Every September marks the start of a great new season of theatre from the Department of Theatre and Dance and last night’s opening performance of The Miss Firecracker Contest didn’t disappoint! But, of course, what is a show without its lead actor? Playing the role of Carnelle for this great production is actress, dancer, and aspiring teacher Katie Gigantiello ’14! A Klein Theatre veteran, Katie has acted in various productions, from The Women of Lockerbie to The Tempest to Talking With, and is now rounding out her tenure playing the fiery Carnelle in The Miss Firecracker Contest for her Senior Project!
The Department of Theatre and Dance had a few questions to ask Katie about her time spent with us.
T&D: What is your major?
Katie: I’m a theatre major and I’m also part of the elementary education program.
T&D: What’s your hometown?
Katie: Shamong, New Jersey.
T&D: What’s your main focus in theatre?
T&D: How did you first get involved with theatre?
Katie: I started theatre in high school, but I’ve always been performing since I was little with gymnastics and dance.
T&D: What is your favorite show you’ve worked on at UMW?
Katie: My favorite show so far (because I’m kind of in the process of Miss Firecracker, though I am enjoying it) was Talking With. Playing that part was my favorite role I’ve ever played too. The show I enjoyed a lot because although it wasn’t a traditional play where all the characters were interacting with each other, each character brought their own stories to tell, which I thought was kind of interesting. The part was challenging, but I thought a lot of fun, because of working with the cat, things changed every night, you had to go with the flow. It kind of brought me out of my comfort zone, so to speak, and I really loved that part. I actually got a tattoo after the show was over on my side that says “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
T&D: What are your plans after graduation?
Katie: My plans probably change on a daily basis, but as of now, I do plan on continuing theatre, and I also want to be a teacher. I won’t be teaching theatre, right now I’m doing elementary education so I’d be teaching all subjects. I want to move out West to Denver, there is some theatre in that city and I’d be closer to California, so maybe I’d be doing some auditioning in LA and things like that.
T&D: What is your favorite word? Least favorite word?
Katie: This is a weird question. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about that in my life. Could I maybe do favorite line and least favorite line?
T&D: I’ll allow it.
Katie: My favorite line is “look, if you come in last, you follow that float. I took a chance and I came in last, so by God I’m gonna follow that float.” Least favorite line is “I just mention it cuz it’s different now since Aunt Ronelle died and I got that disease.”
T&D: What is your favorite kind of candy?
Katie: Reese’s peanut butter cups.
T&D: If you could work on any play or musical, which one would it be?
Katie: This is a tough one. Um, something Disney. Beauty and the Beast. Belle. There we have it.
T&D: Who would be some of your biggest professional influences?
Katie: This has always been a difficult question for me. I’ve never had just one person who I’ve admired, I feel like I just observe people’s work as they go, and in some roles I really enjoy them and in others I feel like they could have been better, you know? I mean I really like Jennifer Lawrence but I’m not like “ah, I want to be just like her.”
T&D: What accomplishments or contributions would you like to be remembered for when you graduate?
Katie: I think just my hard work in the shows, I really do try to put in 110% in rehearsals, memorizing lines, characterization, everything.
T&D: Do you have any interests outside of theatre?
Katie: I love being outdoors, so hiking, being in the mountains. Dance, specifically ballet and tap. And horseback riding.
T&D: What lessons has playing Carnelle taught you? Have there been any great challenges the role has given you? Anything rewarding about the role?
Katie: I think that in the play Carnelle’s challenge is just learning to accept herself for who she is and not trying to please everyone else all the time and belong. In the end I think she realizes that if she does what she wants to do with her life and she’s happy, then it’s okay. I think she realizes in the end that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you, it matters what you think about yourself, and it’s really freeing. With every character I play, I always feel like there’s something truly rewarding about playing them, because whenever I come away from playing a character I feel like there’s a lesson learned. Like through the research I come away from the role learning something new about life. Specifically for this part it’s going back to what I said previously that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, just so long as you live your life and be the best you can be.