Letícia Monteiro

Allison Moore, Editor in Chief

Maddi Shinall

Letícia Monteiro `23 always knew that she wanted to act and perform. “Oh my God, I knew ever since I was, like, a baby,” she said.

An international student from Brazil, Monteiro always had lofty goals. As the first person in her family to attend college in the U.S., Monteiro said that she sacrificed a lot for her education. “I came here without ever having stepped foot on American soil, without having visited the College,” she said. 

Monteiro started acting lessons at seven years old, but said that theater and acting are not taken as seriously in Brazil. Thus, she knew she wanted more opportunities to find a community that recognized the validity and value of acting as a profession.

When searching for schools in the U.S., Monteiro said she had little guidance, but she eventually decided that a liberal arts education would allow her to explore all theatrical areas and become a more well-rounded artist. She said all the schools that accepted her were liberal arts institutions. “I guess I fit the profile,” she joked. 

But why Grinnell in particular? “I had a gut feeling that this [Grinnell] is where I should go, and I don’t really know how to explain that. The women in my family are very intuitive — all of us — and I think we were all feeling like … maybe that’s the right place,” Monteiro said. 

During her first semester at the College, Monteiro said she was disheartened that both students and faculty in the Grinnell theatre, dance and performance studies (TDPS) department were primarily white and American. “I felt that I was missing something here,” she said. 

Additionally, Monteiro said her Tutorial advisor insisted that she take a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) course in her second semester. When she told this to John Garrison, professor of English, he offered to be Monteiro’s advisor instead, so she declared an English major during her first year. Monteiro said she will proudly graduate without ever taking a STEM class. 

However, after taking Introduction to Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) with assistant professor Leah Allen, GWSS, Monteiro broke the news to Garrison that she wanted to switch to a double major in TDPS and GWSS. 

For Monteiro, this combination of majors allowed her to “draw upon this ancestral, cultural knowledge that I got from my grandma and my mom. All the women in my family, my mom says that they are magical women ahead of their time.” She continued, “I’ve always been super interested in social change and how to do it through art … I’ve always had that instinct of telling the invisible, forgotten stories of my peoples.” 

After being sent home to Brazil in 2020 during the COVID pandemic, Monteiro took the opportunity to spend time with her family and focus on her craft. She found various online courses from graduate students from the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University, New York University and The Juilliard School that for the first time provided her with a BIPOC-exclusive space that made her feel more recognized and valued. 

During the spring of her third year, Monteiro studied at the National Theatre Institute (NTI) in Waterford, Connecticut. “I decided to study off campus, but I also knew I wanted to stay in the U.S. I think I came here for a reason, like artistically, and I wanted to pursue that,” said Monteiro.

While at NTI, Monteiro said she had classes 7 days a week for 10-12 hours each day. “It’s a place with a lot of energy, you feel it in the ground,” she said. “It was so intense. It was hard. I was like, ‘okay, as an artist, I need rest.’ So I learned that for sure.” Nevertheless, Monteiro said she was excited to be in a place that solely focused on theater — “the practice and not necessarily the theory,” she said. 

One day, the artistic director at NTI approached Monteiro at lunch and informed her that her scholarship came from Lin-Manuel Miranda, an actor, director, songwriter and playwright famous for his work on “Hamilton,” “In the Heights” and “Moana,” to name a few. “I started laughing, and she was like, ‘no, I’m serious,’” Monteiro said. 

The director explained that Miranda saw Monteiro’s application materials and not only donated money towards her education, but also offered her a place in the Miranda Family Fellowship for the next two years. After she graduates, Monteiro said that she will take a year to focus on the fellowship, where she will receive artistic and professional mentorship and will be able to audition for Miranda’s various artistic projects.

I’ve always been super interested in social change and how to do it through art … I’ve always had that instinct of telling the invisible, forgotten stories of my peoples.

— Letícia Monteiro

“I’m one of the only international artists [in the fellowship] which is always so much fun to see everything that I’m accomplishing,” Monteiro said. “Especially after everything I went through as a queer artist of color, as a Latina, as a Brazilian … sometimes feeling like I had to work twice as hard as other people in the [Grinnell TDPS] department”

Not ready to return to Grinnell after her semester at NTI, Garrison informed Monteiro that she could in fact do a full year abroad. “Nobody told me this!” she said. 

Monteiro found a program at The Second City, a Chicago theater famous for improv and celebrity alums like Tina Fey and Steve Carrell. “I really wanted to go back to this place of joy when performing,” Monteiro said.

Although she emailed the program late, Monteiro said that The Second City program for college students must have been impressed with her passion, and she was accepted. There, Monteiro performed on The Second City stage for the public and had “a wonderful time filled with joy and comedy.”

Now in her last semester back on campus, Monteiro said, “There’s something special here, and I think people are cherishing each other and being very genuine, and loving and joyful.” 

After graduation, Monteiro looks forward to returning to Brazil to spend more time with her family, especially her grandmother. “[She is] the most important person in my life. There is no other way to describe our relationship. She is the sweetest, most kind person I’ve ever met,” Monteiro said. “I saw her as a mentor throughout my entire life and really learned how to share space with other people by watching her and how she treated people, how she collaborated with people.”

If Monteiro were to offer advice to her first-year self, she has two simple words — “Persist and resist.” She continued, “Remember, you do have a place here even when you feel that you don’t, when people make you believe that you don’t … Your humanity has so much value. You are enough. Remember to bring that beauty, wisdom, Brazilianness, Latinidad.”