When the theater gets into your blood as a youngster, it tends to stay there a lifetime.
That sums up the creative life of Annapolis' Joe Thompson, the head of video programming for the Anne Arundel Board of Education's cable channel -- who also is one of the area's busiest actors and directors and whose resume boasts appearances at Colonial Players, Chesapeake Music Hall and the Bowie Playhouse.
When not acting or directing, Thompson writes plays, skits and songs. Those efforts will be brought to life in Cabaret for Kids, a revue of his funny, highly original material that will be performed at Colonial in Annapolis during the first two weekends in August by a vibrant cast of 14 children and five adults ranging in age from 6 to 75.
"I love everything about doing these shows," said Thompson, who put together his first such Cabaret six years ago to help celebrate Colonial Players' 50th anniversary season. "Coming to this theater meant so much to me when I was a kid that I wanted to do some outreach, to share the Colonial stage with a lot of young people."
That explains why the theater off State Circle has been echoing with the sounds of young voices at work on such Thompson ditties as "Stuff," "Teddy Bear Tango," "Butterfly Jazz" and "Bubba's in Space."
"I work a lot of different musical styles into my songs," said the composer, who will unveil his first rap song in the 2003 version of the score.
Interspersed with the music are original skits: one is a sort of "fractured fairy tale" takeoff of "Puss in Boots;" another is the tale of a pirate captain whose seasickness necessitates a change of venue for his career.
With the fun comes the rigor of putting on a successful show.
"This is a smaller cast than we've had in recent years, and I'm really enjoying it," Thompson said. "This way I can work with each of the kids longer on things like breathing and enunciation."
The show also attracts established performers such as veteran character actor Stan Morrow, who will be appearing in his third Thompson Cabaret this year, having joined one of his three granddaughters for each of his appearances.
"These shows make for a fun summer activity," said Morrow, who celebrates his 75th birthday tomorrow and is rehearsing for the comedy Over the River and Through the Woods, which opens the Colonial Players season Aug. 29. "It's busy and a little crazy memorizing two sets of lines at once, but hey, in the theater, no problem!"
This time around, he will be joined in the Cabaret by granddaughter Ariana, 11. She will be sharing the production not only with her grandfather, but also with her father, Scott Morrow, a Baltimore scientist who also writes music and who accompanies the cast from the keyboard.
"The most fun for me is the acting," said Ariana, "and yeah, it is pretty cool having my dad and grandfather around."
"Cabaret for Kids" will be at Colonial Players, 103 East St. in Annapolis, on Aug. 1 and 2 and Aug. 8 and 9. Curtain is at 7 p.m. Fridays and at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays. Tickets are $3. Reservations or information: 410-268-7373 or www. cplayers.com.