In the middle of the stage was a shocking pink bag - formless, but actually containing someone's sweet 10-year-old. Nearby were two witches painted with silver glitter, imitating in a hysterical off-key the shrill of a monster. At the stage edge were two girls, dressed in school clothes, narrating the skit, "Adventures of a Magic Bag."
It was a school recital, another June ritual ranking with proms, weddings and graduations as family social obligations. Of all the seasonal signposts, the school recital is one of the most endearing - and egalitarian, linking the Carters with the Joneses.
In the high-ceilinged setting of Lisner Auditorium on Monday night, 150 relatives and friends endured two hours of fidgeting and enthrallment to watch the participants from a special arts and recreation program in three D.C. elementary schools. To music that ranged from the theme from "The Tonight Show" to Glenn Miller to the current disco hit, "Ring My Bell," the adults saw demonstrations of ballet, disco, the Charleston and Spanish dance, and fashion and gymnastics displays.
"That boy is gonna kill himself," sighed one mother, as a child in a gymnastics routine skidded off the exercise mat into the stage wing. Another winced over a musical number: "didn't they rehearse how to do a straight line?"
But the flashbulbs were popping when the girls, wearing facial makeup and sequined leotards, came out to imitate toys.
The extended-day program, which provides activities for students whose parents deliver them to school at 7 a.m. and pick them up at 6 p.m., was founded at Stevens Elementary school in 1976. Though the program is not an official part of the D.C. public school activities, it has received a variety of municipal funds. This year it operated entirely on the monies raised by the parents, plus the $55-a-semester tuition, according to director Jane Harley. The participating schools are Stevens (21st and K Sts. NW), Powell (Upshur and 14th St. NW) and Keene, (Rock Creek Church Rd. and Riggs Rd. NE.)
When Amy Carter was a student at Stevens, President Carter took a ring-side seat at the annual performances. In the audience on Monday night was Dwight Cropp, the executive secretary to Mayor Marion Barry. Cropp's daughter attends powell.
The parents came in silver shoes and silk dresses, signature jeans and Earth Shoes, in the linen three piece look of the summer executive. All of Washington's ethnic diversity was represented and almost everyone had cameras.
"I honestly enjoy this evening," said Nadia Benab, a secretary at the Touchdown Club. Her daughter, Yasmin, 6, a student at Stevens Elementary School, had just worked her way through the "Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang" number. "The program is the most positive thing in the District schools. Normally, and this is my impression, people get away from the public schools because of poor education and racism."
Beverly Epps, president of the Powell Elementary PTA, was equally effusive. "We fought to have the program at Powell and we are pleased because the program has served the community," said the mother of Terrance, 12, and Lisa, 8. "The show simply gives the children a chance to show what they have learned."
This year the scheduled appearance of three former instructors who are making their way in the theatrical world was an additional draw. But two of them didn't make it: Bruce Anthony Davis, one of the stars of the Broadway hit "Dancin'", won a part in a new movie, "Hot Lunch," yesterday; and Dion Davis returned to Paris to dance in "West Side Story." Gregory Henneghan, a professional singer who taught music theater to the students, was the evening's emcee.
In the second row, Kathleen Daley, a graphic artist, was clapping and mentally rehearsing her daughter's steps in the "Dolls in a Toy Box" routine. She had sent a friend with the camera up to the rim of the stage to catch each step. "This is just fun. And without the program I wouldn't be able to work," said Daley.
When it was all over, her daughter, Jennifer Daley-Barrett, 7 didn't waste any time hanging up her white top hat and leading the charge of her friends to the nearest fast-food establishment. "Now all they are in hungry," sighed Daley, with a shrug.