By Melissa Ford
Meet Graham Wielgos (pronounced:will-gus), a natural and versatile actor, who has just landed one of the two casts for Snoopy in CAST’s 2011 Summer Production, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Grabbing the chance to sit down with Wielgos (I bent his ear for over an hour), I inquired about his past performances, how he got his start in acting, and why he likes garnering attention.
Melissa Ford - OakPark.com/EmpoweredParent: So Graham, have you always liked to act?
Graham Wielgos: Yes. I used to put on shows with my brother. A few years ago, I did a puppet show for my family.
What do you enjoy about acting?
Meeting all the people involved in the productions, and when I get a role, I feel like I’m a part of something big. Last year, I was in CAST and I started out with no lines at all. As we rehearsed, I ended up with 19 lines. Also, as rehearsal goes on, it becomes more and more fun to see the show coming together. Even my dad says it’s amazing to see what happens in six weeks.
How do you adapt to playing a certain role?
The first rehearsal is a big run through. I get to see what my character is like and maybe I even know something about the character, like Charlie Brown or Snoopy. It’s fun to be a character for two or three hours, and not be yourself.
What do you plan on doing with your acting?
I want to continue to act through high school and maybe college. I’ve even had thoughts about being a science teacher; I could do both. I really started acting last summer when I was in CAST. That’s when I first got in front of a lot of people other than my family.
How do you improve your acting skills?
Directors in CAST are really helpful and nice. They can see what talents the actors already have or if they are talented in the special way the character is. In the morning, we have classes and our directors will pull out people to help them. Also, our directors teach us how to sword fight, juggle, do improv; they get us ready for our shows.
Are you talented in a special way?
My guitar teacher says I can memorize things. In our school’s talent show, there was a song called “One Day,” and first time I heard it, I had the words memorized. CAST directors tell us another talent is the ability to follow directions, and even if you have talent, the crew is one of the biggest parts because the show couldn’t even be a show without the crew.
It takes courage to perform. Do you have any tips for someone trying to overcome stage fright?
Pick someone out in the crowd and pretend they are the only person there. I like to look at my director; it makes me feel better. She’ll smile back at me. . . like she knows I can do this.
Do you have any friends in CAST?
I made a lot of friends at CAST, of course. The person who brought me into CAST is my friend, Spencer Lombardo. Last summer his mom told my mom about CAST, and since my mom knew I loved acting, she asked me if I wanted to do it. I said yes! And, the past year, Spencer and I biked to CAST. He’s definitely helped me with my acting.
How does Spencer Lombardo help you with your acting?
This past week, I was practicing my audition in front of Spencer and I asked him how I could improve. His biggest tip was to speak louder.
I saw pictures of you emceeing for Mann School’s Talent Show and I knew I wanted to interview you. You were wearing a white suit and fedora; did your parents make you wear it?
No. I like wearing suits and hats; I got the fedora on a family vacation in Turkey. When I made it as emcee for my school's talent show, the first thing I started thinking about was what to wear? I got the idea to wear a white suit from Justin Bieber. He wore a white suit to the Grammy Awards; I thought it looked cool.
What do you like about donning a suit and hat?
I always like to get dressed up because I feel like no one else would do that. It makes me feel special and getting dressed up is a part of acting. My friend, Coleman, suggested I wear a suit to Picture Day so I could look like Bill Gates. Coleman was surprised that I wore a suit; no one else was wearing anything fancy. And, I tried to act like Bill Gates by putting money in my breast pocket.
What kind of support do you get from your parents regarding your acting?
They let me go to this camp (CAST). I probably wouldn’t have recognized my talent so soon if I didn’t go to CAST. That’s what got me started. My parents come to my shows and that makes me feel good. They were happy when I made the emcee part because they know I like acting.
I’m running out of questions. Do you have a question you’d recommend I’d ask?
Hmmm.... Why not, “How did you first get into acting?”
That’s a good one; wish I had thought of it. Graham, how did you first get into acting?
When I was little my mom always sang. Then, I started singing and I started watching movies and plays. Other people in my family like to act, and I started trying to do what they could do. My cousin is really into acting and when I was littler - she would act in front of our family. I realized I wanted to start to do that.
A few years ago, my cousins did Who’s on First and I got my brother, Duncan, to do that with me! Then, we performed it for my Grandma and Grandpa, and the rest of our family. Another thing we do - is every year we go to my Great Uncle Pat’s house and we do Karaoke. I like seeing what songs everybody picks and watching what the adults do.
I’d like to personally thank Graham for spending a weekday evening with me and special thanks to his mom, Maura O'Hara, who ensured that our meeting took place prior to “Graham retiring by 8:30 pm.”
CAST is also offering two other summer productions, Guys and Dolls and The Member of the Wedding. Performances are Thursday, July 14th at 7:30 pm, Saturday July 16th at 5 pm & 8 pm, and Sunday, July 17th at 12:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased on CAST website.