At nine years old, Pascale Smith had already decided she wanted to act for the rest of her life. That’s the age Smith landed her first acting gig with a speaking role in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” without any previous experience, unless you count her performances in kindergarten plays.
Now at 17, Smith, of Chestnut Hill, is about to debut as a director with a production of Neil Labut’s “BASH: Latter-Day Plays” during the Philadelphia Fringe Festival on the nights of September 14, 16 and 17 at the Moonstone Arts Center at 8 p.m.
“It’s about the evil inherent in everyday life and the sacrifices you have to make,” says Smith.
“BASH” is a monologue-driven production featuring Smith, along with actors Joe Matyas and Josh Totora portraying people who have committed horrific violence and frankly recounting their actions. Neil Labut wrote the play after he converted to the Church of Latter-Day Saint, and its characters represent Mormons who have sunk to rather ungodly depths.
Smith says the play should force audience members to confront their own selves and question what they are capable of.
“[Labut] really captures something about everyday life, he also captures the normality of things,” she says.
And there may even be moments where people chuckle too, says Smith. Although she has never directed before, Smith says she’s learned from acting in theater productions that masterful directors are able to extract humor in situations that on paper seem humorless.
“I’ve done comedy and I’ve done drama and you can’t have one without the other,” says Smith.
Josh Totora, 28, of Haddonfield, N.J., portrays a business man who fears he will be laid off and murders a family member to gain sympathy from his coworkers. He compared “BASH” to a Greek tragedy in how it nonchalantly handles violence, depravity and irony.
“The key is to keep it real and light,” says Totora. “It’s not funny but it’s a multi-faceted situation and a light-hearted side can be seen.”
Directing is just one of Smith’s theatrical pursuits. She is also recording an original album on which she plays guitar and sings, and practices aerial maneuvers from a suspended ring called the lyra at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts in Germantown.
“If you’re doing something you love, it’s easy to make time to do it,” she says.