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The fine art of being a kid

As we grow older, many of us forget the perspective we once had on life.

This weekend, 25 children will try to remind some of us of what we have forgotten when the Hernando County Fine Arts Council presents How to Eat Like a Child and Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up at Chocachatti Elementary School.

Originally produced as a television special in 1980, the musical by Delia Ethron, John Forster and Judith Kahan is a collection of short skits that tell how to look at things from a kid's perspective. Among the 30 lessons on life are how to stay home from school, how to ride in a car and how to practice the violin.

"It's about kids doing kid stuff," said Shea-Marie Steinmetz, 13, who helps teach Lesson No. 8, "How to Beg for a Dog." "How to annoy your parents, how to lick ice cream from the bottom. All the stuff you always wanted to do."

Actors range in age from 7 to 17 and call themselves Kids with Attitude, a group made up of acting and vocal performance students from classes offered by the Hernando County Recreation Department and the fine arts council.

"It's almost like a recital," said director Vince Vanni. "But it's a full-fledged show."

There is a wide range of talent levels, Vanni said, and children were not required to audition to be in the show.

"Any kid who wanted to take the class was eligible to be in the show," he said. "Naturally, we've sold a lot of tickets through the parents, but there is a real cross-section of the community we expect for this. It's children entertaining children."

Marilyn Pazanese said that since her 12-year-old daughter, Kathryn, became involved in classes, she's noticed a real change.

"She was very withdrawn at school, so much that I was worried about her," Pazanese said. "This has given her so much confidence."

With a run time of less than an hour, Vanni described the show as a series of vignettes interspersed with musical numbers.

Although proceeds will benefit the council's proposed Nimmagadda Cultural Center in Spring Hill, Vanni said the show is not intended to be a money-maker.

"We want people to know that the fine arts council is more than just building the Nimmagadda Center. It's promoting and teaching the arts," he said. "This is to show people what we could do more of if we had a place to do it."

Eleven-year-old Sami Battoe, who takes on Lesson No. 26 _ "How to Look Forward to Your Birthday" _ sees her role in the show as special.

"It's always good to enjoy your birthday and everything," she said, "but my part is a lot different because the character cares about the parents and how they feel."