Outer space fans of R2-D2 and C3PO, redoubtable robots of "Star Wars," will soon have a second chance for a close encounter of another kind.
"The Beeple" - a space fantasy - will blast off on stage tomorrow night under the expert maneuvering of the Children's Theater of Arlington.
Actually, the Beeple are creatures from another planet who confront John Willy (Tommy Ricardo), an Arlington lad who accidentally shoots himself into space in a do-it-yourself rocket.
In this other galaxy, John-boy meets the lovely Princess Sweebee (Christi Cole), the unlovable Wossup the Terrible (Peter Mansinne), and the Fuzzbuzz (Kristina Lentz), a planetary creature who beeps instead of speaks.
Tune in and turn out this weekend or next to the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre to hear the exciting outcome of this space encounter - all scary good fun for the family, says Marguerite Lentz, the show's producer.
Lentz also said it is important to heed playwright Alan Cullen's prefacing message to his work: "This is a fantasy and if you have any disbelief to suspend, suspend it willingly or you are lost. Any questions you may have should be referred to the children who have brought you. They will explain everything, if you ask them nicely."
Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre is located at 125 S. Old Glebe Rd., near the intersection of Route 50 and Glebe Road. Performances are scheduled Feb. 17, 18, 19 and 24, 25, 26. Show times on Friday nights are at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees, 3 p.m. Admission is $1 and tickets are available at the door. Call 558-2165 for more information.
The Children's Theatre of Arlington has been producing plays performed by youngsters aged 9 to 14 for about 25 years. In addition to acting experience, an average of two productions per season offers opportunities for children to gain knowledge of other aspects of theater. Call 558-2161 for details on hot to participate.
In another part of Virginia the Fairfax County Children's Theatre is rehearsing a more earth-bound production, "The Merry Pranks of Tyll," based on a German folk tale. One weekend of performances by youngsters aged 10 to 18 is scheduled on March 31, April 1 and 2.
"Our whole concept is unique because we offer children performers countywide experience they don't get anywhere-else. These kids learn professionalism - when they miss their lines, they know they have to go on and wing it," said Cheryl White, recreation specialist in the county's division of performing and fine arts.
Two shows are offered each year and one usually is a children's musical, she said. Fairfax holds open auditions for actors before each production, the same as the Children's Theatre of Arlington.
"Our children even do their own costumes, in workshops overseen by an adult costumer," White said. "The boys particularly seem to take great pride in making their own pants with zippers and all."
Performances of "The Merry Pranks of Tyll" will begin 7:30 p.m. on Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in Marshall High School, 7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $1. For more details on the theater group, call 691-2671.
Charles Dickens fans may want to turn out to applaud the upcoming Bishop O'Connell High School production of "Oliver." It will be offered in Arlington one weekend only, Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m.
"We had 300 kids from all over Virginia try out for our last production," said drama teacher and director Pat Saavedra. A special feature of his tryouts, he said, is that each auditioning child gets one free ticket to see the show, whether he or she is cast or not, providing they come with two paying adults.
The Catholic high school does at least one family show each year using community actors of all ages, Saavedra said.
"There's a need for young people to participate and for family entertainment where you can take the kids . . . Our school offers at least one children's show a year, and recently added a Sunday matinee performance.We had a great turnout of families with kids, they came in droves," he said.
"Oliver" will be performed in O'Connell's 11,000-seat fine arts auditorium, 660 Little Falls Rd. Reserved seating tickets are $2.25 or $1.75, depending on location. Children under-12 get a $1 discount on all seats. More information is available by calling the high school, 534-8100, ext. 74.
The Blue Ridge Players of Sterling Park have an original children's play in the works, "Timothy and the Sorcerer" by local writer Terry DiMurro.
"This is a humorous fairy tale with a rather misguided dragon, a reluctant knight, a sorcerer and two ogre brothers off like the two great ogre brother named Grouch and Slouch, who come off like the Smothers Brothers," said Jacqueline Bowle, publicity director for the group. The show is in rehearsal as basically a touring production for Loudoun County schools, but will have at least one public performance in early April, Bowles said.
The Blue Ridge is an adult acting group which performs some children's plays using young actors. Call 430-2039 for more information.