by Nathan Lerner
Chestnut Hill resident, Pascale Smith, has emerged as quite the phenom. It was recently announced that the 17-year old won first place in the Philadelphia Young Playwrights competition for her original composition, “Timeline.” Now, the intrepid, talented adolescent is poised to take on another challenge. She will making her directorial debut at the Philly Fringe, helming another play, “BASH.”
Pascale had already accrued an extensive background in acting. The summer before she was readying for fourth grade, she was cast in a speaking role in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, “The Village.”
She recalled, “This was my first experience as an actor, so I went into it with an open mind. I had gone to the audition on a whim, so I wasn’t particularly excited or overjoyed at the idea of acting in a movie, but I was certainly curious. After the few months I spent on set, I decided at the ripe old age of nine that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Since then, I’ve worked all over Philadelphia and New York in various theaters and independent films.”
Pascale’s résumé reveals that she has appeared at the Prince Music Theater, the Outside the Box Theater, the Roy Arias Theater Center’s Off-Broadway Theater, and the Stagedoor Manor. She garnered awards for “Best Lead Actress in Drama” for her performance in the role of the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” and “Best Major Supporting Actress in a Drama” as Titania/Hippolyta in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Both plays were produced at the Stagedoor Manor.
This summer, Pascale spent six weeks further honing her skills at Carnegie Melon University in their pre-college theater program. She said, “I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with some of the best people in the business. This experience only cemented my determination to make performance my career. “
With respect to her decision to direct, Pascale explained, “I have always been curious of the other side of acting. I’ve always been the one on the stage, never behind the scenes. It can certainly be scary at times. I’ve never directed anything before, nor have I taken any classes on the subject, so everything I’ve learned is odds and ends that I have picked up over the years watching directors I’ve worked with.”
Pascale chose a particularly challenging work to make her directorial debut. “BASH” is a trio of profoundly misanthropic plays by Neil LaBute. It was so offensive to the hierarchy of the Church of Latter Day Saints that they “dis-fellowshipped” him.
Pascale first encountered the writing of Neil LaBute a year ago and was immediately enraptured. She recalled, “I first read his play, ‘Reasons To Be Pretty.’ From there, I couldn’t stop reading! His writing is dark, clever, and brilliant.
“In ‘BASH’ LaBute paints an ugly picture of humanity with these four characters, each of which has either committed or ignored an atrocious, violent act. However, the most disturbing part of this play isn’t the vivid description of death, but how ordinary each character is. In such an intimate setting, the audience truly gets to know each character as they recount their crimes.
“This play displays the evil inherent in everyday life, and as each character justifies their crime, whether they feel remorse or not, the audience is left with a sense of culpability; how often have you sat back and excused something horrible?”
Growing up, Pascale originally had a different focus. “I was dead-set on becoming an artist. I spent hours drawing, painting, and sculpting with Fimo clay. My mother would take me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and I still have my collection of rainbow buttons from those many visits.
“I’m not too sure what made me desert my first love for the arguably less practical career path to theater, but since elementary school I have abandoned my paint brush and easel for a script and highlighter. “
In addition to her acting, Pascale studies songwriting and guitar with Judah Salem Kim of the band, Stonethown. She also trained in aerial acrobatics at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.
Pascale attended Central High School for one year but then switched to 21cccs, a cyberschool. “because attending traditional public school left little time for extra-curricular activities that didn’t directly involve the school. Cyberschool has certainly given me a freer schedule, as I don’t have to be in class all day. I can work on my own schedule without sacrifices my education. I take typical high school courses (math, English, science, et cetera), and I have teachers that I can communicate with via email or telephone. This fall I am taking a screenwriting course at the University of Pennsylvania through their Young Scholars Program.”
In addition to her involvement with BASH, Pascale is appearing in “Ampersand,” an aerial circus performance at Philly Fringe. The latter is being produced by her older sister, Lauren Rile Smith. Pascale declared, “While it is certainly a lot of work, when you’re doing what you love, you love what you’re doing!”
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe will continue through Sept. 17. More info at 215- 413-1318 or www.livearts-fringe.org.
“BASH” will be performed on Wednesday, Sept. 14; Friday, Sept. 15, and Saturday, Sept. 16, all at 8 p.m., at the Moonstone Arts Center. 110 S. 13th St. More info at www.rilePascale.com/BASH.