The curtain rises on children's theater in Washington's Columbia Heights neighborhood this weekend when GALA Hispanic Theatre presents the inaugural production of Galita, its newly reborn children's theater company.

"En Busca de la Sonrisa Perdida" ("In Search of the Lost Smile") will be staged at 2 Saturday, Nov. 12 and Dec. 3 at the GALA Theatre-Tivoli, 3333 14th St. NW.

The children's play, written by Nestor Hidalgo and directed by Laura Quiroga, is in Spanish but should be easily understood by speakers of all languages, according to Carlos Prio Odio, GALA's marketing director. It is a musical comedy about a boy who awakes one day to find that his smile has vanished, setting off a journey with a big rooster, Jaja, and a pretty flower, Margarita, to recover the youth's smile from the evil Madam Sadness. There's a lot of physical comedy, plus interaction between performers and kids taking place in the audience, Odio says.

In addition to attending a Spanish-language play, theatergoers will visit a historic theater. The Tivoli, which reopened this year after refurbishment, was a grand movie palace when it was built in 1924. But seven years after the riots of 1968, which damaged or closed hundreds of neighborhood businesses, the theater closed. Now a space in it is the new home of GALA Hispanic Theater.

Tickets to "Sonrisa" are $5 for ages 2 to 10, $15 for age 11 and older, and free for children younger than 2. For tickets, call 202-234-7174 or e-mail The theater is one block north of the Columbia Heights Metro station. Parking is available behind the Tivoli.