Aisle Say: Meet Ashley Arnold and Patrick Cullen
When people hear that Patrick and I both work for the living art company, TEN31 Productions, they usually say, “So that’s how you met!” We began dating about eight months after TEN31 hired me, so it stands to reason that that’s how we were introduced, and why we began dating.
In truth, we were formally introduced when our friend and local prolific writer, Kevin Broccoli of Epic Theatre Company, created an adaptation of a French play called La Ronde. He titled his version Kiss, Kiss and created two separate single-gendered casts where each actor played at least two characters. Each version of the show was performed on alternating evenings, and the casts were only introduced briefly during a walk-through of the performance venue. Patrick and I were cast in the male and female versions, respectively, in the exact same roles: the soldier and the husband. Kevin had serendipitously cast us as the other’s counterpart.
Actually, perhaps we should go back even further.
I am a native of South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Although I did not go on to attend URI after graduating high school in 2002, I feel as though I did. I stuck around for a few years, waiting tables at local eateries, attending house parties, going to the beach, and making friends with those who were living on and off campus. Patrick, hailing from Woonsocket, began attending URI in 2000 as a theatre major.
We knew lots of the same people and, therefore, ended up attending many of the same events and parties. Neither of us remembered being introduced to each other, and we had never been connected on Facebook, yet we seemed to know many of the same people. How had we never met?
Not long after we began dating, we found ourselves recollecting memories from one notable New Year’s Eve party back in 2004 (notable because seconds after midnight, some poor girl backed into a lit candle and her hair briefly went up in flames… a difficult thing for a room full of party-goers to forget). It was the days of 35mm cameras, and I had been carrying around a Nikon the entire evening. I said to him, “I took a great group picture that night, and there’s a bunch of people in it I don’t know… but you’re not in it. I would recognize you.”
Patrick is right in front.
Photo taken by a 19-year-old Ashley Arnold
Moving back into more present day: even when TEN31 Productions hired me in spring 2012, Patrick and I didn’t work together right away. Our very first job together was for a very unusual Faneuil Hall booking for New Year’s Day of 2013. I was living back with family down in South Kingstown, and asked if he knew of anywhere I could stay in the northern RI area the night before, since I had to be in Boston two days in a row and wanted to avoid copious amounts of driving.
He invited me to come along to his friend’s party for New Year’s Eve, saying I could stay at his apartment for the night (don’t worry, he set up a “crash pad” for himself in his living room). At the party, we exchanged a very romantic high five at midnight, then went back to his apartment and talked into the night. About three hours later, Patrick offered me a true New Year’s kiss. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off the year.
Not only did working together in TEN31 become an integral part of our relationship, but we shared the stage twice soon after becoming a couple: once in Speed The Plow with Counter-Productions Theatre Company, and again in This Might Be It with Epic Theatre Company.
Speed The Plow, photo by Bert Silverberg and This Might Be It, photo by Geoff White
TEN31’s Halloween project with the Providence Public Library, Mysterium, saw us embodying the mortal sin Lust. We’ve also debuted the live-action Alice in Wonderland characters Alice and the Mad Hatter, and have been able to continue performing as TEN31’s classic statue characters at Waterfire and many other public and private events.
I’m not always on the right, I swear
As you may have expected, TEN31 was part of Patrick’s proposal. On Valentine’s day in 2015, Patrick walked me through a very snowy downtown Providence towards Parkside, where he had made arrangements with our friend Adam (the restaurant manager) for a dinner reservation. As we passed the WWI war monument where TEN31 performs at every Waterfire, Patrick said, “Is that… is that a statue on the monument?” Indeed, it was.
A stoic white marble statue, with snow falling around her, was poised on the front of the monument. She patiently waited for me to approach before handing me a bright orange scroll, a color which is strictly reserved for riddles. I opened the paper, which revealed the riddle: “What did the mermaid say when the gargoyle proposed?” For anyone who is unaware, my favorite character to perform is the mermaid. Patrick’s is the gargoyle.
(Just in case I didn’t know what to say, the answer of “YES!” was written backwards on the bottom of the scroll.)
I turned around, and gasped as I found Patrick on his knee and a ring box in his hand. I remember saying yes. I remember hugging our friend Tara, who had graciously stood out in the snow and cold in all of that makeup, waiting for us to arrive. I remember seeing Tara’s boyfriend (now fiancé), Justin, run out from nowhere and begin snapping pictures to document the moment. Thank you, Justin!
Photos by Justin Blau
Our journey may not be the most typical, but it is uniquely ours and certainly a fun story. We will be getting married on our four-year anniversary: New Year’s Eve, 2016 entering into 2017. It will hopefully be, as Patrick’s kiss was four years’ prior, the perfect entry into the year. As it happens, the past year has not been the best for me, and wedding planning has been the least of my concerns. Patrick has acted as a pillar of strength and support, and I hope to find further solace in the beauty and positivity of our relationship and union over the next several months, leading up to our wedding.
Thank you for following along on this countdown with us, to New Year’s Eve and our wedding! On that date, I’ll be reminding myself to leave the bad from the previous year behind and take only the good along with us.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne
Photo by Eve Marie Webster
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