Kids battle loneliness in two shows

`Callisto 5' and `Little Princess' are worlds apart

Family: Events, Activities

February 24, 2005|By Ann McArthur | Ann McArthur,SUN STAFF

Being alone, whether in outer space or at a boarding school in London, doesn't sound like much fun. But add video games, special effects and dancing and singing, and the entire family might be interested in taking one of two theatrical trips Saturday.

Families can escape to Jupiter's fifth moon when they see Imagination Stage's production of Callisto 5 in Bethesda. Or they can stick closer to Earth and attend Children's Playhouse of Maryland's production of A Little Princess at the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex.

Callisto 5 tells the story of 17-year-old Jem. His parents have been on a neighboring space station for nearly a decade. After eight years of being alone, spent largely playing video games, Jem longs for human contact.

Left only in the company of Damaris, a robotic nanny that is programmed to sing him nursery rhymes and put him to bed at 8 every night, and the disembodied voice of Iris the computer, Jem's life of solitude begins to drive him crazy. However, the monotony turns chaotic when an intruder attacks his space station, forcing him to fight back and defend his home.

Director Eric Johnson said, "Like any good sci-fi thriller, this show is full of great plot twists and turns."

To create the atmosphere of space, Johnson and his collaborators have taken advantage of the new media lab at Imagination Stage. The production uses 3-D animation, a miniature model of the set and a blue screen to create the action on Callisto 5.

"It's a real mix of technology and theater," said Johnson.

Even though the play is set in outer space, the message strikes closer to home.

"Callisto 5 captures what it's like growing up during the teenage years when our parents become distant," said Johnson. "Because we feel they're like aliens."

Children's Playhouse of Maryland's production of A Little Princess also tells the story of a childhood without parents.

Musically adapted from the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote The Secret Garden, A Little Princess follows Sara Crewe, a young rich girl, in her struggle to survive without her father in a London boarding school during World War II. Despite Sara's misfortunes, her vivid imagination helps her deal with the greedy headmistress at the boarding school, Miss Minchin, who banishes her to the attic to work as a maid.

Families will see a classic tale combined with an upbeat musical score, said Diane M. Trowbridge-Smith, the company's artistic director.

"The storyline sticks close to the book," she said. "But with very catchy music."

The supernatural is present in this show as well. After a mysterious man from India moves in next door to Sara, magical things begin to occur - including her reversal of fortune.

Trowbridge-Smith lists the musical number "Magic" as one of the most exciting scenes in the production.

"The servant from India performs athletic dance such as cartwheels, flips and splits while singing about how every child needs magic in their life," Trowbridge-Smith said.

"Callisto 5" runs at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays through April 2 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. Additional weekday spring break matinees are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. March 25, March 28 and April 1. Admission is $12. Call 301-280-1660 or visit

Children's Playhouse of Maryland's "A Little Princess" runs at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 13, with an additional 3:30 p.m. show March 13 at the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex, 7201 Rossville Blvd. Admission is $10. Call 410-780-6369.

For more family events, see Page 37.

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