Welcome to the World of Imaginary Friends

Welcome to the World of Imaginary Friends

Chantilly High debuts new children’s play.

Diego Encarnacion (Aidan) and Jared Shields (Ralph) in Chantilly’s children’s play, “Imagine If.”

Diego Encarnacion (Aidan) and Jared Shields (Ralph) in Chantilly’s children’s play, “Imagine If.” Photo Courtesy of Shannon Khatcheressian

A little boy with a big imagination takes playgoers on a funny and exciting journey in Chantilly High’s new children’s show, “Imagine If.”

It’s the first play written by Director Shannon Khatcheressian and will be performed Friday, May 17, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 18, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.

“I’ve always wanted to write a show, but I credit all the experiences in the story to my own, three-and-a-half-year-old son, Aidan,” said Khatcheressian. “He’s very imaginative and creative and basically created the storyline.”

“Many of the characters are based on things he made up,” she said. “I also realized how much time my husband and I spend with our iPhones. So the story reaches out to parents who get so busy with work and the household that we can lose sight of the time we have to play with our kids and just be silly with them.”

The main character, Aidan, 7, creates an imaginary friend, Ralph. Together, they travel to the World of Imaginary Friends where they meet new people and have fun-filled adventures.

The show’s double cast, and Khatcheressian calls her 48 performers “wonderful to work with; they’ve even given script input. I’m proud of what they’ve done and the professionalism they’ve brought to the process.”

Playing Aidan is freshman Daniel Richter. “He’s a normal kid who likes playing games and eating candy,” said Richter. “In the real world, no one sees his imaginary friend, but him and the audience. In Ralph’s world, everyone sees him.”

Richter said children will relate to Aidan because “everyone likes getting away from the real world, now and then — and Aidan gets to, which is cool. In children’s shows, you can be crazy and extreme to get kids to giggle. And when they see the imaginary friends, they’ll say, ‘I’d like that one for mine.’”

Sophomore Andruw Austin plays Ralph. “He’s really out there,” said Austin. “He has no plans and, if he does, they don’t go exactly as they should. He’s basically a child who likes having fun and getting in trouble. I created a high-pitched voice and weird laugh for him, and my motions are oversized.”

Austin enjoys playing “a made-up person because you can be whoever you’d like,” he said. “Ralph looks as if a 4-year-old dressed him. He wears a Superman shirt, tacky plaid pants, blue sneakers and a rainbow-studded belt. The show’s entertaining with an underlying message to take some time away from work to have fun.”

Playing Aidan’s sister, Nadia, 4, is sophomore Fiona Kisiday. “She’s silly and loves her brother, but won’t show it,” said Kisiday. “She just uses him for his toys and laughs when he gets in trouble. I love playing her; she talks fast and goes on and on when people want her to be quiet.”

Kisiday likes being “exuberant and making a funny little voice for Nadia. The audience will like the show’s funny jokes; the costumes have bold, jewel-tone colors, and the hair and makeup are wacky.”


Posing in character are (back row, from left) Beka Eyob, Heather Gaskins and Ryan Rickard; and (front row, from left) Jared Shields and Diego Encarnacion.

Sophomore Kaley Cruz portrays Princess Ice Cream. “She literally looks like an ice cream cone, complete with a cherry on her head,” said Cruz. “She’s hyperactive, speaks quickly and sometimes breathes heavily, but has to calm down because the child who created her has asthma. And she believes everybody should eat candy, not vegetables.”

Cruz created her costume and practiced her character’s voice and “how she’d stand or sit, so she’d be something like a child would dream up. I like seeing kids laugh and smile and think the show’s great. And maybe it’ll make them want to someday take drama and be in a children’s show, too.”

She hopes the imaginary world will be the audience’s favorite part. “The set’s beautiful and colorful,” said Cruz. “I think this’ll be one of the best children’s shows Chantilly’s ever done.”

Scenes are in Aidan’s classroom and bedroom and in the World of Imaginary Friends, with costumes and lighting establishing each location. “It’s exciting for me to see the costumes come off the page and into life onstage,” said Khatcheressian. “Parent Kimberly Warnick created and designed them, and I’m using some of the actors’ input. The costumes reflect the characters created by children and show the richness and color of this World of Imaginary Friends.”

“The show’s funny for all ages,” she added. “I hope everyone leaves with a reminder of how important playtime is for everyone, no matter how old you are and whether you have kids or not.”