Next to the distinct privilege of appearing as Pablo Gonzalez in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a co-production of Magic Thread Cabaret and Catalyst Repertory, is the opportunity I have to perform alongside emerging artist Mitchell Wray with whom I share a unique history and friendship.
The 17-year-old high school senior and I have known each other since 2016 when he performed in “Calder, The Musical” in the role of the young Alexander “Sandy” Calder. Presented by Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, I co-produced the work with my collaborator Dustin Klein with whom I co-wrote the script. I also served as the show’s director and lyricist.
I first laid eyes on Carmel native Wray, in 2014 when he appeared in an Indiana Repertory Theatre children’s production of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” for which I gave him his first review, and a glowing one at that. The next time I crossed paths with him was when he auditioned for “Calder” and won the role of “Sandy” Calder by virtue of his remarkable talent. I recall when he read and sang for us, Klein and I were glued to our chairs. We knew at the time that we were witnessing a star in the making. Up to that point Wray had also appeared in an IRT production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and a Civic Theatre production of “Mary Poppins.”
After performing in our IndyFringe preview of “Calder,” Wray landed a role in the national touring company of the musical “Finding Neverland,” and went on to appear in 32 cities for a period of 11 months. At first, he played the role of Jack but eventually went on to star as Peter.
After the “Neverland” tour, Wray moved to L.A. where he appeared in a play “Irene,” directed by Jonah Platt as well as in the Disney Channel’s “Coop and Cami Ask the World,” in which he played Mason and a film called “Playdate.” Wishing to experience a normal adolescent existence with his peers, Wray returned to Carmel to attend an area high school as an incoming freshman. He graduates in June.
Over the past four years, I have stayed in touch with Wray and his twin sister, actor-singer and former Disney star Amelia, whom I recently profiled here in this column. I also regularly communicated with his mom-manager Chauncie, dad Corey and grandmother Patsy Solinger. Once it was decided that Magic Thread Cabaret was to co-produce “Streetcar” and knowing that Wray would be perfect for the part of the Young Collector, I contacted his mom-manager with a request to meet with him. Later “Streetcar” director Casey Ross and I met with Wray and invited him to join the cast, which he did without hesitation.
Recently, I sat down with Wray, who is represented by the prestigious Osbrink Agency, at his family’s home to chat about his role in “Streetcar” and what lies ahead for him as he embarks on his college career. Below is an edited transcript of my interview with the budding star.
How does it feel to be back on stage after six years away?
It feels great because the cast is so talented, and this work was so important in its time in cinema and the original stage production. As far as my time away, I needed to regroup and figure out who I was, spend time in high school, spend time with friends, and pick up new hobbies. But it’s great to get back to my roots.
Why this production for your comeback?
Since I have always been interested in film production, when I finally saw it, I knew I had to be in the stage production—get my feet in the water and see if I still knew how to act. (laughs).
Why did you choose to act in this particular play?
A lot of acting roles I have done have been in the child category and have been optimistic ones, which I love and were fun to play, but I think as an actor you want to be versatile and make your portrayals interesting. And even though the role I play, the young collector, is a small one, it is an important one and a serious moment I want to convey well.
What about the production itself?
I love the way Casey, you, and Dustin have reimagined the play and made it more relevant to today with its themes of class, feminism, diversity, and domestic violence. We see Blanche who is in the middle of her life, who’s lost and the past she so identified with is gone. Then there’s Stanley, this super macho man, and the way he abuses his wife Stella is important for men to see, so they can learn lessons from it.
What did you observe at the table read where you first met the cast?
I felt very satisfied that I was back in the saddle, doing a professional product. One of the reasons I didn’t do any projects after my last show following the “Finding Neverland” tour was that I didn’t want to get back into the community theatre scene after working in the professional theatre. I also trusted you and Dustin. When I did “Calder, The Musical,” I was so amazed with the quality of the production. I knew you would not steer me wrong. I was very satisfied with the cast. Sara (Castillo Dandurand) is incredible as Blanche. She makes the role her own.
How do you approach your scene (spoiler alert) in which your character shares a kiss with Blanche?
In all my years of acting on television, commercials, film, and theatre I have yet to do a kissing scene. I knew I had to do it going in, so I told myself that when the time came, I would just have to roll with it. It’s my job and the way in which the whole thing was handled in such a professional way made it easy. Sara is such a great actor and wonderful person. She and I talked about it, and she made sure I was comfortable, and she set me at ease. Also, Casey and Kathy (Hoefgen) the stage manager made sure I was okay. I am 17 years old. It might have been scary if I hadn’t kissed a girl before in my life (laughs). It’s always been easy for me to step outside of myself and become a character. In the case of “Streetcar” it’s supposed to be awkward for the young man and maybe disturbing for the audience, but that was what was necessary for the play, so as an actor I just conveyed it.
Did the actor’s portrayal of your role in the film influence you at all?
It does, but hopefully I am placing my own stamp on the role. As an actor, I try to stay true to the role, but give it my own interpretation.
You have played mostly larger roles. How does it feel to play a small one?
It feels good. I did not want to do a huge role right out of the gate. I think it’s important to take it slowly getting back into acting.
Has the theatre bug returned?
I have already started getting that itch (laughs). Being with a cast and crew is inspiring. It reminds me of why I started in the first place, playing a character and acting in general. It is a cool job that not a lot of people get to do.
Let’s shift to your future. You are going off to college, right?
Starting at the age of four, I have always wanted to make movies and direct them. That is why I started acting in the first place. How can I involve myself as quickly as possible in the film and television industry and get a firsthand glance at how things go? Being from Indiana, there were not a lot of film and television opportunities in these parts, at least while I was growing up. Theatre was the closest thing, so my sister (Amelia) and I did theatre growing up. I started acting because I wanted to be a film director and now that it is time to pick a college, my interests have shifted. Since sixth grade, I have been interested in fashion and streetwear. It’s super timely and important to my generation to be those changemakers in fashion and create an outlet, so I am attending Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD) this fall to major in fashion design and minor in film production. I want to see how I can incorporate those interests of mine and hopefully make something out of those and get an audience.
Will there be any room for acting classes when you attend SCAD?
I’ll definitely see what kinds of acting opportunities there are in Savannah.
Film is an amalgamation of all the arts, so why not, right?
It’s true and one of the reasons I want to be a film director is to share my vision with the world and whoever is experiencing my art.
What does collaboration mean to you?
Whether it is school or projects or theatre or film, I have always loved getting a bunch of creative people together and everybody throwing out ideas. When one person takes the reins and the ring master takes control, not a lot gets shared, but when there are several creative people involved, there is always this process where everyone is throwing out ideas and sharing their visions and it truly comes together to create this beautiful piece.
Would you say you are not a “my way or the highway” kind of director?
No (laughs) I am a super open. There have been times when people have thrown out ideas and I have said “Yes,” but then brought in my own ideas, too. The collaborative process is so inspiring and is what makes art shine.
What do you see in your future?
I hope to be a creative director for cool brands, make some movies, having a clothing brand of my own and be financially self-sufficient. One cool thing about a creative director position is that it is your vision and people are incorporating their own ideas to help further collaborate on your vision but at the end of the day it’s through your lens how everything will go, and I feel like I have always looked at life and art in a different way than most people. I am excited to go to fashion and film school and see how I can garner the tools to help me share my vision. Right now, I don’t know how to get it out there and that is why college is important. I can work with people who can give me the tools I need. 202o fa3, thus far r has been such a learning experience. It is up to me. There is no more relying on other people for my career to skyrocket, and I think that is super exciting and motivating and inspiring. I am ready to get serious about my craft, whether it be film or fashion design and go to college and see if I can make things happen. A lot of people are scared of that and run away from it but recently I have found it be very inspiring.
What does your relationship with your twin sister Amelia mean to you?
I love Amelia. She is my best friend. We tell each other everything, every single day, having a twin has taught me what true friendship looks like, and if I don’t see that reciprocated from other people in my life, it helps me recognize that person is not for me. We have different aspirations in the way we pursue our respective arts but we support each other completely.
What was her reaction when you resumed acting again?
She was super excited. My family has been saying, “We have been wanting to see you on stage ever since ‘Finding Neverland.’” That break was beneficial for me to figure out who I am and not be stuck in a child acting persona, and now I’m in theatre feeling like a young adult.
Is Amelia’s singing career inspiring you?
Yes, it is. She’s performing in L.A. in a few weeks. It’s awesome, and I am so happy for her and everything she is doing; I can’t wait to see where our paths take us.
Why should people see “Streetcar”?
Other than the fact that I am in it (laughs), Indiana has not seen talent like they are going to see in this show. It is truly a beautiful piece and the way that Casey portrays her vision…the sound design…the acting…the set design and everything is just very powerful. The story is important to share, and I think a lot of people will learn something from it. It is a really cool show. Casey is not afraid to show true emotion on stage. Streetcar is a dark piece of theatre, and she is not afraid to let the dark components thrive. It really leaves you feeling weird after the show, but when a show can make you feel that way, it’s great. And there is not a lot of that around here. You are missing out if you don’t check it out. Come feel weird with us. (laughs)
Follow Mitchell on Instagram at mitchell.wray. For tickets and information about “A Streetcar Named Desire” which continues weekends through March 19, visit IndyFringe.org. An additional performance on Saturday, March 8, at 2 p.m. has been added.