By RACHEL PONDER, APG NewsNovember 24, 2009
An Aberdeen Proving Ground noncommissioned officer from the U.S. Army Materiel Command Band is currently a lead in the Havre de Grace community theater production of the rock musical "Rent."
Sergeant Ashley Sangret, who plays the French horn for the AMC Band, is currently playing the role of Joanne Jefferson, a lawyer who is the partner of Maureen Johnson, a performance artist.
"Joanne is a really funny character, and has some anger issues," Sangret said. "She is fun to play, and I am excited that I got the opportunity to play her."
Sangret acted in several plays and musicals in middle school and high school in her hometown of Detroit, Mich., and studied at Eastern Michigan University's summer program for dance and voice before joining the Army.
Sangret said that performing has always been a creative outlet for her.
"I came from a rough neighborhood but being involved in music and theater gave me something to look forward to and gave me positive influences," she said. "I am very grateful that I got involved in band and theater when I was in school, it has made me who I am today."
Past productions include "School House Rock Live!," "Leader of the Pack," "The Pajama Game," "Godspell," and "Little Shop of Horrors."
Sangret, who joined the Army when she was 17, said that she appreciates that she has had an opportunity to be in an Army band.
"For students who display talent in their high school band, I highly recommend that they consider looking into joining an Army band," she said.
She added that during her military career she has also been able to sing with the band, which has helped her prepare for her role in "Rent."
Sangret sang with the "2ID Shockwave Show Band," part of the 2nd Infantry Division Band, while she was stationed in Korea and won South Korea's northern division of Military Idol. Sangret was promoted to E5 while stationed in Korea during her first duty assignment, with just 18 months in the Army.
After Korea she went to Jump School at Fort Benning, Ga., and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. She then deployed to Afghanistan and performed with the 82nd Airborne Division Show Band, called "Level 82."
"I was their feature [or lead] female vocalist, performing a wide variety of music and was always told I had great energy and earned the nickname, 'Tweak,' from the show 'South Park,'" Sangret said. "I also sang with the Jazz Combo and an acoustic duo, performed all across Afghanistan and for the big Fourth of July concert on Fort Bragg."
At APG, Sangret has sung on tour, for Fourth of July concerts, and will be singing for an upcoming holiday concert.
"I am not a feature vocalist since my horn playing is the priority here at APG," she said. "Vocalists, unless in a special band, are not considered their own job, so it's an additional duty. I also have run sound, worked in the operations shop coordinating gigs and work as an administrative NCO."
Sangret has trained Soldiers as a combatives instructor for band units and has also taught a Special Population Physical Training program.
"I have not used my vocals to teach, just to motivate and inspire," she said. "I have helped other vocalists read music if they can't though, and have also helped the group by printing charts and lyrics and doing show prep and set up."
Sangret, who has been in the Army since September 2004, said that she thinks that the Year of the NCO is a great honor.
"I have worked with a number of great NCOs, and have been motivated to be better by their leadership," she said.
"I am constantly striving to be the best NCO I can be. This year is just a reminder of how amazing the Army is and how much it has done for me and for others who I know."
"Rent" is Sangret's first musical that she has acted in since joining the Army.
"I wanted to act in a play or musical, and was happy to hear that the community theater of Havre de Grace was doing a production of "Rent,"" she said. "It is one of my favorite musicals."
Sangret credits organization to her ability to juggle her Army career and her love of theater.
"I always have a back-up plan," she said.
Sangret said that the location of Tidewater Players, the community theater of Havre de Grace, has been very convenient for the frequent rehearsals that she and the other cast members had before the show started.
Sangret added that she is also currently taking physicians assistant courses, which she is planning to use for her career after she leaves the Army.
"Being a physician's assistant is a back-up plan," she said. "I would ultimately like to be an actress on Broadway."
"Rent" is showing on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. now until Dec. 13. All seats are $15. For tickets visit www.tidewaterplayers.com, or call 410-939-5046.
Caution: "Rent" contains adult language and themes and may not be suitable for children under 14. The Tidewater Players is located on 121 N. Union Avenue, next to the volunteer fire department.
"Rent" is Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical, and is one of the longest running shows on Broadway. "Rent" is about the lives of poor young artists who are trying to survive the harsh reality of living or loving someone with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. "Rent" takes place in the thriving days of bohemian Alphabet City, part of New York City's Lower East Side.
According to www.rentmusical.net, Larson took inspiration from Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme which premiered in 1896, 100 years before Rent's premiere. Many of the characters in "Rent" are closely related to characters in La Boheme.
"Rent" has received many accolades such as the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama, Tony Award for Best Musical, Tony Award for Best Book, Tony Award for Best Score, Drama Desk for Outstanding Book and Drama Desk's Outstanding Musical.
(Editor's note: some background information from this article was taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_(musical).)