"They've had a hard day, the dwarfs," said one sympathetic father calmly to several children at his side, all waiting expectantly for a glimpse of a dwarf or a Prince Charming or a Snow White.

But, after a hard evening as the mute and playful dwarf Dopey at the National Theater opening last night of "Snow White," actor Michael King was still good humored.

King, in jeans, leather jacket and wool cap, stood pouring himself a cup of punch at the opening party in the theater lobby when he was approached by several awed children and their parents.

"Hi, how are you? I played Dopey," he said smiling. They greeted him.

He looked up at the tall man in a pinstriped suit. "Where you all from?"

"Uh, I'm the senator from South Carolina," said Strom Thurmond.

King flashed a grin. "Really? I'm from Florida."

The senator smiled and passed around some punch.

It was a party for Washington's usual theater crowd -- plus kids. But it was mainly for the kids, including Amy Carter who came with friends and Secret Service agents and was reportedly as taken with the play as any other kid.

"Hey, you look like Bashful," one friend was heard telling Amy.

"Hey, you look like Dopey," Amy was heard to reply.

When Prince Charming and Snow White cut their wedding cake on the mezzanine level of last night's party, Amy was given a piece. And she got her picture taken with the couple.

The other star of the evening was in the audience -- Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, with his wife and two children. He was mobbed by enthusiastic autograph seekers and fans.

"I love it," said King, a former Ringing Brothers, Barnum and Bailey clown, about his role as Dopey. "It's like living a fairy tale." He is also 23 and he is really a dwarf (4 feet tall).

"Gotta go," he said, looking out through the glass doors of the lobby. "Me and Sneezy got a party."

Maurice Tobin, chairman of the board of the National Theatre, said there is more of this to come. "Instead of being dark on Saturday and Sunday mornings, we want to have children's shows and puppets," he said.

Tobin expects more of everything in the National Theatre. After "Snow White," they will be under management by the Shubert chain, the country's largest organization of theaters. "What we desperately needed was aggressive management and they have a wonderful track record," Tobin said. "This should bring the National up to its old light."