Tucked away in the woods of Wolf Trap is a stage and seating surrounded by large mature shade trees. A special concert setting for a special audience — children. On June 29, Wolf Trap’s aptly-named Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods kicked off the summer season with Dinorock and the Great Dinosaur Mystery and Hayes Greenfield’s Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz. With clear blue skies the first full week, nature could not have served up a more perfect ambiance.
Each weekday morning features two performances by different artists who appear at the same time Tuesday through Saturday. From June 29-July 3, Dinorock played and sang and acted out a dinosaur skit in the 10 a.m. slot, while Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz pulled youngsters into the world of jazz, inviting them onstage to close out the act.
SONGS like "Extinction Stinks" gently made the point of the Great Dinosaur Mystery, which was, "protect the earth."
"It was really cool," said 6-year-old William Norberg of the Great Dinosaur Mystery. "I liked when we found out what the mystery was."
William had a recommendation for protecting the environment, too. "Don’t throw garbage on the floor. Throw it in the garbage can," he said.
Lucy Pekatos came all the way from Greece with her daughter Alexandra for Saturday’s show. OK, she actually came to spend a month with her mother in Fairfax with her family, but bringing Alexandra to Wolf Trap was a treat outside the typical for Pekatos.
"Just being outside makes this special," Pekatos said. "Coming from a city, just being in this natural environment ... it’s a perfect place to send the message to protect the environment."
Out of three dinosaur eggshells hatched three blue puppet triceratops, bringing howls of laughter from the younger children in the audience. A coded message, "learn from the past," was written inside the shells.
From prehistoric creature to prehistoric creature came mysterious "messages." Dr. Vander Plastercaster, pretend-museum scientist, and Det. Kafootsie described, in song, how a scientist is a detective, too.
Five-and-6-year-olds had little trouble understanding the message of the Great Dinosaur Mystery, and the youngest ones appeared to be engaged by the puppetry and song.
"It was very cool," said Alexandra, the little girl from Greece. "I liked it when they found the eggs and made together the whole story. Put trash in the right place because an animal can eat the trash and get hurt."
Charlie Logman, 6, whose family moved to Vienna from Connecticut two weeks ago, also said that "you shouldn’t throw stuff where it doesn’t belong."
Many families stayed for the second show, Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz, and Greenfield, with his sax and rugged earthly voice, interacted congenially with the children in the audience. Jazz, said Greenfield, is nourishment for the soul.
When invited onstage, the children couldn’t wait. Or, maybe, it was the parents who couldn’t wait In either case, many stars were born during Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz.
"I would definitely come back," said William Norberg’s mother, June. "I love the trees, the shade, the length of the program, the interaction with the audience and the music.
"It’s perfect for this age group."
DINOSAURS, said Dr. Vander Plastercaster, ruled the earth for millions of years. "It’s now our turn, so don’t blow it."
Perennial performance favorites Robbie Schaefer singing Songs for Kids Like Us, Steve Roslonek with SteveSongs and Rocknoceros Painting the Town PINK! return in what are usually week-long sold-out shows. Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods calendar is at www.wolftrap.org. Summer programming runs through Aug. 14.
Tickets are $8 for one show or $10 for both shows on the same day. No charge for children under age three. Tickets for performances may be purchased at the meadow kiosk or in advance by phone at 877-wolftrap or online at wolftrap.org.
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is located at 1551 Trap Road off Beulah and Old Courthouse roads in Vienna. Follow the downhill path through the meadow to the Theatre-in-the-Woods