Once December rolls around, most kids start to daydream about parties and presents and other special holiday events. But fourth-graders Brian Riemer, 9, of McLean and Blair James, 9, of Northwest Washington don't have much time for daydreaming. They're working hard onstage in two of the Washington area's favorite holiday shows. Brian plays Tiny Tim in "A Christmas Carol," the classic Dickens story at Ford's Theatre. And Blair will be one of 15 kids in the children's chorus of the Christmas Revels 2003 show at Lisner Auditorium.

Brian's acting career started when he was 6, in plays at a local library. He calls acting "tons of fun" and after starring in community theater and performing at Arena Stage in "South Pacific," he wants to act more and more.

Being in a play isn't all acting all the time, though. In "A Christmas Carol," Brian has a long break in the second act "because Tiny Tim is supposed to be dead," he said. When he's offstage, he passes the time by reading or drawing. "I have a book about learning to draw superheroes, so I'll probably do that," he said. When it's time to go back on, "I run into the dressing room and say some of my lines into the mirror" to get back into character.

Brian, who is home-schooled, also is involved in other activities. He plays on a soccer team, rides his bike around the neighborhood and has two brothers and a sister to keep him busy.

Did his parents always know Brian would be an actor? His mom, Melissa Reimer, knows her son isn't shy. "We joke that he was born speaking sentences," she said.

Blair, on the other hand, is a quiet girl who had performed only in school plays when she tagged along with her big sister to an audition for the Christmas Revels (a word that means celebration). She tried out, singing a song and reciting a poem, and "they called and said I was in." The Revels put each kid with some adults on stage. So if a kid panics or forgets a line, he or she can turn to someone in their "stage family" for help. But Blair is not worried about forgetting her lines. "Whenever I ask her if she needs to practice," said her mother, Sandy James, "she just says, 'Mommy, I already know it.' "

And it's a lot of work. This year's Revels is about Gypsy holiday celebrations. Blair and the other kids had to learn songs in foreign languages, including Hungarian and Bulgarian. They've been practicing since September. The other members of the children's chorus are Anna Cerf, 8; Taliah Dommerholt, 9; Johannes Dzidzienyo II, 8; Jody Frye, 10; Armelle Goreaux, 10; Katie Kleiger, 10; Amy Miller, 10; Benjamin Names, 11; Jason Noone, 8; Jamie Sandel, 9; Bridgett Slater, 10; Lindsey Smith, 10; Vidya Srinivasan, 8; and Casseia Todd, 10.

It may be hard to get into the holiday spirit when there are still leaves on the trees, but because Blair and Brian and the other kids did, this holiday season we can enjoy not just presents and parties, but also plays.

-- Suzanne Tobin

Blair James is

in the children's chorus of the Christmas

Revels 2003

show at Lisner Auditorium.Brian Riemer plays Tiny Tim in "A Christmas Carol" at Ford's Theatre.