Do you remember ‘How to Eat Like a Child’?

What can you remember from 21 years ago? That was 1996.
Some of us have incredible memories for random things, like our hair style or favorite sweatshirt. Others remember the feelings around big life moments. Then there are a few, who forget it all.
So, I wasn’t sure if anyone from our 1996 cast of “How to Eat Like a Child: And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up” was going to remember the show (or me, for that matter) when I asked around last week. But I was wrong. Very wrong.
“My favorite thing would be the fun we had on and off stage.” — Hannah Harding-Minton, East Middlebury.
“Squaring off with my older brother, Andrew, in ‘How To Torture Your Sister.’” — Alessandra LaFiandra, White River Juncion.
“I made many friendships that shaped my adolescent years and still feel close to some cast members today.” — Eliza Murawski, Graniteville.
“The sense of community we built as a cast.” — Rini Lovshin-Smith, Shelburne.
My curiosity was inspired, of course, because this same play will take the Middlebury Union High School stage this Friday and through the weekend. The cast, crew and director are new, but the story is the same.
It’s kids versus the adults in this revue, and guess who wins! The all-child cast will give you lessons in things like how to beg for a dog, how to torture your sister, how to act after being sent to your room, and how to laugh hysterically. The charming and witty music score by John Forster enhances and underscores the comedy and has made this show a favorite ever since it premiered in 1981. The best-selling book by Delia Ephron was adapted by Judith Kahan into a one-hour special starring Dick Van Dyke for NBC.  The television show was then reworked for the live stage three years later, opening in New York in 1984.  Since then, countless productions have been mounted across the country.
Twenty-one years ago, 21 of us kids (including my sister Christy and myself) performed our version of “How To Eat Like a Child” at Mount Abraham Union High School with the help of our director Barbara Harding and others. And 21 years later, I bet we can all still sing the songs (maybe with a little help).
THE CAST OF “How to Eat Like a Child” from 1996. Pictured in no particular order: Becca Bodette, Cliff Burnham, Sophie Greenwalt, Hannah Harding, Anna Kaufman, Emily Kimler, Alessandra LaFiandra, Andrew LaFiandra, Steve LaLiberte, Rini Lovshin-Smith, Elsie Lynn, Christy, Lynn, George Martin, Eliza Murawski, Slisa Schine, Buck Sleeper, Becky Straub, Chris Straub, Justine Tompkins, Sage Tromulak and Christine Winkler. Photo courtesy of Barbara Harding
“I always started off each play I directed saying it was going to be a lot of fun. And it always was,” remembered Barbara Harding, who owns Otter Creek Used Books in Middlebury. “I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the growth of each cast member and seeing their characters blossom on stage. The camaraderie seemed to be extra special in ‘How To Eat Like A Child’ because of the content of the play itself and the catchy songs that made everyone smile. Seriously, the cast always seemed to have a twinkle in their eyes.  It sure was a fun play and one that always makes me smile when I look back on it.”
This year’s show, supported by the Middlebury Community Players Foundations, is directed by Kerianne Severy, choreographed by Ellie Kiel, and with mime direction by Marshall Eddy.
Believe it or not, Severy was a cast member of “How to Eat Like a Child” when she was 10 and growing up in Maine. Her little sister was in it too.
“This play has been so fun to put together,” said the 28-year-old who now lives in Salisbury, with her husband Nate Severy (a native of Cornwall). “It was the first show I was ever in as a child so how fitting that it be the first show that I direct. To me, while the show is funny and exposes truths that kids and adults try to hide, it serves to point out the absurdity of some of the words and actions that children sometimes say and do. I hope it springboards a conversation about being more aware of our words and actions as well as being more mindful about how what we say and do affects others.”
Tickets cost $7 and are on sale in person or by calling the Town Hall Theater Box Office at (802) 382-9222 (68 South Pleasant St., Middlebury, Monday-Saturday, 12 to 5 p.m.), online at townhalltheater.org, or at the door at Middlebury Union High School one hour before show times. The show will open Friday, Dec. 8, 7 p.m., and continue Saturday and Sunday, at 2 p.m.

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