Young actor finds her place in local theater

ALL APPLAUSE: Josephine Monastero plays Max the dog in Seussical Jr. at Asheville Community Theatre last summer. Photo by Eli Cunningham

Growing up in the theater is an understatement for 9-year-old Josephine Monastero. Bitten by the acting bug years ago, she’s already performed in Seussical Jr. and Elf Jr. Currently, she is preparing for the lead in Matilda: The Musical, which runs Friday, April 12-Sunday, May 5, at Asheville Community Theatre. 

Monastero says there is nowhere else she’d rather be than at the theater. But when she must, she attends third grade at ArtSpace Charter School. 

Just speaking is a full-body experience for the exuberant actor. She gesticulates, emotes, fidgets and bounces. She commands the stage, even when it’s just a chair in a theater lobby where she sits to speak with a local reporter. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Xpress: How did you get into acting?

Monastero: My dad taught clown classes here [at Asheville Community Theatre], and one day I went there with him, and I liked it and started doing the summer camps. My parents met on a movie set.  My dad works for LaZoom, and my mom paints. 

What do you think of acting?

I love it! It’s my second home. You can become a different character. You get to be that character, and it’s so amazing to feel like you can be, like, anything. I don’t care what play I’m in, just because I like being in it so much. Even if you don’t have any words, you, like, get to be that character.

What does it feel like when you become a character?

It feels kind of incredible because you learn so much of it. You feel like you are that character. You feel like you’re in a new world. From day one, I prepare to be that character. I think, “What is that character supposed to be?” I make up my version of it. 

What do you think of wearing costumes?

I love wearing costumes. It’s something new you get to wear. Even if you don’t like it, once you get into it, you start liking it more. 

Why does the theater feel like a second home?

We do work, but it doesn’t feel like work for me. It feels fun. I enjoy doing it. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I just want to be here. 

What do you like to do other than act?

I like to read and write. I like to write stories and poems. 

Do you think you’d ever write a play?

Maybe. I wrote a book, and I thought this could be a fun play to do. I wrote it around Christmas time and I’m still writing it. [Plot summary: A brother and sister are read a bedtime story, have dreams that involve the other, and in the morning, it becomes real].

What do you think about being Matilda?

I’m really excited! I feel like I can relate to Matilda. Sometimes I’m a little crazy at school and a little different. I’m, like, going nuts, and the people around me are just playing, and I’m going crazy singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I think kids should have more rights. 

What rights should kids have?

They should be able to do what they want. Sometimes. Not all of the time. Because sometimes, it’s dangerous to do what you want because you could get hurt. 

How do you memorize all those words?

I write it down a couple times, and I read through it a lot and I sleep with it. And I do it again and over and over again until I’ve memorized it. Writing it down really helps. You just write it down as many times as you want, and it gets stuck. And it helps to say it a lot, and you pretend you’re that character while you’re saying it. Or to sing it. 

Have you encouraged some of your friends to act?

Not really. I said, “You should audition,” but they were too shy. Then I told them to go to the summer camps here, and maybe they will.

Do you get scared up on the stage?

No, I do not have stage fright. I like people watching me. If I ever get scared, I just pretend I’m in an ice castle. I don’t know why. I just do it. 

Do you worry you’ll get scared and forget your lines?

No. If you practice them every day and get them in you, you just can’t. They’ll just get out of you.

Is there anything you don’t like about the theater?


Do you feel like you’re missing out on what your friends are doing?

No, because I’m doing the best thing. I would not rather go to the swimming pool or the beach. I just want to be here. I like being on stage and learning all the dances and all the songs. Like in Elf Jr. — it was done, and I was like, “We’re having another show!” And my mom said, “No, it’s over.” I just want to do it over and over and over again. 

Editor’s note: This article was updated April 2, 2024, to clarify some details about Josephine’s parents.



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