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Cappies Winners Present 'Playz!'

Showcases four short plays featuring Cappie winners from Westfield and Centreville High.

Featuring Cappies winners from Westfield and Centreville High schools, the Cappies National Theater presents "Playz!" — a showcase of four short plays, Sunday, July 27, at Centreville High. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.; $10 tickets are available at www.cappies.com.

The young thespians have been rehearsing daily at Centreville, with impressive results. "There's an amazing amount of energy being released each day," said Judy Bowns, Cappies co-founder (with Bill Strauss) and co-producer of Cappies National Theater.

THE FIRST ACT of "Playz!" is composed of three original works, all directed by Albert Smith, Woodbridge Senior High drama director. They are "Blank Space," "Going to School" and "Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Fan Boys."

Centreville drama director Mark Rogers directs act two — the play, "Dragon Tales." Stars include Centreville's Eric St. Peter and Westfield's Brent Biondo, Branson Reese and Reaves McElveen.

"Blank Space" was written by an Arena Stage Student Playwright Competition winner and is about bad actors rehearsing a bad play. Said Smith: "It's been hard because these kids are so good that I have to tell them to do it wrong."

"Going to School," written by Chantilly High drama director Ed Monk, tells of parents bringing their son to college. And "Don't Let Your Babies ..." is a student-written parody about parents who are upset with their children being obsessed by things such as comic books. "Dragon Tales" is a fantasy dealing with prejudices and people learning to get along with each other.

With such a wealth of talent, Smith said casting's been a snap. "They're all so good, I could have pointed my finger at anyone, and they'd all have done great in whatever role they got," he said. "That's the quality of kids we have here."

The actors rehearse, Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and also receive instruction in workshop settings. Saturday, they work on the technical aspects of the production; Sunday is the dress rehearsal and show. (Then comes another performance, Monday, July 28, at The Kennedy Center). "They're tired and worn out," said Smith. "But the lights go up for the show, and they're fabulous."

McElveen, 17, a Westfield senior, is in "Dragon Tales" and "Going to School." In the latter, he portrays Nick, the college freshman. "My parents are annoying and embarrassing," he said. "It shows a stereotypical family — characters everyone can relate to."

AT ONE POINT in "Dragon Tales," he and Reese play a two-headed monster. McElveen also plays a tree person — but not a nice one. "I cheat on my tree woman with a tree tramp," he said, adding "It's a different role for me, and it's kinda nice to branch out." Calling the show highly entertaining, he said it's something the audience will really enjoy.

Biondo, 18, just graduated from Westfield and is majoring in theater at Virginia Tech. In "Dragon Tales" — in which every character wears a mask — he plays the dragon.

"I start off as the baby dragon, helpless and alone, and am never really accepted into the tree tribe," he explained. "The tree child accepts me and we become great friends until I realize the hostility the tree people feel toward me." He later on escapes and, with two other actors, Biondo portrays the grown dragon.

"He vows not to return to the tree people because of their intolerance to others who are different," said Biondo. "[But] he later falls in love with the tree princess."

Since the dragon has no lines, Biondo must show his feelings and convey what's happening through movement. He's having fun doing it and acknowledges the teamwork involved.

Without Biondo and the other two actors each playing their roles in the ensemble, he said, the dragon wouldn't function properly: "It's really cool — I play the wings, someone else plays the head and mouth and another person plays the tail, so it's all about coordination."

Centreville senior Eric St. Peter, 17, plays George in "Dragon Tales." Peterson says he's "a nerdy guy who gets bullied around. But in the end, he turns into a superhero and fights the other bullies away."

He's having a good time with the role, he said, because "you can expand a lot on [it] — there's lots of flexibility in the character." And although he and the other Cappie winners were once strangers to each other, he said, "By now, we're all really good friends. We get along well and everyone here is extremely talented, so they bring out the best in everyone else."