From the fertile mind of Chantilly High Theater Director Ed Monk comes the children's show, "Playground." Featuring a cast of 18 and a tech crew of five, it will be presented next Wednesday-Thursday, July 19-20, in the school theater.
Chantilly did this show, about eight years ago, and it was such a hit that Monk decided to bring it back again. "It's silliness," he said. "And it's a lot of fun for a summer afternoon."
WEDNESDAY'S shows are at 3 and 7 p.m., and Thursday's performance is at 3 p.m. It's a fund-raiser for Chantilly Drama Boosters, and tickets are $5 at the door.
Monk's been involved, the past few summers, with Cappies National Theater, so Chantilly hasn't put on a children's show for awhile. "I missed working with my own kids," he said. "And they'd heard about Chantilly's summer children's shows and kept asking, 'When are we going to do it?' So now we are."
The students did some readings, the week before school was out, and got their roles and scripts a couple days before summer break. They had until now to memorize their lines, and rehearsal began this week. "Because everyone's so busy in the summer, we just have six rehearsals," said Monk. "The kids come in with their lines all memorized, and we go from there."
The show consists of two original plays written by Monk, "Parents for Sale" and "The Island of Sock Pirates," plus a vignette about Winnie the Pooh and Tigger the tiger. The title "Playground" originates when a school class comes outside on its playground at recess and two children compete in storytelling. The stories come to life and the action begins.
Rising senior Jake Ashey, 16, plays Tigger — in a full, furry, bright-orange tiger costume. "It's hot, so it's a rough costume to wear, especially in summer," he said. "That's why I carry a parasol, so I won't get my stripes burnt."
He also carries a picnic basket of marmalade and other snacks to feed his friend Pooh on their beach outing. Ashey likes playing Tigger because "he's a very fun-loving character, always bouncing around." Most challenging, he said, is "trying to duplicate animal-like movements around the stage.""
The best part, he said, is "definitely, the voice and giggles of Tigger. I try imitating his high, lispy voice like on TV." He also enjoys doing children's shows and "seeing all the children getting into the performance so much. Your actions and voice are much bigger and more unrealistic and goofy in a children's production than in a mainstage show."
David Wiggs, 17, also a senior, portrays Winnie and he, too, is in full costume, complete with honey pot. He auditioned specifically for this role because "it's a big, goofy character and I could have fun with it. I was happy to get the part because everyone knows and recognizes him."
He said being a heavyset character is fun because "you can do a big, rumbly walk." He also likes interacting with Tigger and having funny conversations with him, and he plans to give Pooh a high-pitched voice.
LIKE ASHEY, Wiggs said it's no picnic playing a furry animal in a warm costume in July. But he's glad to be in the show because it "has jokes for both children and adults" and he likes the variety of the audience's reactions.
In "Parents for Sale," junior Christina Day, 16, plays Helga, one of two sisters — both little girls — who are angry at their parents for grounding them. "So they go on the Internet and try to find new parents, and something pops up," said Day. "A salesman appears in their room and sends them new parents."
But, alas, the new ones come with their own quirks and personalities, and the sisters go through two sets of new parents before deciding to return to their original ones. Day said it's fun playing a child because "you don't have to be boring and stuck up; you get to be more animated."
She said the hardest part was not having much time to rehearse. "But the chaos is also what makes it fun," she added. "And I think we'll put it all together well because Mr. Monk is ingenious. Kids will like the show a lot because it's something they can relate to, and there are no dull moments.
Junior Eddie Monk, 16, plays Bad Dad No. 2 — the second father coming to the sisters in "Parents for Sale." In it, he said, "I'm very, very strict — really mean. For instance, I yell at them for the dirt I find outside and tell them to clean it up. I also make them clean the roof, even though they're too young to go up that high."
Eddie said his role is great because "it's funny and there aren't too many lines. And there are a lot of interesting characteristics that you can give such a strict guy, such as making him a tough German or an Army officer, etc."
The toughest part for him is acting angry because "it's a very silly show, and I have to be a serious character." But he's also enjoying it because "if you think about it, you can really get into and 'become' the character."
Eddie said children will love the show because it's "full of silly humor, interesting stories and funny characters. I love acting in children's shows because you can act and react directly to the audience, and the little kids' laughter is my favorite part."
Senior Mia Rojas, 17, plays Princess Shoe-el, the princess of Sock Pirate Island in "The Island of Sock Pirates." And two sock pirates named Olf and Ilf are competing for her hand in marriage. "So they go to steal socks, and the person who brings back the most wins," she said. "But I don't care who wins — I just want the socks."
Olf and Ilf try to steal socks from a little boy named Lester McPeebody, but he plays a trick on them and they get nothing. So they bring him back with them and the king throws Lester into the dungeon — where he meets someone named Lint who has a plan to help him escape.
Rojas describes her character as "a spoiled brat who's unhappy if she doesn't get her way. For example, in the beginning of the story, it rains and her hair gets frizzy, so she wants the weatherman thrown in the dungeon. She's kind of self-centered."
ROJAS REALLY likes her role because it reminds her of a cousin of hers — "It's her way or no way, and that's so annoying," she said. The hardest thing for her was finding just the right voice to go with her character, but she's enjoying playing a character so different from herself. "She's just so demanding, and I don't like bossing people around," explained Rojas. "She's really mean and I'm really nice [in real life]."
Delighted to be in a children's show, she said, "I love little kids and seeing their facial expressions as they watch [what's happening]. It makes me happy that they're happy."
Portraying the prime minister of Secret Sock Island is sophomore Amy Neville, 15. "She's more in control and knows what to do about things and how to carry out the king's orders," said Neville. "She's rather nice; she makes sure everybody's OK and she wants the best for everybody. But she can get irritated sometimes and she tries to explain to people why particular things have gone wrong."
She's enjoying her part because, in real life, "I'm not in control ever. [My character] can get things done and people listen to her." Neville has lots of lines and this is her first major role so, she said, "It's hard keeping the lines in order and the interactions with the other characters straight."
However, she's pleased because this part is "different than the roles I usually play — like the whiny, 5-year-old kid." Neville said the children in the audience will really like the idea of sock pirates. "I bet a lot of them will go home and try to find the portal to their world through their washing machine," she said. "I know I would."
Sophomore Dana O'Connor, 15, is playing Ilf, a boy sock pirate. "He's supposed to be a big, bad sock pirate, but he's kind of doofy and not vicious," she said. "He's fun-loving, instead. He likes being a pirate, but gets confused easily. He likes 'Harry Potter' and doesn't always focus on what he's doing."
She says her character is fun to play because "I like being dorky and not too bright — and being a guy is a new experience." However, she admitted it feels a little weird "being a girl playing a guy who falls in love with another girl. Ilf has a crush on Princess Shoe-el and wants to marry her."
So what does O'Connor like best about her role? "Who wouldn't want to be a pirate on different missions capturing socks?" she replied. "Socks are cool things."
The neat thing about children's shows, she said, is that the actors "just let loose and use all their body for the speech delivery. You don't have to worry about being too serious — you just go for it."
PLAYING Lester McPeebody — who's 5 or 6 — is sophomore Andrew Dugan, 15. "He loves playing pirates and names himself Capt. Blood of the Royal Navy," said Dugan. "He also likes to think and, in school, he likes science."
But Lester gets taken away by sock pirates. "He puts his socks in the dryer, just like his mom tells him to," explained Dugan. "But when he takes them out, they don't match up. So his theory is that sock pirates are taking them."
Dugan said the hardest part is "using your imagination to think how a little kid would be thinking." But he likes his role because Lester is in almost every scene and "he has some funny lines and interacts with almost everyone in the show." And, he added, children's shows are terrific because "you can be over the top [with your acting] and make it great for the kids."