would be to get more of them involved in the school system for the future.

Any exciting collaborations (past or present) you would like to tell us about?

I brought Chopin Opus 69 No.2 to a Showcase rehearsal and with a few black rain coats and bent umbrellas, we created an entire silent film piece in an hour, recorded it, and by some fate, ended on the last bar in unison. 

Name one person (living or deceased) who you would love to collaborate with.

Vaslav Nijinsky. 

Name a CD, book or website you can’t live without.

10 Poems to Set You Free

3 words that best describe me or my work are . . .

Metaphor, fun, burst. 


My biggest vice is . . . 


What’s the last dream you recall having?

I was attempting to make sense out of the situation before I woke up.

The last lyric that moved me was . . . 

 "And when that foghorn blows, I will be comin' home" [Van Morrison, “Into the Mystic]

One movie character I identify with is . . . 

Loretta Ryan from "The Company”.

The best gift I’ve ever received was . . . 

Piano lessons. 

My most inspiring moment was/is . . . 

 The frenzy in creativity.

I want my last meal to be 

Eggs with Charles Hill.


Back to All Creative Natives