Artist Spotlight: Justin Gaskill

Musical theatre major pursues his passion for the arts at Wilkes

Image Credit: Teresa Fallon
Justin Gaskill as John Proctor in “The Crucible” comforts Elizabeth Proctor, played by Melissa Berardelli.

A natural love of performing led junior musical theatre major Justin Gaskill, 20, on the path to Wilkes. During his time as a Colonel, he not only perfects his craft but is getting an education that will set him apart from the rest.

From his youth, Gaskill knew he wanted to act and perform, telling his parents he wanted to be in movies. A native of Somers Point, New Jersey, he attended a performing arts high school where he mainly concentrated on acting before being pushed towards vocal performance.

It was this combination that was the driving force of Gaskill’s passion for musical theatre. He became the first at his high school to double major in Advanced Musical Theatre and Advanced Vocal Performance. A number of college auditions followed, with Wilkes being the right fit.

“Wilkes Theatre stood out to me because of the inviting atmosphere,” Gaskill said. “I felt as though this was the best place for me to grow as a performer and as a person.”

That feeling proved right. Gaskill said his training at Wilkes has vastly improved his abilities in key areas of the musical theatre craft. His initial interest sparked brightest in acting, with singing and dancing to follow.

“While training at Wilkes University I have grown tremendously in all three aspects of my major and am confident that with continuous study, I will be ready to hit the bigger auditions,” he said.

This immersion in all aspects of his major is complemented by the guidance of the faculty, who he said are a key element in his training, onstage and off.

“Our acting instructor is incredible,” he said, “and has helped me immensely with not only acting, but just looking deeper within myself and figuring out who I am as a person and as a performer.”

Gaskill said the technical aspect of his major – which includes set construction and stage managing – is not something in which he was initially interested. Now, he said technical theatre is something for which he has gained immense respect, and his knowledge of it will set him apart in the future.

“While there are many other universities with musical theatre degrees, many do not touch on the technical side of the craft,” he said. “If you declare your major as musical theatre, that is what you learn. I have a basic understanding of almost everything in my field, and for that I am grateful.”

Onstage, Gaskill’s acting roles have a purpose beyond entertaining.

“I set a goal to learn something from every part I play,” he said. “While every show I have been in has been rewarding and memorable, I have to say ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ takes the top. Seymour was the first leading role I had ever played.”

Gaskill’s most recent role was John Proctor in “The Crucible.” This dramatic role saw him as a man wrapped up in the now-historic Salem Witch Trials. He hoped audiences would take away the message of the play, which he called beautiful.

“The Crucible is an award winning play for a reason, and I believe the moral of the story holds strong even in today’s society,” he said.

To prepare for this role and others, Gaskill said a “tremendous process” is required. Once the initial abundance of research and character analysis is behind him, he said he takes time for himself when the curtain is about to open.

“What I like to do is stand in the wings, close my eyes and listen to either the music or the lines that are prior to my entrance. It helps me feel the mood and enter the new world that I will be a part of,” he said.

With Gaskill’s future sights set on Broadway or Los Angeles, he said he feels ready to embrace a job market that will likely be very competitive.

“After being here for three years and learning, I have completely evolved into a better artist simply by being immersed in all aspects of the craft,” he said. “The instructors in the Wilkes theatre department have truly pushed me, and I believe that after graduating next year I will be ready to audition in the big cities.”

While Gaskill finds appeal in the idea of performing in the hubs of arts and entertainment, the core of his envisioned future is set on simply doing what he loves.

“I quite honestly just want to be able to perform and inspire others through my work,” he said.