Meet RESPECT Actor-Educator Paige “Nola” Cotignola

What is your favorite role that you play?
My favorite role that I play at RESPECT is from our play, Reporting. I play the narrator in a story that weaves three stories based on headlines about severe cases of bullying. I’ve been told that in the past, this role has often been played as a news reporter. But I gave this character the backstory of being one of the victims of the severe case of bullying from the play. It brings an entirely different dynamic to the narrator: the way they tell the story and the way that they relate to the audience. I find that I’m able to have an emotional impact and it makes the audience feel like they are a part of the story. That they are a role in the story.

What is the best part of performing RESPECT shows in front of large audiences?
The best part about performing RESPECT plays for large audiences is the impact. If you’ve ever watched a movie at home and watched a scene and maybe laughed a little bit. You might have been like, “Oh that’s funny.” But if you were to watch that same scene in a theater, the whole audience cracks up. Well similar to a large group watching live theater, I think the group can feed off of each other and feel each other’s emotions and that adds to the experience for them. And since our material is so important, it really helps the audience internalize our message.

What is the best part of running small RESPECT workshops?
The best part about running small workshops with RESPECT is getting to work more individually with students. We have the time to really delve into discussions. Each workshop is unique. Even if we are using the same curriculum and outline from a previous workshop, it’s new students in new dynamics and really lets the students lead the discussions.

What is something that you’ve learned by being part of RESPECT
Working for RESPECT, I have learned the impact that one person or experience can have on the students in these audiences. I am a stranger to them. But after our shows, I’ll have students younger students walk up and sometimes they give you a hug out of nowhere. And older students will come to us and just talk about how much they related to the character you played and will tell us about their lives and how they related their experiences. And that’s an honor. That they willingly share with us. It just goes to show how much this material relates to the problems that they’re facing right now at whatever age they are.