Mr. Pantoja: From Starving Artist to Mainstage Victory

Mr. Pantoja poses for the camera in the Z Theatre

By Joey Paolucci ‘22

Greatness doesn’t start from smooth edges. Greatness comes from the jagged edges of a person’s life that make you look a little closer at the details often overlooked. In the case of Mr. Pantoja, a Regis Jesuit alumni who always wanted to make people laugh, greatness can come from many different environments. Even a demerit card three marks away from being full.

“I was a joker, I wanted to talk,” Pantoja said. “I kind of knew early on that I was a hand without any consequences.”

After he graduated, Pantoja pursued the art of theatre at CU Boulder, and received his BFA in Theatre Performance. Later he started his own theatre company in Baltimore, Maryland, and after being a ‘starving artist’ for seven years, he was offered a job opportunity to teach at his alma mater, Regis Jesuit.

Talent can often come through unlikely and unique experiences for some, but in the case of Pantoja, he believes that he always knew that his passion and embrace lied in theatre. From this he gained further appreciation for it, involving himself in plays and musicals.

“I think the first musical I think that I saw was Love Potion Number Nine. It was all in Italian, and it had super titles, which means that it had on a projector what they were actually saying,” he said. “I was just impressed by the quality of how ‘I have no idea what they’re saying, but I know what’s going on.’ That’s interesting. That’s really cool, the costumes, the set, the design, just the actors’ intentions.”

Gaining his inspiration from his favorite actor, John Leguizamo, Pantoja desired to emulate his talent as well as take a little bit away from it, developing his own motivation as well.

“It kind of gave me motivation, I was like ‘hey, he’s doing great things, maybe so can I.’”

Five months ago in the Z Theatre, music and singing filled the high ceilings as well as the audience’s mind. Sister Act skyrocketed past expectations and stole the show, attending ThesCon and receiving Mainstage. When asking about the production, Pantoja commented that it was an effort and success that required all hands on deck.

“I was just along for the ride, but of course, it comes with a lot of coordination to get an epic 120 person field trip to go down, and put the play up, make sure that everything sounds great. So it was a big production, and we needed all hands on deck to make it legit, so it would have never happened if we didn’t have the great parent volunteers that were there, never would’ve happened if we didn’t have the support from our administration, to say ‘yeah, this is great, go for it.’”

However, after a while, ambition and innovation start to influence everyone’s mind. Inspiring the bold to do what has never been done before, and to take that first step for all.

“But for five years of applying and saying, ‘hey, we’re a legit theatre company over here, we’re a drama club that is proud of our work.’” Sister Act applied for the Mainstage award, and won.

Now embarking on the grand Greek tragedy Eurydice, Pantoja has embarked on a journey of learning about what it is to embrace what you truly feel happy and passionate about, and to learn what it is to go up onstage and say a line that will be remembered.

“I still get nervous, it doesn’t go away, but how you hone that energy is the process, how you use that adrenaline to your advantage, except instead of hindering you, I think that’s the trick.”

When asked about what he enjoyed most about the theatre industry, Pantoja commented:

“The ensemble, the connections that you have with your fellow actors and technicians, I think that is irreplaceable when it comes to anything, when it comes to a team. So many things in life when you might feel you’re on your own. School, when you have to study on your own, you can find a buddy to study with, but those are your grades. That’s why extracurricular is important, like team sports, is so fulfilling. So in that same vain, I love working together with a team, to make something bigger than ourselves, and then it’s a reward for all of us. That’s what I love the most.”


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