Gia Monterusso has found her home underneath the spotlight



Junior Gia Monterusso preparing for one of her many school productions

If you’ve been to any of FHC’s musicals or plays within the last few years, you’ve most likely seen junior Gia Monterusso performing in them. From her role as the stepmother in Cinderella, Mrs. White in Clue, and her upcoming role in The Wizard of Oz as the Wicked Witch of the West, she has a wide range of abilities and an extensive repertoire of eleven musicals and four plays. Although Gia typically plays villains in her performances, she finds glee in every role she is cast in. 

“I’ve been playing a lot of villains as of recently,” Gia said, “which is very fun because it’s sort of therapeutic to be mean to everybody and yell a lot, but I just love a character with a good backstory that I’m able to work with. I think that having a character who makes sense or has a realistic and understandable backstory and motive makes it easier to portray that character in a realistic and understandable way.”

It’s really fun to be able to make the audience feel like they’re somewhere else.

— Gia Monterusso

The villains and characters that Gia portrays provide both dramatic and comedic aspects to her shows, and no matter what type of role or genre she plays, she finds a way to incorporate her own personal style into it. Whether it’s making the audience laugh or reflect on their own lives, the way she paints a picture in her scenes is one part of what makes her acting so adept and talented.

“[One of my favorite genres is comedy because] I love laughing and I love making people laugh,” Gia said, “but I am always down for a drama too; it’s really fun to be able to make the audience feel like they’re somewhere else, and I feel like dramas are usually always able to communicate reality while comedies are sort of an escapist aspect of the theater genre.”

Gia as Madame in last year’s production of Cinderella

As much as she loves acting and performing in all sorts of genres, she doesn’t think being an actress is in the cards for her future. But even if being an actress isn’t possible, she still wants to include some form of thespianism in her career. 

“I [would love to go into a theater profession],” Gia said, “but I don’t believe it’s realistic for me to go and be an actress or continue acting as a profession. But, I would like to teach theater in high school or perhaps at a collegiate level someday. I would like to teach it, but I don’t think it’s probably realistic for me to continue being an actress as much as I would like it.”

Although she doesn’t have high hopes for continuing to act in the future, she still wants to find ways to incorporate the everyday joys of it into her adult life. Whether it be through teaching students or in another way, it’s crucial she gets to carry on her love of the dramatic arts.

One of the many reasons Gia is interested in becoming a theater teacher one day is because of the community that theater has and the opportunity for her to pass down those memories to students. 

“I fell off a set of stairs last year right in front of everybody,” Gia said. “It was absolutely hilarious, and I was able to laugh at myself. But, I think all of the collective memories from cast parties and through bonding activities and all of that have really made a lot of solid memories in my life.”

An action shot of Gia in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Aside from the parties and fun that come with theater, there is also hard work and difficulty. Through memorization of lines—something Gia struggles with—and balancing theater, school, and social life, the work that goes into plays and theaters is not easy.

“[A lot of work] goes into those things in an average show,” Gia said. “What I’ve done on average [for performances] is about three months of prep, two months of rehearsing and learning lines and songs. Then, the month before the show happens is when you start digging deep into the characters, get onto the stage, and start working with costumes, props, and sets.”

The work may be difficult, but the payout is undoubtedly worth the hard work put into it. There are many things to love about the process of hard work in it, but there are many other admirable qualities of it. Although the setup and more typical aspects of theater appeal to Gia, she also loves and appreciates the smaller, lesser-acknowledged facets of the show.

“There are all of the really obvious parts [of theater that I like],” Gia said. “I love singing. I love dancing, and I love acting, of course, but then there are the little materialistic parts of being able to use costumes and play around with props. That kind of stuff is always so much fun.”

While drama and theater have an abundance of positive characteristics and opportunities, there are still many stigmas and stereotypes that people who like it face. When portrayed in movies, there are always the typical ‘theater kids’ that can misrepresent and generalize a unique group of people that cannot be categorized into a specific set of traits.

The cast of the fall play, Clue.

“There’s the common theater-kid stigma,” Gia said. “I think sometimes it can be very true for some people, but not every person is the exact same. Theater kids aren’t all the same; many have other interests apart from theater. Some do sports. Lots of them are very active in other activities apart from theater or the arts. I think that it’s really difficult to put us all in one box of the stereotypical theater kid, and that’s definitely happened to me before, but I think it’s always vital to show that you’re not defined by one thing. Life isn’t High School Musical.”

Despite the biases she faces, Gia still finds that the community and acceptance surrounding theater is one of the aspects that made her fall in love with it. As she continues through her high school career and theater, she knows she always has people she can rely on.

“I love the community surrounding theater,” Gia said. “I think that’s sort of what has made it so much fun for me. It’s really fun, especially because I’ve been able to form lots of really good relationships and friendships with all sorts of people I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”