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A ‘Chip’ off the Wilson block

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Big Sky’s James Wilson set for second season on Playmill stage


Some Big Sky fourth graders will go to Camp Big Sky this summer, others will join Big Sky Broadway, others will become paid actors. Wait, what?

Yes, this year, James Wilson will again spend his summer performing at West Yellowstone’s Playmill Theater as a paid actor. Last year he was baby Tarzan; this year he won the coveted role of Chip, the hilarious young teacup in “Beauty and the Beast.

James has grown up around the theater his entire life, watching both his big sisters in Big Sky Broadway and High School Musical, learning their songs and dance moves, and then finally getting his turn when he was old enough for Big Sky Broadway Junior. Vannessa Wilson, James’s mother, is also a born thespian. Vannessa plays a significant role both organizing and acting in the annual Community Theater shows, which explains where James got his mojo.

While his role as Chip has more lines and stage time than baby Tarzan, he isn’t worried because he no longer has to carry the weight of establishing who Tarzan is in the first scenes of the show.

“This role is a little less pressure compared to Baby Tarzan,” James said.

James Wilson played the role of Baby Tarzan at West Yellowstone’s Playmill Theater last summer. COURTESY OF THE WILSON FAMILY

Plus, he’s been told his costume is very cool.

“They measured me for a very elaborate costume,” James said.

Unlike some fourth graders, James won’t have a lazy summer. His calendar is booked with 72 shows this summer. No Camp Big Sky or, sadly, Big Sky Broadway for him. But he does get some treats along the way. His favorite ice cream is just across the street from the theater readily available for after shows or rehearsals, and he loves a burger at the Slippery Otter Pub.

His number one supporter goes to his mother, Vannessa, known as Ms. Wilson at the school. She recommends James’s early career plan to other kids who like to act.

“They should audition. It’s a big commitment, but it’s great. The Playmill works very well with kids; they’re used to having many kids on set,” Vannessa said.

Commitment is the number one thing James says he has taken away from this process. He has also become quite a natural on stage. If you are familiar with life on stage, you must be prepared for anything. He says improvisation is crucial, and if you perfect it, no one even knows when you mess up.

“No one in the audience knows my script, so sometimes I just act like what’s happening is part of the script even when it isn’t.” James said.

James is breaking the boundaries of what it means to start young in the theater. If you decide to go, he’ll be easy to point out because he’s the only fourth grader on stage. Tickets will be sold on where you can also see a schedule of performances.

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