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Home > Past Buzz > Monica Gonzalez, The Youngest Ever Director of FAME (16 yrs)


Teen loves being in charge

October 7, 2012

by Sarah Schulz

Monica Gonzalez is shown during rehearsal for Grand Island Senior High's musical "Fame," of which she is the student director. Gonzalez is responsible for many aspects of the show, including cues, placement of talent and props on stage, lights and sound. (Independent/Matt Dixon)

Monica Gonzalez is a chatty force of nature.

The 16-year-old Grand Island Senior High School junior has a warm smile, organizational skills, and a passion for the fine arts that made her a good choice for this year’s musical student director.

“I didn’t get to audition this year,” she said. “But I wanted to be a part of it. This is the next best thing.”

She will be helping direct the musical “Fame,” a play about the lives of high school students studying at a performing arts school in New York City.

Gonzalez’s job is to keep the show organized and publicize it. She helps determine if all the actors will fit on the stage with the scenery. Does the blocking work? Is the scenery correct? Have the forms for the cast T-shirts been turned in? Who from the cast was going to be in the Harvest of Harmony parade?

She is also calling the cues for all of the performances, meaning it’s her job to tell the actors when to come in, tell the lights when to shine and tell the music when to play. She’ll use the school’s new headset system to talk to people backstage and in the light and sound booth.

“If it messes up onstage, I’ll get yelled at,” she said with a laugh. “You need everything to be perfect.”

It’s a big job.

“My script is covered with scribbles and sticky notes,” she said, waving her hands over her lap and flashing a smile.

Greg Ulmer, who is directing the show with John Haberman, said when it comes to finding a student director, they look for students who are reliable and organized.

“I’m all about getting the students involved,” he said, “from building sets to being backstage.”

Ulmer suggested Gonzalez for the position based on her abilities in class.

“I recognized her as a kid who can do this,” he said. “Plus, she’s a junior so, if she wants to, she has the opportunity to do this again next year.”

With a cast of 118 plus the makeup team and backstage crew, there are more than 200 students involved in the musical. Gonzalez prepped actors for “Hairspray” two years ago and was in the chorus for “The Music Man” last year. She was also in show choir as a freshman and helps do makeup for “A Christmas Carol” each year.

“This brings all that together,” she said. “It’s stress, but it’s fun stress. It’s great to see it pull together at the end.”

She said being a student director also allows her to watch all the performances.

“There’s a lot of dancing,” she said. “It’s fun to watch and see it all come together. When crunch time comes, people know what to do and really want to be here. It’s instinct.”

Gonzalez loves being a part of the drama scene at Senior High. She enjoys being in a part of the school where only the kids who “want to be here are here.”

“It’s fun to be a part of something where people come because they want to,” she said. “It’s a sanctuary. They love to be here.”

The self-described outgoing, talkative teen said she likes to be on top of things, so being in a director chair is a natural fit for her.

“I’ve always been pretty theatrical. Just ask my mom,” she said, laughing again.

“I like multi-tasking,” she added. “I like to be involved. So does everyone here. This whole side of the building is full of people like me.”

The teen said that, despite being organized and an honor student, she is a procrastinator. Being the student director has forced her to become more diligent about getting her school work done early. She has even been working ahead because she knows the end of October will be consumed with the musical.

Academics are important to her — she’s taking several Advanced Placement classes. Theater is a break for her.

“I have all my classes in the morning,” Gonzalez said. “This is the release at the end of my day.”

She’s excited to see “Fame” play to an audience. She touts it as a “kid-oriented” show and said families will enjoy the singing and dancing.

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