It occurs to me as rehearsals have gotten underway for Saline Area Players’ production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka that we have some of the nicest kids I’ve ever met playing the most bratty characters ever. I started to wonder what they did to channel their bratty-ness. So, I spent a little time with them trying to figure it out. One thing I found out was that all of them watched both movies, the original from 1971 entitled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and the more recent version from 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to get ideas about their characters. 3 of the 4 kids said they liked the first one better, which I saw when it came out, but they all saw on DVD. Yes, there were people alive then. In fact, my sister had a theme party at our house based on the song Candy Man, which was a lot of fun and, needless to say, included lots of sweets. Anyway, the other thing they all have in common is that they are enjoying their parts, as you will see by some of their responses to my questions.
Henry Kiley, who plays Augustus Gloop, says he’s played the part before. He describes his role as a “happy goofy glutton.” He says, “I could never do a good German accent…. but, I gave it a shot … it has been working well.” To learn the German accent, his previous director read some of the lines for him with an accent and he listened to it on Youtube.
What’s his hardest part? "Thinking about how ridiculous the song actually sounds." Henry had to look up one of the words in the lyrics - truncheon (which rhymes with luncheon) - it's a kind of large club. He says,"bratwurst the size of a truncheon is funny!" Overall, Henry's take on the song is that it “doesn’t sink in that you’re singing about food” and then when you think about it, “it is absurd.” The song title is “I Eat More!”
Stephen Muzzi, who plays Mike TeaVee, says with a smile that normally “I’m a perfect angel.” At home he is more into books than technology, but watches TV, uses a wii and plays with the i-pod touches of his older siblings, although notes that when he asks them to use one, they often say “no”.
How is he like his character? “I’m really hyper at home.” How is he different? He doesn’t watch TV or screens all day like his character.
What’s it like to play the part? “It is fun to be a person completely different than you are and to totally turn off Stephen Muzzi and put on Mike TeaVee and call adults ‘fools’…. That’s fun and satisfying.” But, he acknowledges that he would never do that in real life!
To channel her “brat,” Olivianna Calmes watched TV shows where people are super bratty. She found the show “Toddlers in Tiaras” extremely helpful. She says, jokingly, that the brat comes from “deep inside” her. She tries to act sassy and laid back. A favorite pose: Hand on hip and leaning on one leg – “it gives the impression I don’t care what people think.”
How is she like her character? She and her real mom have a good relationship with each other like Violet and Mrs. Beauregarde do. They are both super supportive.
How is she not like her character? Violet is usually very competitive, but she’s not.
What’s it like playing the part? “Super fun and hilarious.” “I can be exactly opposite what I am and know that people will laugh because I’m acting horrible.”
Hannah Burkhart is one of the kindest kids I know and has been honored for her volunteer activities. So, what does she do to play a spoiled, bratty kid? She says “I try to be rude and listen to what the director says.” She was instructed to be like a child who doesn’t care what anyone else says but to do it in her age range. To prepare, she thinks about mean people she knows. She has worked on her body postures – hands on hip, shaking her head, stomping her feet.
How does it feel to be so bratty? “I feel bad sometimes for yelling at everyone…. I don’t want to invade people’s personal space.”
Is it fun too? “Oh, definitely!...I get to be mean to people with no repercussions!”
These are great kids who are having a riot playing bratty ones. I’ve had my own share of playing bratty characters, and I agree with them, it is a lot of fun! Just know, though, that when you meet them on the street they are ACTING and these are not their real personalities.
Tickets are ON SALE NOW for Saline Area Players’ production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. All the information is on SAP’s website at www.salineareaplayers.org.