Article by Kellie Houx
Heather Wolesky sometimes has to turn down the “proud mother” looks when her 13-year-old daughter Ava takes the stage. The two have been teaming to be part of Gladstone Theatre in the Park and the upcoming production of “Willy Wonka” taking the stage this weekend.
They have been on stage together before in past Gladstone shows such as “Oliver” and “Shrek,” but this summer, the stakes are a bit higher as Ava takes the lead of Charlie Bucket, the poor but honest child, while Heather plays the role of Mrs. Gloop, the mother of Augustus Gloop, a child who specializes in eating.
Heather, who graduated from Winnetonka High School and is now a lawyer with Brown Excavating, appreciates the history of Gladstone Theatre in the Park. She performed in shows 25 years ago and played in “The Music Man” in 1991. Five years ago, she returned to Gladstone Theatre in the Park and the most recent production of “The Music Man.”
“This is my eighth show with Gladstone,” she said.
For Ava, notification of her selection for the role of Charlie came within the week that the family went to New York City and saw “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Her other roles in Gladstone included being understudy of “Oliver” as she played an orphan and street urchin, Jojo in “Seussical the Musical” and a young Princess Fiona in “Shrek.”
“With Charlie, I am more vocally involved with this show,” she said. “It’s challenging.”
They like working together so they can run lines with each other or work on songs jointly.
Both are excited to work with director Vanessa Campagna. Heather said she is creative and executes her vision. The actor applauds the entire creative team, including Teresa Farley, the band director.
Campagna said a high vocal range is needed to play Charlie.
“Ava was always a top contender,” she said. “She is widely talented. People’s availability is also important, as well as their artistic side. I call it conscious casting. It’s a very empowering way to cast a show.”
Campagna also feared that casting a boy in April with a show in July, the young man’s voice could change.
“Vanessa wants us to not treat what we are doing as community theater, but rather be as good as we can be,” Ava said. “Maybe even better.”
Ava understands the drive to be the best she can be. She got bit by the theater bug around the age of 8 and played in Liberty Junior High School’s production of “Anne of Green Gables.” She then found musical theater with “Oliver.” She’s a member of Starlight Stars of Tomorrow and takes classes at The Coterie.
“Getting into the role of Charlie is a challenge,” she said. “We live in such different worlds. I am privileged and Charlie doesn’t have much but family. However, he’s happy, and that’s hard to realize.”
Heather likes this musical because it rewards the child who is pure of heart.
“It raises him up over those who deal with gluttony and greed,” she said. “The parents have to learn the lessons.”
Both mother and daughter like “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” which Ava sings alone on stage. However, Heather also enjoys the song that she sings with Liberty North student Michael Chapman, who plays Augustus, “I Eat More.”
Ava has been on stage with Clifford Hubbard, the actor who plays Willy Wonka, in other shows.
“There is a core group of actors and they are a wonderful family,” Heather said.
“We have bonded in these five weeks, and we have made great friends,” Ava said.
The mother and daughter are steeped in theater all the time. Ava used to play sports, but her focus has shifted to the theater.
“Right now, this is what makes me happy,” Ava said.