For Katie Gebbia, John Jay High School senior and theater student, it’s not just about the performance, but the learning experience.
Katie was born in Mount Vernon and began performing at a very early age. Whether singing, acting or dancing, Katie felt most comfortable in front of a crowd. As Katie got older, she found that performing allowed her “the ability to inspire an audience and create change.” Katie also started to “appreciate the art form and how influential it can be not only to the audience but the performer as well.”
In her freshman year, Katie moved from Mount Vernon to Lewisboro and began her John Jay High School journey. Katie had previously attended a private school, so not only was she new to John Jay; Katie was new to the public-school experience as well. Having done theater at her previous school, she decided to seek out the drama offerings at John Jay to help her find her place in her new school.
Katie quickly realized that the theater program at John Jay would be different from that at her previous school. Not only was John Jay known for its high-caliber theater program with outstanding resources, Katie also found that the John Jay community heavily supports the arts. As Katie became more engaged with the theater department, doors to new friendships and unique artistic and academic opportunities began to open.
During freshman year, Katie participated in the musical “Little Women.” She was cast as Beth March, one of the four March sisters featured in the production. She quickly bonded with the three other students, who were cast as the other sisters. It would be these friendships that would help Katie learn about the culture surrounding the performing arts at John Jay. To this day, she stays in touch with these three former John Jay students.
As her years at John Jay went on, she became an active member in the theater program, participating in nearly all of the school’s recent shows. Last year, she served as the junior director for the freshman play, and this year she is the co-director of the group’s production of David Mamet’s “Revenge of the Space Pandas.” The freshman play is exclusively cast from first-year students and is directed by upperclassmen. Katie feels that the freshman play is a unique opportunity that John Jay provides students; the ability to lead a full production as a high school student. It would be this experience with the freshmen play that got Katie thinking about directing and the opportunities available in theater beyond performing.
As Katie’s participation in the theater department expanded, her hard work, dedication and talent were recognized by faculty and staff. Amanda Urban, a John Jay High School English teacher, said Katie’s performances are “impressively earnest and energetic” and that “she takes the time to explore each character and breathe life into” them.
This hard work has paid off.
“Audiences are always captivated by Katie’s performances,” Urban said.
However, it is Katie’s kind personality that Urban most appreciates. “I feel lucky not only to work with such a talented actor but also with such a kind, wonderful human being.”
Academically, Katie enjoys and excels in the areas of English and research. During her time at John Jay, Katie participated in the Humanities Research program, which is a two-year course of study.
“It is truly one of the best programs at John Jay. You became a great research writer and presenter while learning from the other students in the class,” Katie said.
In the first year, students are expected to write several small research papers and give presentations. The second year, the focus is on one project. For Katie, her work, titled “How Musical Theatre Impacts the Actors and Audiences,” was 75 pages once completed.
In addition to her academic achievements and drama activities, Katie is a member of the Treble Makers, a co-ed a cappella group, and Vocal Jazz. Last year, as a member of Vocal Jazz, Katie received the judge’s choice award at the 51st Annual Berklee High School Jazz Festival, which featured 200 high school jazz groups and had 5,000 thousand attendees. The judge’s choice award is given to the student performer who stands out most among the ensemble.
When not performing, leadership occupies Katie’s time as she is involved in several academic organizations, including the National Honor Society and Tri-M, an honors society for music students. Katie is also working with several other students at John Jay in an attempt to establish the International Thespian Society, an honors organization for theater students. Katie and the other students feel that the inclusion of this organization in the John Jay community is not only a great way to recognize the hard work of drama students but will also spread the culture of the theater department throughout the school.
Outside of school, Katie spends a great deal of her time focused on her craft with community theater and conservatory programs. This summer, Katie attended the New York State Summer School of the Arts for theater. The audition-based program only accepts 32 students from the state. As part of the month-long program, Katie stayed on the campus of SUNY Delhi, where she studied theater seven days a week. Katie describes the experience as “amazing” as she was able to learn with other theater-loving students. While not currently enrolled in dance classes so that she can focus on the college application process, Katie has previously studied ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical, a dance style that combines jazz and ballet.
While the school year has just started, Katie is already planning for the future. Initially, Katie had thought about attending a theater conservatory program; however, she realized that she would miss being in a classroom. While performing is an integral part of her life, Katie envisions a future for herself that includes a broader focus. Thus, she has decided to pursue a path in liberal arts. Katie is looking at several schools that have a core focus on education with a robust performing arts program. Currently, Katie plans to double major in English and theater with an emphasis on directing, producing and dramaturgy, the study of dramatic composition. Looking past college, Katie foresees a future where she will be directing and studying dramatic literature.
Katie is the daughter of Liz and Bob Gebbia. Liz Gebbia is the vice president of Enterprise Risk for Synchrony Financial and Bob Gebbia is the CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
If you would like to see Katie’s work, the John Jay High School fall production of “You Can’t Take It With You” is playing Friday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The John Jay High School freshman play, “Revenge of the Space Pandas,” can be seen on Friday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m.