Roni Akurati walked into his 25th audition not knowing a thing about Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, or the story that has become as much a part of Chicago at the Goodman Theatre as Christmas itself. But the tiny Lake Zurich fourth-grader who likes math and social studies, speaks English and Telugu and who has been acting since he was "6 or 7," would soon learn he nabbed the important role of Tiny Tim.
We spent a few moments with him the day before rehearsals started.
Why did you want to be in "A Christmas Carol"?
Because I love acting and I want to do more of it. You haven't seen it? When (mom Ranjani) said Christmas Carol, then I'm thinking, it's about Christmas. So I wanted to go to (the audition) because I wanted to be in a Christmas show because well, Christmas is fun and you get presents.
What is your favorite thing to do on stage or in front of people?
Everything. (He giggles.)
Do your friends at school know you are an actor?
Some. When I was in third grade, I was in a TV show and my teacher put it up on the board with important things to remember. She put 'at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, Roni's show appears on TV Channel 20.'
How do kids feel about you being an actor?
They went 'wow, you must be rich.' I said, 'I'm not that rich, I'm only a kid.' And then they are like, 'you must own a mansion in two years.' And now it's two years later and I'm still acting and we're not rich at all. Not even rich!
What is one thing that people don't know about you?
That I like to dance because like, people at my school think dancing is not cool and if you are an athlete and stuff you can't dance. I don't think that because football players have to kind of actually learn ballet and stuff and Hines Ward, he is on a dancing show and he is on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What do you do for fun?
I like to play football, but only with friends in my backyard.
(He says he prepares for auditions an hour a day after his homework
is done, isn't allowed to watch the Disney channel and doesn't
watch too much TV except for Sundays to watch the Bears and
Philadelphia Eagles-he likes Eagles QB Michael Vick. By the way,
he's getting As and Bs at Prairie Elementary in Buffalo
What do you think you'll like most about being Tiny Tim?
Probably having a new experience in acting and seeing just how they act in this play and observing everyone and my character mostly.
What do you think of Ron Rains, aka Bob Cratchit?
He's really funny.
Rains told you Tiny Tim's famous line a little bit ago. Do you remember it?
God bless us all or something.
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.