JULIE PASQUAL is a self proclaimed “creativity junky” whose first art form was dance. After graduating from New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, she danced and sang in numerous musicals across the country and Off Broadway. She has acted in everything from Shakespeare to the work of young playwrights in NYC high schools. Along the way she learned stilt walking, clowning, American Sign Language, and how to tell stories. Her storytelling work encompasses all her skills as a performing artist, as she brings every aspect of a story to life. Her stories have been heard in such venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the New Jersey Storytelling Festival, and in schools, libraries, bookstores, hospitals, radio and private events across the tri-state area. As an artist for Hospital Audiences Incorporated, Julie performs in halfway houses, drug rehabilitation centers and senior citizen homes. She is also the voice for several children’s and young adult audio books for the Andrew Heiskill Library for the Blind and Handicapped in NYC. When not telling tales she can be found performing as a dancer in shows across the country and as a clown doctor for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, entertaining children in NYC hospitals.
To really understand how ironic what I’m about to write is, you have to understand this about me – when I was a kid, I HATED school. Not disliked, not “I’d rather be watching TV” – we are talking full on LOATHING!!! It wasn’t that I was incapable of doing well, it wasn’t that I was bullied, and didn’t have friends, it wasn’t even that I didn’t want to learn – no, it was just that I was the proverbial square peg being cramped into that round hole. I am, and have always been, a person that NEEDS to dance to their own drummer – schedules, too much structure, make me buck like a horse in the wild west. School, with all it’s rules, and requirements felt like a prison to me, so much so that as a child on Sunday nights, I would stay up as long as I could, hoping to extend my weekend that much longer. But always sleep would take me, and Monday, dreaded back to school Monday, always arrived.
So, in my mind, if school was a prison, than the teachers, were the guards. Like an inmate who knows who holds the power, and the keys to their cells, I eyed them with wariness. I was obedient, and dependable – always afraid of their power of me, over what my parents thought of me, over my life. It was only when I got to high school, and had a teacher, who really SAW me, encouraged me, and in a way adopted me, that I began to see that teachers were actual humans. Mr. Andros, my teacher/mentor/second dad showed me that teachers are heroes who day after day sometimes literally go into battle in their classrooms. They work for little money, and even less respect, it seems, but they have the most important jobs in the world. And now, years after many a school day spend eyeing educators with fear and suspicion, I find myself totally OVERJOYED to offer them whatever I can in my role as a storyteller.
In folktales there are often magical helpers that appear along the way as the hero or heroine makes their way on their journey. Often times they’ll give the hero something that, on the surface at least, looks to be simple, of little relevance to the task at hand. But time and time again in these stories, it is that little object that enables the hero to succeed. I like to think of the tales I tell like little presents, like Jack’s magical beans, that once planted in the minds of a teacher, might just help them in their heroic work of educating our future. I try with each visit to a classroom, not just to introduce the wonderful world of stories to the students, but also to their teachers, knowing I don’t even know a quarter of what they know, but hoping, beyond hope that I have served the story well enough so that it’s wisdom, and timelessness, can be seen by the classroom teacher, and, if they want to, use it in a lesson plan, or a discussion.
Oddly enough, given my history with teachers, it is that aspect that often gives me the most joy in my work with Storytelling Arts. I get to repay all those people, those heroes, who watched me looking at them like they were monsters, but taught me anyway. Who saw my gaze of distrust and fear, and kept offering all they had –day after day. Sr. Ann Robin, Mrs. Franklin, Mr. Manchester – I don’t know where you are today, but believe me - I GET IT NOW!!! I understand what incredible work you do, and while I still live outside, around, and on top of “the box” rather than in it, and too much scheduling still makes my stomach clench – I am trying to repay the debt I owe you, and every teacher whose classroom, my reluctant younger self ever entered! It’s the most I can do, as all you teachers – you hero and heroines go on your daily quests to open the minds of the world.