Parker’s character comes to life every season in the holiday movie classic “A Christmas Story,” which has only grown in popularity since hitting the big screen nearly 30 years ago. CAST is bringing the story to the stage just in time for the holidays with 10-year-old A.J. Long cast in the role of our favorite towheaded dreamer.
In his first starring role, the fifth grader is no stranger to the holidays — he acted in both “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” as the child George Bailey. We talked with the stage “veteran” about the joy of acting, his passion for writing and how he balances it all.
Q: How did you find out about playing the part?
A: Well, Mom (Hayley Long, also cast in the play) and I have been with CAST for two years, so we kind of follow the plays, and when we found out we were doing “A Christmas Story,” I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be Flick, the kid whose tongue gets stuck to the pole, or Ralphie. And I guess I just got Ralphie!
Q: Did you audition for both?
A: I auditioned for both. I was very surprised because I didn’t think I’d get the part of Ralphie. I auditioned for Ralphie first, and did some lines for it. I was kind of rushing it a little. I did better doing Flick than I did Ralphie, so I was kind of surprised that I got Ralphie ... I didn’t do too good on the audition.
Q: Do you think you’ll want to be an actor when you grow up?
A: I don’t want it to be like a huge professional career for me or something, but I’d still like to continue to act.
Q: What do you want to do when you grow up?
A: I’d like to be an author and write best-selling books. I usually like to read adventure books and mysteries and sometimes biographies. I like to write adventure stories and survival stories. I’m actually writing a short survival story right now called “Slope Town.” A plane crashes in a snowy slope, and the survivors have to create a community and town in order for them to survive in the harsh environment and cold weather.
I haven’t finished writing it, but [the characters] are coming along really well. They just really help each other to survive in the environment. It’s really cold, and sometimes there’re blizzards. When they help each other out, they can all survive.
Q: In the play, Ralphie desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun. What do you want for Christmas?
A: I haven’t really made a big list yet, but there’s one thing I really want: the new Professor Layton game. It’s a series of games, and I want the new one that came out, I think Oct. 27. But I haven’t got enough money to get it yet, so I guess I’ll just wait for Christmas to get it. Usually the games have a really cool plot, and the puzzles are good, and it really gets your mind thinking.
Q: If Ralphie were a real person, what advice would you give him to get the BB Gun — what would you tell him, if he were your friend?
A: I would probably say just try to convince your parents or Santa that it would be a good thing — but he can’t convince Santa in the play. The mother keeps saying, “You’ll shoot your eye out, Ralphie!” The teacher says it, Santa says it, the mother says it. Ralphie has all these hopes of people helping him get the BB gun [but] they just say, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Q: Did you have to do anything really big to prepare?
A: Well, of course I had to learn all those lines that I have. There’s a lot of stage direction, and I gotta know my cues. It’s kind of been a challenge, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good with my lines and cues. I just need to learn the stage directions. When we don’t have rehearsal, my mom and dad kind of do mini rehearsals. We go over scenes, and we try to just go over the lines and all that. I usually go over my lines and cues and stage directions before I go to bed. It’s a big deal and challenge, you know? Because if you forget where to go or you forgot your line or cue in the middle of one of the big performances, you can probably just mess up the whole scene. So you gotta learn all that stuff.
Q: Is it hard to act and be in school at the same time?
A: Sort of, because I need to know stuff for tests, and I need to know my lines. And it’s hard to balance all the knowledge in my head.
‘A Christmas Story’
Where: McClellan Auditorium Nov. 23-25 and Nov. 29-Dec. 2.
Cost: Tickets range from $10 - $20.
For more information visit www.castalabama.com.