The Thanksgiving tale "The Eagle and the Turkey" played to a standing-room-only crowd last week. It got rave reviews, but closed after just one show.
The actors -- 110 second-graders at Potomac's Wayside Elementary School -- had to get back to other matters: reading, writing and learning about rectangular prisms.
But for one golden day they were stars. There seemed to be more flashbulbs going off in the multimedia room at Wayside than at any red carpet premiere.
Sean Ridge, whose daughter Kelsey, 7, played a turkey, gave the show high praise.
"Fantastic," he said. "Eleven out of 10 stars."
Elaine Lee's son Jonathan, 7, also played a turkey.
"It was very nice," she said of the performance. "He worked very hard, and he was very excited about it."
The production went off without a hitch, although not without some pre-show angst. The costumes had to be redesigned at the last minute because the original paper-bag vests didn't prove to be as durable as teachers had hoped. Instead, the kids wore their bags tied on with strings, like the front sides of sandwich boards. Eagle bags bore pictures of eagles; turkey bags were illustrated with turkeys.
And though they had done several run-throughs before, some of the actors in teacher Jenn Lewington's class were experiencing a bit of stage fright in the minutes before the curtain went up.
"Just pretend like it's a rehearsal, even though right now it's going to be real," advised one of the pint-sized thespians as the group made its way to the stage.
But once the show started, the children were all business.
One of the narrators explained that over the course of the 30-minute production, the audience would learn how "the eagle became our national bird and the turkey became our dinner." (Hint: The U.S. Congress was involved.)
"The Eagle and the Turkey" is a Wayside tradition. Though no one is certain how long the show has been performed, it's well known that the robust chorus of "Turkey Dinner, Turkey Dinner" always brings down the house.
"The children all look forward to it," said Sylvia Grier, Wayside's music teacher. "This is a lasting memory for them."
Indeed, who can resist a show in which one of the musical numbers includes the line: "Who will get the drumsticks? Yummy, yummy, yum-sticks?"
At dress rehearsal the afternoon before the show, the students wore their costumes for the first time. Lewington and the other second-grade teachers, Rebecca O'Malley, Bekah Hoover and Melissa Snyder, scurried around adjusting and advising.
The kids' brown vests were adorned with construction-paper feathers, in different colors for each type of bird.
Because of their somewhat delicate nature -- and because of a bit of fidgeting on the part of the actors -- not all the costumes made it through the first chorus of "The Turkey Gobble Trot." That's why the teachers decided to redesign them before the show.
The actors themselves were in fine form.
They'd mastered their left and right and executed an almost perfectly synchronized turn that accompanied the "The Turkey Gobble Trot."
"Boys and girls, that was absolutely terrific," Grier said. But she wanted them to practice one more chorus of "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
She explained the issue gently.
"There's a little too much, ahh, oversinging on 'My Country,' " she told the students. They tried again.
"That was beautiful," she declared. "Did you hear the difference?"
After running through the show twice, a few of the students offered some thoughts about the production and about conquering opening-day jitters.
Stage fright, it seemed, was not an issue with these second-graders. "In first grade we had a show, and we sang songs, so this isn't scary," explained Jessica Ding, 71/2.
Noah Fogelson, who gave his age as 73/4, was confident that he would pull off his lines with aplomb.
Madison Kanstoroom, 73/4, who played a turkey, said her favorite part was singing "The Turkey Gobble Trot" because of the hand motions involved.
Dariush Youssefiani, also 73/4, explained that he was chosen for a speaking part through a popsicle-stick lottery. His teacher put the names of everyone who wanted a speaking part on popsicle sticks and then pulled them out of a container, he said.
His favorite part of the program?
"My speeches," he said. "I get to talk about being brave and free and how much turkeys are worth a pound."
only crowd, Raymond Lin and his wife, Chloe, capture images of last week's production for posterity. The show went off without a hitch, although the paper-bag costumes had to be redesigned at the last minute. Madison Hurr reads her part in Wayside Elementary's "The Eagle and the Turkey," starring the school's 110 second-graders.