The return of the 17-year cicadas has Washington buzzing.

As any actor knows, never take a cicada onstage unless you are willing to use it.

The Washington National Opera had a cicada invader during a recent matinee performance of "La Traviata" at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Jeff Baron of The Washington Post first heard the bug's aria during the spring garden party of Act 1. "It sang mezzo-soprano with limited range but projected wonderfully," Baron reports. "The cicada was silent during Violetta's Act 3 death scene, but then, that takes place in winter."

Meanwhile, another klieg-light-seeking cicada had to wing it at a preview performance of "Orpheus Descending" by Tennessee Williams at Arena Stage. Spokeswoman Denise L. Schneider says the creature basked in its 15 seconds of fame, then exited stage left, like a cicada on a hot tin roof.

No wonder, then, that the folks at the Shakespeare Theatre's Free for All production of "Much Ado About Nothing" -- which is being performed at Carter Barron Amphitheatre and is sponsored by this newspaper and other benefactors -- were antsy about the outdoor performances. But the theater's Liza Holtmeier reports that the cicadas quiet down every night just before the curtain rises.

"We've had a few lone bugs make their way on stage during the performance," she says, "but so far, they've just clung to the set and haven't upstaged the actors."

Heard any good cicada tales? E-mail