One of two Northern Virginia 10-year-olds in the cast of "Evita" at National Theater gets beaten up by the other children on stage. The other gets stripped down to her slip.
They both say they love it.
Bebe Gribble, a fifth grader at Chapel Square School in Annandale, is the show's starlet. She is blond and angelic looking and wants to save her $525 weekly salary for college so she can "major in drama and become an actress."
When not on stage she often wears a light blue warm-up suit with "Evita" in white letters on the front and "just a touch of star quality," a line from the show, on the back.
What she likes best about acting in "Evita," the musical based on the life of the late Eva Peron, wife of former Argentinian dictator Juan Peron, is "the parties -- I love to dance."
Edward (John) Glover, a fifth grader at Woodley Hills Elementary in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, likes the parties too. But he said what he likes to do most is the berry fights with Bebe in the park near the theater.
John is not a child star; he is a kid. He has freckles, he shuffles his feet and he hates to pose for photographs. He also takes violin lessons and goes to Cub Scout meetings -- on Monday, the only day the theater is dark.
On all other days, he shoulders the same workload as child actors everywhere: 30 hours of school, homework (which he does in the dressing room between his three scenes) and eight shows a week.
Bebe has more homework than John because her parents keep her out of school until l0 a.m. Even with the chance to sleep in a little, she said, the worst thing about doing the play is "getting up in the morning -- we don't get home until 11 at night -- and carrying all that homework."
Bebe, John and and two youngsters from Maryland -- Jason Moreland of Camp Springs and Mark Manasseri of Bowie -- form a choir in two scenes, singing in English, Latin and Spanish. John said he found Latin and Spanish "pretty tough to learn."
The four are part of the "adoring crowd" in another scene, when Bebe asks the Perons for their autographs and John gets beaten up (playfully, understand) by the other two boys. "Jason really clobbers me," John admitted, "night after night."
In a fourth scene, as Bebe explained it, "I play a snob. I come out in this white dress with velvet ribbons that's really heavy -- I didn't know how I could stand to wear it -- and then a man comes out and takes my dress off. . . .
"As a way of equalizing the crowd," a theater spokeswoman explained quickly. "All the rich people take off their clothes, down to the poor clothes they're wearing underneath."
". . . and then I sort of skip around in my slip," Bebe continued with a bright smile.
That smile may well have been the reason Bebe won the role as the only young girl in the cast.
After more than 100 aspiring young actors showed up for auditions, the production staff eliminated at least half by "making us stand next to a tape on the wall," Bebe said. "You couldn't be more than 4 feet 4, and everyone was taking off their shoes and trying to scrunch down."
Those under the line "had to sing 'Happy Birthday, Evita,' about 50 times," added John, who sings with his school chorus. This narrowed the field to l8, including three boys. "All the boys were picked," John said with a smile of obvious relief.
The remaining girls "were super-talented," a theater spokeswoman said, "but there sat Bebe, with her smile, her barrette and her big blue eyes."
Bebe also had the advantage of having "gone out to get the album, so I had the songs memorized before we had to learn them."
Learning the music was a hurried affair, with one rehearsal after the youngsters were chosen and another several weeks later when the show opened in Pittsburgh. After two weeks in Pittsburgh, the production came to Washington with the youngsters knowing all their songs -- and everyone else's.
Other aspects of the show are a little more obscure to the l0-year-olds. Try asking them who Evita Peron was:
"Oh, Valerie Perri. She's so nice," Bebe bubbled.
"Naw, she means who was she," John corrected. "She was from Argentina. She went to a cabaret, where she met Peron and sang a song to him, and he sang back and then they got married -- ah, no, not married. They got married later."
"She was the dictator of Argentina," Bebe interrupted. "This story is based on her life. They didn't really sing the songs."
Though the chance to sing attracted both children to the show, Bebe admits to having definite ambitions.
"I tried out for the title role in 'Annie,' " she said, "but they'd already given it to the girl in Chicago. But I want to do more. I saw 'Sound of Music' when I was six and got the album and made up dances to it. I want to be an actress."
And John? "Sure," he said, "it's fun, and the money is good. I'm going to buy an Atari with mine."