Kennedy Center children's show 'Unleashed!' mixes White House history with pet tales

January 30, 2009|By Debbi Wilgoren | Debbi Wilgoren,The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - The Kennedy Center raises its curtain tonight on a story that seems familiar: A girl whose father has just become president tries to get used to life at the White House and turns to a beloved pet for comfort and companionship.

Wait, you say: Malia and Sasha Obama have not yet gotten the puppy they were promised during the campaign. True enough, and, strictly speaking, Unleashed! The Secret Lives of White House Pets isn't about the Obama girls and their pet-to-be. But with young children in the White House for the first time in a generation, the play (in the works before Barack Obama was a front-runner for the White House) is nothing if not well timed.

Unleashed! is a collaboration between the Kennedy Center and the White House Historical Association, which provided information about presidents and their animal pals. The play travels back through time and tends to focus on the more unusual pets - including a cow, two goats, a snake and an alligator.

Some animals, played by actors, resemble the presidents who owned them - FDR's dog Fala, for example, sits in a wheelchair. The pets talk to fictional first daughter Alastair, 11, and Tipp, her Chihuahua, about how to survive the tumult of the White House.

At its heart, the play is about friendship and how pets can warm a rather cold and lonely existence, with plenty of White House history thrown in. The play is recommended for ages 7 and older - perfect for Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10. No word on whether they have tickets.

if you go

Unleashed! The Secret Lives of White House Pets runs through Feb. 22 at the Family Theater, Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. N.W., Washington. Tickets are $18. Call 202-467-4600 or go to

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