Ten-year-old Aidan Ruona of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, is the Red Cast Ralphie Parker. Aidan knew in second grade that he had wanted to be on stage. After participating in his Second Grade Reader’s Theatre and showcasing some natural performer instincts, his teacher told him he should become an actor. Aidan wished to send a special thanks to Mrs. Gyllan, who told him to give acting a try.
Aidan’s favorite part of each show is the first performance. Aidan explained, “I’m nervous, but also excited and I’ve never really known which one outweighs the other.” When he is older, Aidan would like to be a professional actor. In addition to the excitement he feels at the start of each show, he also expects it would be a lot of fun to have fans. Even though Aidan enjoys acting, he noted that it also takes a lot of hard work and dedication. “The hardest part of being an actor is memorizing lines. It takes a lot of practice, which takes a lot of time and responsibility,” said Aidan.
“Aidan is a talented young actor,” said Jaclyn Johnson, Festival’s Associate Artistic Director, “but he is also a lot of fun to work with.” Johnson also plays the mother of Ralphie, and so has had a lot of time working on stage with Aidan. “He is focused, pleasant and a great teammate. He supports the work that others are doing, and stays present in each moment.” This commitment to his castmates work might be best exemplified by the fact that Aidan’s favorite part about theatre is meeting new people and making new friends. “It’s like having a second family with the entire cast,” said Aidan.
Aidan added that he is excited to have audiences come share in the comedy of this show. He thinks audiences are sure to have a few laughs and some warm hearts by the end. Josh Stirrat, our Green Cast’s young Ralphie has similar expectations about the audiences’ experience. “I think they will like that this is the story of a normal kid having normal kid adventures,” said Josh. “People should come because the show has some really great messages in it. Like you should never give up when you are striving for a goal, even if it’s silly, like Ralphie’s goal in this show. Don’t give up because you can achieve it,” said Josh.
Josh Stirrat who is from Luck, Wisconsin, is thirteen years old but fell in love with acting ten years ago, at the age of three. He was in a play with his parents, who played his parents, and he had one line; “wow, I can see it!” His father, who was also a thespian, was impressed, and so were audiences. “My grandpa says I got it from my dad,” noted Josh. Josh showed a lot of appreciation and gratitude to his parents for all the support they give him, for doing all the work to get him this time on stage, for driving to and from the theatre countless times. “It really means a lot to me,” said Josh.
Although it was hard to choose, Josh’s favorite scene is the desperado scene. He enjoys being the hero and exploring a different side of Raphlie Parker, and a different side of himself as well. Although being on stage comes naturally to Josh, he noted it is hard to be on stage and keep a straight face, even in the funny parts.
“Josh has really strong instincts on stage. He reacts honestly, in character, and has a great sense of play and a bright, kind energy. It really draws audiences in and gives his fellow actors a lot to play off of and react to,” said Jaclyn Johnson. “Josh also brings a lot of energy to his acting which helps him live in the moment with an honest commitment to his characters,” she added.
He likes being on stage, he likes entertaining, but Josh most enjoys making new friends with each cast and working with the other actors who enjoy the same things he does. In addition to staying busy with his studies and the theatre, Josh is also active in his christian community, and he likes working with younger kids and making people laugh. One day, he would like to become a professional Lego designer.
Adult Ralph Parker is played by Seth Kaltwasser. Seth, who recently became Festival’s full time Development Associate and Arts Education Coordinator, has been seen on stage at Festival Theatre since 2010, when he first appeared as Dutchy in “Is He Dead?” Although he is from Keystone, Iowa, he is currently generously hosted by Liz and Wade Reddy of St. Croix Falls. His first performance opportunity came in sixth grade, when he played “Elfis Presley” in an elementary school Christmas concert. He didn’t perform regularly until high school, at which point he started doing theatre and never stopped. Seth holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Ambrose University, in Davenport, Iowa.
Seth has been working at Festival Theatre on both the administrative and artistic ends since 2011, and since October 10th, has been full time! This past year at Festival has been a very busy one for Seth. He spent this past spring working with third graders at Grantsburg Elementary on the Grantsburg History Project. This summer, he played Charlie Baker in Festival’s production of The Foreigner, had a lot of fun hanging out with creativity campers, and proudly witnessed the debut production of a play he wrote, This Untoward Generation!. This fall, he directed Festival Live Radio Hours Presents: Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman and is currently in rehearsals to play Ralph Parker. It all has been fun, but Seth noted that one role this summer was a great memory; “I loved playing Charlie Baker in The Foreigner this summer – not only because the role is tons of fun, but also because I had the opportunity to work in such a tight, dynamic ensemble. That’s as good as it gets.”
“I am really enjoying working with this cast,” said Seth. “The youth actors are all phenomenally talented and wonderful team members, and the adult cast is comprised of close friends and respected artists Jaclyn Johnson, Kimberly Braun, and Darrell Johnston,” explained Seth. He added, “as the narrator for A Christmas Story, I also get to spend a lot of time with the words of Jean Shepherd, which has been a joy.”
Jaclyn Johnson said about working with Seth, “he is talented, his communication appears effortless, and he knows how to enjoy the work. He is fun to watch and to work with, makes bold and supportive choices, and commands the stage in the warmest of ways!” Seth’s adult Ralph Parker moves in and out of the stage action akin to the Stage Manager of Our Town, setting up the days, and leading us slowly toward that anticipated Christmas morning. “His work with the text is wonderful. It is lively and colorful, and draws the audience into the action, bringing Ralph’s nine-year-old adventures to life,” said Johnson.
Readers can see all three Ralphies on stage starting November 30th. Call the Festival Theatre Box Office at 715-483-3387 for more information or visit www.festivaltheatre.org where tickets can be bought twenty-four hours a day, every day of the week. Festival Theatre also offers school matinees and group rate opportunities. Call for more details.