|Matthew Baker-Grunza as Boy Scout Chip Tollentino|
You could say that acting is in Matthew Baker-Grunza’s blood. The twelve-year old plays Chip Tollentino in the Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Matthew is in the youth cast, featured in three Saturday matinees, and shares the role with Daniel Murray (age 24) who plays Chip in the adult cast.
Matthew credits his grandmother Jane Macfarlane for his love of acting. As he says, “I’ve been in ten productions before this and I’m a straight A student and participate in multiple sports, but out of all of those things I love theatre the most. The reason why I got into acting was because of my grandmother. She is truly an inspiration!” Matthew’s grandmother Jane is a Maryland native who moved to Michigan "for the theater” and won the 2013 Wilde Award for "Best Performance, Actress – Drama" in her first professional appearance as the vindictive matriarch in The Ringwald's August: Osage County.
For his part, Matthew loves playing Chip because he is “a very fun character to play. The real challenge with him is that he is a emotionally confused teenager with many different sides and this is challenging because I can not pin him down.” Matthew decided to audition for Spelling Bee because “I heard about the Barn from a friend and the show sounded fun so I auditioned. That’s what I love about the theatre community: you hear about shows and audition, then make new friends. The whole cast is awesome.”
I asked Matthew whether anything in his real life had helped prepared him for this role. He answered, “the horror and the gift called puberty … and that’s all I have to say about that.” (You’ll have to come see the show to know what he’s talking about!) Matthew loves being paired with Daniel, who plays Chip in the adult cast. As he says, “having an older counterpart is great because I can talk to him about our character and I can talk to someone about my life outside of the Barn.”
The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC. Four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be selected as spellers at each performance. The show includes 12 performances (the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast) from December 4 – 20. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at email@example.com or 248-553-2955.