"Suzie Bingham" took a rare break from saving the world from Russians and monsters to visit with Siena students.
During season 3 of the Netflix smash hit Stranger Things, the fate of the planet depended on a gang of precocious teens from Indiana to quickly produce Planck's Constant (a fundamental universal constant that relates the energy of a photon to its frequency). It was July 4, 1985, so a Google search wasn't possible. One quick-thinking middle schooler had an idea: maybe Suzie could help?
Suzie is played by Gabriella Pizzolo, an accomplished television and stage actress who grew up in nearby Niskayuna. Gabriella accepted an invitation to speak on campus, and after discussing her career from the Capital Region to Broadway to a recurring character on one of the biggest TV shows of the past decade, she took questions from the more than 100 Saints who attended the event in the library's Yates Gallery. One student wondered whether Gabriella could still save the planet if called upon.
"What is Planck's Constant?"
Gabriella laughed, thought about it for a few seconds, and then said, "It's been five years since we shot that scene, but I believe I've got this right. Is it 6.62607004?" Yes. That is 100% correct.
Gabriella admits to being a little nerdy, just like Suzie (which makes it easy to get into character). And while Gabriella is gainfully employed and in-demand, she's also double majoring in music and psychology at Purchase College. She talked quite a bit about education and advocacy for proper schooling for child actors. She also addressed why she was thrilled to accept an invitation to speak at Siena.
"I love being back home. Siena is such a big part of this area. I have friends who go to school here. I believe that being grounded in your community is so important. Being back in this area, it keeps me whole. I just love being here."
Brendan McDonnell '23 is one of those friends on campus. They've been family friends for years, and Brendan surprised her at the Q&A.
"The event was great! I was glad everyone got to see how kind and down to earth Gabby is. She really has to be one of the most humble actresses. You'd never know how famous and successful she is if you just started talking with her."
Brendan wasn't the only blast from Gabriella's past to make an appearance.
Emily Furlong '21, assistant director of digital marketing, performed in a show with Gabriella at Park Playhouse in 2013. In fact, after Gabriella earned her first big break, starring as Matilda on Broadway, Emily made the trip to New York to see the show.
Emily helped to organize Gabriella's Siena event (unbeknownst to Gabriella), and introduced her at the start of program. Emily just wasn't sure, after all of these years, if Gabriella would remember her...
"When I heard she was coming to Siena, I thought, 'No way she remembers me.' But she walked in, and spotted me right away. It was so awesome to hear about all of her accomplishments and see her after so many years."