Stephanie Nasadoski never wanted to find herself fretting over an acting career.
“I never wanted to have to make a living at it,” said Nasadoski, who plays a young woman with aspirations of becoming a nun in the Colonial Little Theater production of Tom Dudzick’s “Hail Mary,” beginning Friday and running through March 28. “I always wanted it to be my hobby. I never wanted to feel that stress. I want performing to be my stress relief.”
Nasadoski, a former Miss Fulton County and Miss Mohawk Valley (both in 2006), is a Gloversville native and an elementary school counselor in the Johnstown district. Her most recent work on stage was at the Colonial Theatre last fall in George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man.”
WHERE: Colonial Little Theatre, 1 Colonial Court, Johnstown
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. March 26-27, and 2 p.m., March 28
HOW MUCH: $14
MORE INFO: 762-4325, www.coloniallittletheatre.org
In “Hail Mary,” she plays a 29-year-old woman (she is actually 27) named Mary Wytowski, a teacher at a small Catholic school in upstate New York whose plans to join the sisterhood become increasingly problematic. She battles with the Mother Regina Marie, played by Sara Schopmeier, over various issues with her students, and when an old high school sweetheart, played by Mark Peek, appears on the scene, Mary is torn about her future.
For Gazette theater writer Matthew G. Moross's review of this show, click here.
“One of the themes in the show is that change is constant, and I love the changes that Mary goes through during the show,” said Nasadoski. “She is constantly re-evaluating her beliefs and how she can make them fit into her school life and the life of her students. She wants her kids to have faith in God, but she also wants them to be ready for the real world.”
While Nasadoski never planned on being a nun, she does feel a certain kinship with her character.
“I think she and I have some similarities, so the role isn’t that much of a stretch for me,” she said. “She’s an educator and that’s my day job. I think her life parallels mine a little bit.”
According to director John Birchler, Nasadoski was a perfect fit to play Mary.
“She’s talented and she’s the right age,” Birchler said. “She also has that bright kind of disposition that the character requires. She was in ‘Arms and the Man’ here last fall so I knew she’d be good for the part.”
“Arms and the Man” was her first acting performance in quite some time, although as a contestant in various pageants Nasadoski got quite comfortable being on stage.
“I competed for seven years and it was a great learning experience for me,” she said. “I did so many interviews and you never know what you’re going to be asked. I won over $12,000 in scholarship money for college, and it really prepared me for job interviews. You had to be pretty well-rounded to do well with all the different phases of competition we had, and I think it really helped me with my acting.”
Coming into “Hail Mary,” she wasn’t that familiar with the work of Dudzick, a Buffalo native many refer to as the Catholic Neil Simon. Birchler, however, considers himself a huge Dudzick fan.
“I really do like him, and a lot of that might be because we share a lot of the same background,” he said. “We both grew up in western New York, we both grew to entertain some doubts about the Catholic religion and how the church presents things to people. He’s a warm, genuine and clever writer, but despite some negative feelings about the church, he doesn’t go out of his way to be bitter about it.”
Along with “Hail Mary,” Dudzick is widely known for other works like “Over the Tavern,” and “King o’ the Moon.”
“He doesn’t have a huge following like Tennessee Williams, but his plays are put on in venues all over the country,” said Birchler. “He’s still writing and I love his brand of humor. He writes comedies with a message.”
According to Schopmeier, most Catholics, if they have a sense of humor, will enjoy the play.
“Depending on where you are with your faith, there may be a few people who take offense at it, but it really is meant to be totally humorous,” said Schopmeier, who lives in Broadalbin. “I first read the play a few years ago and I thought it was hysterical. It mocks the old Catholicism a bit, the old way of teaching it, but if you have a sense of humor you can’t get upset about it. It’s a very funny play.”
It’s also a very enjoyable play to be a part of, according to Schopmeier, particularly because she gets to play a unique character in Mother Regina Marie.
“There’s quite a range of emotion in her character,” said Schopmeier. “She comes off as a tyrant when she’s the typical mother superior of the old Catholic school; the kind of person who would whack you with a ruler; but there are other times when she gets emotional and is very sympathetic. She’s a very interesting character.”
The play is set entirely in Mary’s third-grade classroom.
“It’s a third-grade classroom complete with light green walls and a blackboard and a statue of the Blessed Mother,” said Birchler, who also acted as the set designer. “We made it look as much as we could like a third-grade class in upstate New York sometime in the last few years.”
Birchler is also in the cast and plays Father Stanley, while the fifth actor on stage is Laura Streifert as Sister Felicia.
“I love being in a comedy,” said Nasadoski. “I think that’s the realm I’m most comfortable in, and although I didn’t know anything about Dudzick before I auditioned for this play, I really did think it was funny. I also like the fact that it’s set in modern times. There are references to 9/11 and other things that have happened recently. To be in a show that is so current is something I’m really enjoying.”