When a play contains a princess, a porcupine, a ditzy two-headed monster and a character named Olga the Sheep Shaver, you can bet it's a children's show written by Chantilly Drama Director Ed Monk.
Accordingly, Chantilly High Children's Theatre will present "The Princess and the Porcupine," Friday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 24, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2 p.m., in the school auditorium. Tickets are $4 at the door.
The double-cast production features 58 freshmen and sophomores (mostly) and, said Monk, "They're a talented group of kids. We hope everyone comes to see the show."
The story takes place in the village of Vieseldorf. People there are poor because they always have to pay taxes to the king and queen so they can buy fabulous presents for their daughter, Princess Perfect.
But the king and queen are tired of spending all their money this way, so they decide to marry her off. Candidates for her hand must wrest the Red Ruby of Ramn from the two-headed monster who guards it — and the only one who succeeds is Bob the porcupine.
"The monster gives the ruby to the porcupine because he asks the monster for it nicely," explained freshman Jared Darville, 15, who plays Bob. "Everyone else tried to kill him for it."
Bob brings the ruby to the king and queen and asks if they're ready for the wedding. "They say there's not gonna be a wedding because he's a porcupine," said Darville. "He says that's not fair, and then the princess steps in and says she'll marry him."
"She does it, thinking he's really a handsome prince under a spell," added senior Colette Becker, 17, who plays the princess. "But he really is a porcupine."
THEY MARRY immediately and go to Bob's house — a hole in the ground — for the honeymoon. Naturally, the princess is peeved; this isn't the castle she'd expected.
"But Bob says they're really the same because Bob's been ostracized because he's a porcupine, and neither one of them has any friends," said Becker. "So they have that in common and they do fall in love and everything works out."
Describing her character as spoiled and selfish, Becker said the princess "has everything she wants, but takes it for granted and wants even more. She's a royal pain in the butt. But when she falls in love with Bob, she learns that appearances aren't everything."
And Darville likes playing Bob because, when everyone else is afraid to face the monster for the ruby, Bob is brave. And, he added, "I'm gonna get to wear a porcupine suit" — which should go perfectly with his real-life, curly, brown Afro hair.
Sophomore Abba Kiser, 15, also plays the princess, calling her "shallow, simple and bratty." She said it's challenging to show her character changing and growing throughout the play. But she enjoys the "stress-free environment" of a children's play and noted that Monk keeps adding elements to it "to make it more diverse."
Classmate Mike Wilbur, 16, also plays the porcupine. "He's easygoing and lives in a hole in the forest — in a nice location with a view of the lake when he pops up," he explained. "He works at a cabbage factory and then goes home. The village grows cabbage and found lots of uses for it."
He says Bob's fun to play and he does it in a special voice — "kind of dopey, sing-song and innocent." The hardest part will be wearing the costume, he said, "because there'll be spines all over it and it won't be comfortable sitting down. I also have to figure out how a porcupine would behave."
WILBUR SAYS Bob's "a nice guy just trying to get ahead in life, and I think everybody can relate to him. And he's not mean to the monster. The great thing about children's shows is all the little morals embedded in it. This one teaches that discrimination is bad and so is stealing; you should respect people's feelings and property ."
And the overall moral, said Wilbur, is that "despite your background or who you are, if you try hard and seize the moment, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to."
Sophomores April Glick and Faith McAuliffe, both 15, play Sir I'm A Guy Of Karaoke, one of the knights vying for the princess' hand. "I'm a girl playing a guy so I've asked my [real-life] guy friends what to do," said Glick. She said this knight is "full of himself" and does battle with the monster by singing karaoke at him.
"I love this character," she said. "It gives me a chance to make a fool of myself, show a lot of happy energy and make kids laugh. We've been working really hard, and I think kids will really enjoy the play."
McAuliffe said it "feels weird playing a guy," but she loves being in a fighting scene. "I turn into more of a Zena [the Warrior Princess], flipping my hair and giving high fives," she said. "Every day, the play gets better and funnier."
Portraying the two-headed monster, a female, are freshman Courtney Siegert, 15, and junior Margaret Gardner, 16. They're joined at the hip inside their costume. "We're kinda dumb, lacking common sense, and lead a boring, dull life," said Siegert. "We're sisters and we've been guarding the ruby for 500 years. Our mom gave it to us and told us to guard it, or else we'd be grounded."
She said it's a challenge walking with their strides in unison, but she likes the role because the monster is also quite witty. "It's fun because it's different than any other role," added Gardner. The hard part, she said, is "not being able to totally move around the stage, since you're always attached to someone. But I like my monster's personality."
Playing Queen Foraday is freshman Lauren Smith, 15, and she described the king and queen as "kind of stuck up and silly, at times." But she enjoys "getting to be someone I'm not like, at all." Smith said the actors show lots of emotion and make big, oversized movements to entertain their young audience.
SHE SAID "all the silly things" in the play will appeal to children. "And it's kind of interactive because the characters speak to the kids, rather than to each other," she said. "The kids will feel like they're a part of it."
Alyssa Davidson, 15, also plays the queen. "She's snobby and loud and thinks she knows everything," she said. "And this part has a lot of funny lines."
Emily Withers, 14, plays Olga the Sheep Shaver who makes a living by selling the wool. Her character hangs out with Helga the Goat Grower (Sophie McManus, 14) and Heidi the Eel Seller (Ashliegh Poulton, 18).
"Heidi tries to sell eels, but everybody tells her they're gross and slimy," said Poulton. "And I plant goats, water and fertilize them," said McManus. "Then I pick them, bag them and sell them in the market. But no one has any money to buy them."
"I love it," said Withers. "The things Mr. Monk thinks of are just hilarious." Added McManus: "We have Swedish accents, crack jokes and get a lot of laughs." Said Poulton: "I sell eels — that's so random."