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'How to Eat Like a Child' Returns to Stage

July 20, 2002

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In two-and-a-half weeks, when the Vienna Youth Players open “How to Eat Like a Child,” it won’t be the first time the group has performed the humorous musical.

Ten years ago the Vienna Theatre Company was planning a summer performance of the musical. But just before he began auditioning actors, the show's director Norm Chaudet died. Babs Dyer, who was helping arrange music for the show, filled in as director. After that show the Vienna Youth Players were formed. Dyer has directed a summer performance, featuring child actors and crew members, every year since.

To celebrate their 10-year anniversary, the group is repeating its inaugural play. They recently watched a videotape of the 10-year-old performance. Some of the children acting in that show are still involved with the Vienna Youth Players.

“The videotape was so cute,” said Dawn Dailey, producer of this year’s show. “They’re not so little anymore. They’re all adults with jobs.”

Babs Dyer’s daughter, Amber Dyer, performed with the Vienna Youth Players throughout her childhood and now, working a day job in Tysons, she still helps out with the annual shows.

“The little kids who were in the first show we did are now going off to college,” Amber Dyer said. “I talked to one boy on the phone recently, who I vividly remember auditioning. He was a little boy, but now he sounds like a man.”

Erin Addis-Lieser, now a student at the University of Virginia, also grew up with the Vienna Youth Players. She is working as the vocal director for this summer's show.

“These kids just give me energy,” Addis-Lieser said. “I come back every year because I just love being there for them and for the show.”

THE MUSICAL is made up of several instructional, though sometimes tongue-in-cheek, songs meant to help navigate life as a child. Song titles include “How to Stay Up Later” and “How to Beg for a Dog.”

“It makes me think about what I was like when I was really little,” said actor Shelley Newhouse, an upcoming sophomore at Marshall High School. “A lot of it is not about how to be a good kid, but how to be a bad kid.”

Nora Gibbs, an upcoming sixth grader at Lake Anne Elementary, noted that the play’s characters will often attempt deceptive schemes to get what they want. But in the end, Gibbs said, those schemes usually backfire.

“But sometimes, in real life, that stuff works,” Gibbs said.

Mallary Forbes, who will be a freshman at Madison High School next year, said she enjoys acting because it gives her a chance to be someone else. Kasey Dailey, also an upcoming freshman, agreed.

“It’s like a 24-seven Halloween,” Dailey said.

“You can be as dorky as you want and then say, ‘No, that wasn’t me, it was the character,’” Newhouse said.

Tim Feerst, an eighth grader from Vienna, said he has enjoyed the social aspects of working on the play. Feerst is home-schooled, and said the play gives him the chance to “meet a lot of new kids.”

Ava Mainieri, a rising seventh grader at Kilmer Middle School, had the same experience as Feerst.

“I only knew two people when I first came here,” Mainieri said. “Now I know everybody.”

THE SHOW WILL RUN for two weeks, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2; Saturday, Aug. 3; Friday, Aug. 9; and Saturday, Aug. 10. All performances will be at the Vienna Community Center Auditorium, 120 Cherry Street.

There will also be a matinee performance on Sunday, Aug. 4 at 2 p.m. The matinee performance will be translated into American Sign Language. Herndon resident Brandi Jiles, a former actor with the youth players, is translating the play into sign language. Jiles is a student at Texas Christian University where she is majoring in deaf education.

“A lot of translating involves understanding what is going on,” Jiles said. “You’re not saying it directly. In the first scene, for example, they’re eating mashed potatoes. It’s not so much about signing exactly what it says in the script, but you have to know what’s going on and act it out.”

Tickets to all the performances are $8 for adults and $7 for students and seniors. For more information call the Vienna Department of Parks and Recreation at 703-255-6360.