The Play That Changed My Life: Justine A. Pascual
Editors Note: “The Play that Changed My Life” series came from an idea Patrick White developed in collaboration with Nippertown, InPlay, and the local theater community to share memories of life altering theater experiences.
The Play That Sparked Joy for Acting
Contributed by Justine A. Pascual
Just so we’re clear, this is not a retelling of my entire acting career from start to finish. (If we’re getting technical, I think it started around 2003 when I was in elementary school with a program called “Broadway Kids”, to my recent experience stage managing Ben Butler in January 2020). Rather, I want to share a brief snapshot of experience that the home organization guru Marie Kondo would describe as something that sparks joy. Radium Girls by D. W. Gregory did just that.
The spring of 2015 marked the end of my sophomore year at SUNY Adirondack, and I had already performed in several college productions but never as a main character. Usually, I found myself cast as a side character; for example, I originated the role of Waiter’s Girlfriend in the student play Dishing for Love by Ryan Robinson. So when I had the opportunity to audition for the role of Katherine Schaub in Radium Girls, I hopped on that bandwagon immediately as to “not throw away my shot.”
Auditions were stressful, as all auditions were and are. But I was patient with myself throughout the audition process and listened to the director when she gave me notes to try something new. Major shout out to the director herself (and queen!), Johnna Maiorella. Before even knowing if I would be cast or not, Johnna made the audition process itself an enriching experience in regards to what I could learn while being an actor.
Thus, I got cast as Katherine Schaub, one of the four main Radium Girls. This was finally my “big break” as a college theater star! This role taught me about resilience, as well as both strength in kindness and strength in the friendships that you build. She also taught me to take risks and, that when it comes to acting, emotion is everything – a sentiment I believe she’d share with me.
Radium Girls was also challenging because at the time the show was put together, the small theater program of SUNY Adirondack did not have a large budget. This conflicted with the prop-heavy nature of the play, so we had to make do with what we had! Everyone involved worked hard to put the show together; for me, I thought the costume changes were the most fun. I had a quick change from Katherine to a scientist, and then another quick change to a completely different character. This was a play which was written for actors to portray multiple characters, which was new for me.
I enjoyed the entire progress of putting Radium Girls together, from the relationships I formed to what I learned as an actor and person. I hadn’t seen another production of the play until this past year, when Skidmore College produced it. It brought back happy memories for me, especially to remember the play that sparked joy as I continue to navigate this world of theater.