clean room


Playwright and actor Leslie Pasternack brings to life Brighina and Stupino, two big-hearted but lonely souls whose lives collide in CLEAN ROOM. Using body, voice, and masks Leslie conjures both sides of this eccentric and captivating love story. CLEAN ROOM won the 2012 Seacoast Spotlight Awards for Best Original Script and Best Actress.

CLEAN ROOM consists of two parts. “Induction” features the character of Brighina, a cheerfully disoriented social castoff enduring exile in a waiting room and sorting out her life’s wins and losses, looking for clues to her confinement. The daughter of a Vietnam vet and sister of a boy genius, Brighina defines herself in response to the men she adores, fears and mourns. “Maintenance” introduces Stupino, a gentle janitor in the mental hospital where he has lived his whole life. Taking pride in his work, he carves out small spaces of compassion and competency in the midst of constant crises. Together, Brighina and Stupino explore the grotesque frailty of humanity and find strength in the little details that unite them.

CLEAN ROOM was developed with the support of the Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre and Dance in Allentown, PA and premiered there in 2009.  Excerpts have been performed at the Perishable Theatre in Providence, RI; the Seacoast Fringe Festival in Portsmouth, NH; and Stage Left Studio in NYC. The full show has run at the Actors’ Studio of Newburyport;  Stage Left Studio, NYC; and had two runs at the West End Studio Theatre, Portsmouth, as part of ACT ONE’s Festivals 2012 & 2013 and an additional run at WEST in 2018 as a benefit for HAVEN.  Many thanks go to Cheryl King of Stage Left for her directorial input;  and to Stephanie Nugent of ACT ONE for “grokking” these characters so completely and supporting their life in the world.


The masks used in Clean Room are my own construction. I learned to build and perform masks at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. Although my mask work is not in the traditional fast-paced commedia dell’arte style, my characters do derive from this centuries’ old theatrical form, which focuses on the servant/master relationship. When I write for these characters, I always ask myself, who are the “servants” in contemporary American society and what stories might they tell?

There are not many female masked characters in commedia, so Brighina developed from an experiment with a female version of Brighella, a high-status male servant with cat-like attributes who fancies himself a ladies’ man and bosses other servants around. Brighina began as his kid sister, sharing his qualities, but morphed into someone quite different.

Stupino is a name used at the Dell’Arte school (among other venues, I’m sure) for a version of Pedrolino, the lowest-rung servant who sleeps on the floor of the kitchen. One of his descendents is the love-struck French clown, Pierrot. Sometimes Pedrolino pops up in commedia history with the energy and status of an Arlecchino (Harlequin), but my Stupino is definitely a bottom-rung kind of guy.

Traditional commedia masks are made of leather. Mine are simple papier mâché, with many layers of paint and polyurethane to add strength.


I was interviewed in December 2013 by Bill Humphreys of Portsmouth Public Media TV as part of their series on 2012 Spotlight on the Arts winners. It was a marvelously fun conversation, and it’s available online here!


On April 18th, Leslie won the Seacoast Spotlight on the Arts Awards for Best Original Script and Best Actress for Clean Room. Big thanks to my ACT ONE producer, Stephanie Nugent; to reviewer and Spotlight Awards judge Jeanné McCartin; and to all the judges, audience members, colleagues and loved ones who have made the show a success.


The multi-talented Shay Willard worked with me to create a gorgeous promotional trailer for Clean Room. Check it out hereAnd if you’d like Shay to work his magic on your project, he says you can email him at shwillard at Thanks also to Bushrod Washington for use of their music! 

CLEAN ROOM had a FANTASTIC run as part of ACT ONE’s Festival 2012–Leslie’s first Fest as Associate Director of ACT ONE! 


“It’s a brilliant performance; not a wasted word or movement throughout. Clean Room is theater with impact.” Jeanné McCartin, Seacoast Online

Your writing is humane and funny, the characters eccentric and big-hearted, and your acting precisely crafted and spot-on honest.” –Dr. James Peck

“I loved Clean Room. The execution is so physically and vocally precise, and those small details of hand position and shifts of weight make it engrossing. The text, too, is dense and rich.” –playwright Gregory Moss

“I have been telling everyone I know about the show and how it is the most compelling and emotionally satisfying theater I have seen in ages. This is my second time watching Leslie perform this amazing work and I would see it again without hesitation.” –Max Schenk

“The characters were so warm and lovable, I didn’t want it to end.” –Arthur Knight

“I had the privilege of seeing your performance in Newburyport tonight.  I was deeply moved. What a powerful piece in both the way you have written it and the way you performed it.” –Dina C.

“In Clean Room, Leslie has brilliantly proved a most counterintuitive fact: namely, that instead of obscuring, in the hands of a truly creative artist a mask can be made to reveal.” –playwright Joshua Faigen

“As a script, Clean Room is polished, economical, succinct, moving, intelligent. It ends perfectly, before you want it to end. As a performance, watching your work was like listening to Stevie Wonder sing. Every moment matters, you have mastery over every nuance. Your performance alone was thrilling.” –playwright Michael Kimball

“Your show is one of the very few that stays with me long after the last black-out.” –theatre technician Ellen Rosenberg

“For those unfamiliar with mask work, Pasternack’s natural life in her masks is sure to make an enthusiast out of a novice. Through these beautiful creatures, she breaks our heart, repairs it and then sets it aflutter.” –theatre artist and critic KC Luce

Stupino in action:

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