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How Lorenzo leapt from Scranton Shakes to landing his lifelong dream role.

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Lorenzo has been performing with #ScrantonShakes since 2017, treading the boards in both Shakespeare and musical theatre productions. Many will remember Lorenzo from his vocal-soaring, energetic performance of the rebellious Ren McCormack in Footloose, directed by Artistic Director Michael Bradshaw Flynn. His other credits include Two Gentlemen Of Verona, Damn Yankees, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Lorenzo Pugliese, in Scranton Shakes Joseph..., How To Succeed..., and Footloose.

Lorenzo, raised in Scranton, has always been passionate about performing. But there was always a little guy that took up just as much of his heart and imagination...SpongeBob Squarepants. As a kid, Lorenzo spent hours with his animated hero, joining him on his trials, tribulations and adventures. He loved escaping to the underwater world, he knew the characters, the storylines, the catchphrases and yes, even sported the underwear.

“When I was a young boy, I used to wake up in the morning and yell “Good morning world, and all who inhabit it” out of my bathroom window!” Lorenzo Pugliese

In a pleasant twist of fate, #SpongeBobSquarepants would come to mean more to Lorenzo than he ever imagined. Skip to 2019, freshly graduated from University of The Arts, Lorenzo prepared for an audition for a musical that was about to change his life. That summer, while getting ready to perform in our production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Lorenzo got the call. He was offered the role of Spongebob on the National Tour of the Spongebob Squarepants Musical. He would now embody someone who meant so much to him. He was going to share his love and enthusiasm (not to mention a rockin' performance) his childhood hero's positive morals to thousands across the nation. Like something from a tv show.

Lorenzo, hello!

Take us back to the beginning.

When did you discover you enjoyed performing?

I discovered that I enjoyed performing around the age of 11, when I participated in “High School Musical” at the Green Ridge Youth Theatre. I played Troy Bolton. I just remember how nervous I was, and then all of a sudden being taken over by this incredibly intoxicating and invigorating feeling once the show started. It was a feeling like no other. I didn’t necessarily know I would be pursuing a career in performing back then, but I certainly knew that it would be something special in my life.

How you became involved with #ScrantonShakes?

Someone reached out to my dad and gave me an invitation to audition for the upcoming season. I’m so thankful to them for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a family that is so incredibly talented, nurturing, creative, and fun-loving as the SSF family! One of my favorite memories from any of the SSF shows is from our closing night of Footloose, when a few of our company members and creative team made unannounced cameo appearances in one of our production numbers. Everyone was dancing and laughing and we just had a blast!

What does Spongebob mean to you?

SpongeBob is optimisim, love, acceptance, childlike wonder, friendship, adventure, and so much more. The TV show itself is a brilliant one for any age, and I think that the thought of SpongeBob brings a lot of people back to a much simpler, purer time in their life (including me). On top of that, being able to make my touring debut playing him will always be an integral part of what is to become the rest of my career. He will always have a special place in my heart for that. I will never forget how lucky I am to have been able to be a part of The SpongeBob Musical.

Talk us through the Spongebob audition process?

What did they ask you to do?

The audition process spanned over the course of three months. I had about 9 total auditions/callbacks. At the open call, I showed up at 6:30 am, and was 178th in line! Because of how many people were there, I didn’t end up getting seen until 5pm! After that, one of my friends had received a callback within a week, and I did not, so I figured that was the end of the road.

About another week later, I had received my very own callback! I was thrilled! That was the beginning of what ultimately became 8 more callbacks, one of which was a movement-based session with 6 other SpongeBob prospects, and #TinaLandau! Just being able to be in a room with someone as legendary as Tina Landau was such an incredible experience. After a few more one on one callbacks, the casting team announced they were going to continue their search for SpongeBob in LA and Chicago. So while they traveled to other parts of the country searching for new talent, I remained on the East Coast, praying they wouldn’t find someone better!

My last callback was a few days after my graduation. We ran through some things that we had gone over before, recorded some videos to send to a few people who couldn’t be there, and then they sent me on my way. They offered to buy me dinner and thanked me for traveling back and forth from Philly to New York for every audition. I figured that was the end of it. A week later, once doubt had finally begun to creep up on me, I received the call. I couldn’t believe it! I was jumping up and down like a mad man. It was one of the greatest days of my life.

How has your experience with Scranton Shakes influenced/helped you in playing Spongebob?

I wouldn’t have gotten this role without the immense growth that the Scranton Shakespeare Festival has allowed me to experience. The festival has given me unbelievable opportunities to work with incredibly talented and intelligent actors and creatives who through love, laughter, and collaboration guided me to a place of confidence and excitement in my work. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for ANYTHING.

Lorenzo in rehearsals our immersive How To Succeed, at The Marketplace at Steamtown

Whats a backstage secret? Something we in the audience don't know.

Before almost every scene, I am dancing and fooling around like a mad man with my cast mates, up to the millisecond before I walk onstage.

What's it like performing Spongebob?

Performing in this show has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done. The attention to detail that the creatives were able to bring to this show amazes me. There are some parts of this show where eighty to ninety percent of my movements are choreographed. The material that all of us were working with was so profoundly dense that even one hundred and fifty shows in, I would still be nervous about forgetting or messing something up!

The hardest part about it though, may have been bringing that sense that you’re doing it for the first time, every time. That was something that I continued to work on every show, and some days it was harder than others. But those days when it came easy felt like MAGIC. And of course, seeing the smiles on people’s faces, and knowing that you are making someone’s day, is simply one of the greatest feelings on the planet.

What are some personal highlights?

I’d say a highlight for me was definitely being able to go back to Philly and perform for that city. A lot of who I am as an artist comes from there and the people in it. It’s really a second home for me. So to have the privilege to go back and see so many people I care about AND perform at the beautiful Forrest Theatre (which I lived two blocks away from by the way) just half a year after I left was absolutely surreal for me.

What do you hope for your future?

Like any aspiring artist, I have high hopes for what the future holds. Ideally, I’d like to work my way up to one day be considered one of the greater artists of our time. I understand that’s quite a lofty goal, and I have a long way to go. But I don’t see any reason not to aim for the absolute highest achievable goal, because I believe that the higher you aim, the further you’ll go.

We couldn't agree more.


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