Alumni profile: Clara Pagone

Clara PagoneClara Francesca Pagone, actor, writer, director, performance art creator, shares how her involvement with MUST (Monash University Student Theatre) kick-started her professional career in theatre whilst studying Biomedical Science and Law at Monash. From touring shows in Malaysia and Australia, to award-winning performances in New York, Clara also highlights the opportunities for Monash Alumni, and her own connections made through the Monash Alumni network.

How did it all begin for you?

My parents attended Monash University and they had really positive stories, but that wasn’t in my consciousness when I was a kid. I went to see a BOG by Declan Greene at Theatre Works, St Kilda with my mum in 2005 that MUST was putting on and I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. Watching the show inspired me to write a full-length play in high school, Year 11, 2005.

How do you stay connected with Monash Alumni?

I’m an actor and I love making films but it’s tough in New York to figure it all out. When I met John Crozier-Durham who’s the Monash Alumni connector over there – it was awesome. John introduced me to some alumni filmmakers who were excellent. Elliot Kotek with “Nation of Artists/Not Impossible Projects” has a mission of Impact, with his slogan “ideas plus empathy equals impact”. I’m 100% behind that! Adam Howard is an amazing visual effects artist and filmmaker. It’s been really wonderful to meet Monash Senior Alumni and have a friendly face out there.

What are you passionate about?

A passion project for me is mirror neurons – we watch something on stage and we do have self-personalisation with it, or catharsis, and we identify with that. And that’s really important for the human condition to see that and then after we’ve seen the show we make decisions, we analyse, we can agree, disagree, not like it, like it but in that moment of watching the other human go through that your mirror neurons are firing and you have a moment where you yourself experience that journey which is important if we’re going to keep sanity in the community.

What impact do you hope what you do will achieve?  

I think empathy’s really important. Most actors that I come across are empaths who I love to work with. The power the empath has, is a deep compassion and understanding to engage with what’s at hand and the strength to be able to do. ‘I’m safe to be vulnerable and to show you what vulnerability looks like and to show you that when we’re vulnerable together, we actually progress further. If we’re connecting with the issue in front of us we can make bigger leaps and strides.’

There’s a nice t-shirt that my dad gave me, an Einstein quote that says, ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’. I think in many ways as an artist, for me, I want to promote, ‘let’s imagine things together because if we can imagine them, and have the curiosity to investigate what it is that we want to investigate, then we have knowledge, science, initiatives, programs, developments, engineers. But if you don’t have the question, which for me is the imagination, you can’t know what you’re asking, what you want to investigate, what you want to look at.’ So, moving forward as an artist I want to create more empathy. I’m a bit obsessed with communication. To promote communication.

‘Through arts I want to make little empaths’

I also think theatre is important. It doesn’t all have to be intense. I like the dramatic stuff but there’s huge power in a stand-up routine, and in just a silly rom-com movie. I saw the film Mother’s Day on the plane coming over and I was embarrassed I was even watching it, but I watched it and there were some really beautiful moments of human connection.

What advice do you have for Monash Alumni?

Enjoy being who you are, enjoy listening to your gut and your intuition. Be savvy about decisions that are out there but be who you are. One thing I think I could have done better is listening to who I was as a person as opposed to what I was meant to do or being told to do.

The kid in me that wrote that play got side tracked by VCE, and I’m grateful for that, but if I’d been calmer and not as anxiety driven based on that VCE score I might have made different decisions, so follow your gut and enjoy. As an artist doing that degree, you have to choose your own path, taking time to listen to what your gut is saying you should do. I’ve been applying that since I went to New York and things seem to be making sense. Ironically, I can now ‘hear’ how my Monash Biomedical Science and Law degrees are helping me as an actor. I think the arts journey is so exciting – so listen to what’s happening at the time and what you want to do in it.

You’re currently taking part in the Global Discovery Program, how have you found it and what advice would you give to alumni thinking of participating?

The Global Discovery Program is a fabulous program where Monash Students, preparing to graduate get to see outside the University and experience the possibilities available to them through the incredible institution of Monash University. If there is any way you can support the Global Discovery Program students, I encourage you do, even if it's just a conversation with one of them, and reminding them that their dreams are possible. Monash truly is a ‘Global Thinking’ launch pad.