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On stage! Meet the child actors of 'A Christmas Story'

Several young actors star in Studio Arena Theatre's current production of "A Christmas Story." NeXt got a chance to interview three of them. All are in seventh grade. Patrick McEnchrow White goes to St. Stephen's School on Grand Island and played the urchin in "The Cobbler" at Irish Classical Theatre last year and Ollie Herdman in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" at the Theatre of Youth. Griffin Kramer, who plays Scut Farkas, goes to Amherst Middle School and played Claude Herdman in TOY's "Best Christmas Pageant Ever." He plays the violin. Hayley Davis, who plays Ester Jane Alberry, attends Amherst Middle School and is a pianist and singer.

Q: What first got you into acting?

Patrick: When I was in second grade, my school did a play and I auditioned for it. I kept doing school plays, and then I found auditions for a show in Buffalo. It was "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

Hayley: Both my parents are in music and wanted me to be in music. I tried out a lot of different things, but this is the most fun.

Griffin: My mom's an actress and my dad owns a theater company, so obviously that bordered me into acting.

Q: How much commitment did this play take?

Patrick: It took a lot. Every day after school except Mondays, six hour weekends, and shows every day of the week.

Hayley: I would miss a lot of school, and I would have to balance this and all the homework.

Griffin: Same thing pretty much. You have to balance a lot of homework. You have to cut a lot of things. You can't go to your friend's house every day anymore.

Q: Are there any actors, movies, or productions that have ever influenced you?

Patrick: Any good movie that I see really influences me.

Q: How did working on the play affect your school life?

Patrick: I had to make arrangements to make up all the schoolwork I missed.

Hayley: I had to make up lots of tests and things, and all of my friends were like "I miss you!"

Griffin: I had to make up a lot of tests, and I had to do homework here a couple of times. I haven't seen TV in what seems like forever.

Q: What were the auditions like?

Patrick: A week before the auditions, they gave me a side of the script, which is just like a little portion of it, and then I would just learn that and read it for the director with another person playing the other part.

Hayley I got a letter asking me to audition, and when I did there were a lot of kids in the waiting room. But I just went in there, read the script, left, and they picked me.

Griffin: It was a little scary going in front of people that have no idea who you are. But I wasn't expecting to get a role really, I just wanted to audition for something to be used to it for the future. But they picked me!

Q: What were the rehearsals like?

Patrick: They were about three hours on weekdays and about six hours on weekends.

Q: What was one really memorable moment from working on the play?

Griffin: The person that plays Randy spanks himself sometimes. And the other day was like the day of falling. I tripped on someone's foot and fell into the audience.

Hayley: A lot of times we don't get along, but when we do it's great. On Thanksgiving we all got together for dinner, kind of put aside all our differences.

Q: What's the biggest disadvantage of stage acting?

Patrick: It's really easy to mess up, whereas with film acting if you screw something up you can go back and re-shoot it. Every show I had to go over my lines and script, try to keep reinforcing them the right way in my head.

Q: Do you have any plans for the future?

Patrick: I just want to keep acting, and doing other things I like. I like to write, paint, I play basketball, I like to read.

Griffin: I just want the stage to be a hobby, I don't want it to be like my whole job. Something just fun to do. But I don't really know what I want to do when I get older.

Hayley: I don't know.

Q: Any advice for people your age that want to get in to acting?

Patrick: Never give up and keep trying.

Hayley: Try to really understand your part, because it helps on stage. Just lose yourself and be like your character.

Griffin: Don't really think of what other people will think of you. It's more fun to just be a completely different person. And don't pay attention to the audience.

Jay Silverstein is a freshman at Williamsville North.

"A Christmas Story" continues at Studio Arena, 710 Main St., at 7 p.m. Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday with no performances Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and one at 7 p.m. Dec. 26. Tickets $25 to $57. Call 856-5650.

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