For this family, theater takes center stage. The McCoys.

By , Alan Bunce

``Little things stick in your mind as the proud moments,'' says David McCoy. ``Watching `Tom Sawyer' the first time, there were tears in my eyes as I thought, `This is my kid!''' He's talking about the time his son David, then 12, starred in a production of the Summer Magic Players - part of the renowned Dallas Theater Center. He and his family are sitting in the spacious living room of their house in an attractive residential section of the city.

``And to see somebody work so hard,'' he continues. ``One night at about 9:30 he was practicing a musical role upstairs. I said, `Son, you really ought to go to bed, because you have to get up extra early tomorrow to be at the theater at 7.' He said, `Yeah, I guess so.'

``A full half hour or so later, as I went to our bedroom -- about 10:00 by that time -- I thought he was already in bed. But I saw the light on under his door, and I said, `I'll bet he's so tired he just went to bed and hadn't turned the light off,' - which has happened.

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``I opened the door, and there he was at the foot of his bed doing the dance steps and pantomiming. I just closed the door. I didn't say any more. But I knew he was dead tired. He had made such a commitment to that.''

Commitments are old friends to young David, now a tall 15-year-old who easily qualifies as a superachiever. Besides his impressive record at the Dallas Theater Center - including work in their elite Encore Company, a ``young professionals'' group - he is a gifted student with an eye on West Point, a world traveler and follower of international affairs, an athlete, amateur poet, Boy Scout, and the holder of several other distinctions - including an impressive karate rank.

Boy Scouts, in fact, have displaced theater for now - a concession to the kind of background they feel West Point is looking for.

``This is the practical side of him,'' observes his father. ``It's a decision David made that I think is unbelievable for someone his age. You know now how much he likes the theater.''

His penchant for performing became clear when he was still a tot and used to regale his family with long songs he'd memorized cold. Later he loved being in church and school productions, including a lead role as Snoopy.

``At the end of that show he got almost a standing ovation,'' recalls his mother, Clarice. ``Of all the things he's ever done, that is still my favorite, I guess.''

When Clarice heard that the Dallas Theater Center had classes for children, ``I signed him up for it,'' she says.

```Tom Sawyer' was great,'' says David's sister, Dawn - who's just turned 9 - a gifted student and talented performer in her own right. ``I was about 5 years old, and I saw it about 10 times.''

Clarice adds, ``When people were asking for his autograph, she would go up and hang on his legs and say `This is my brother.' I think he was a little embarrassed.'' She turns to David. ``Were you embarrassed?''

But David prefers to talk of the working side of his experience at Teen Children's Theater.

``The thing I really like about it, besides what you learn about acting and singing and doing all those things you sort of dream about, was the people you meet there - all sorts of different people from different economic levels and areas of town. I made a lot of friends there.''

``It's a whole set of sort of different friends, really,'' adds Clarice.

``At school I don't have many really close friends,'' notes David, ``because they are quite a bit different from me. They're not really interested in the arts. They probably think it's pretty boring or something - they don't know what it's like, because they don't do it. They think sports are respectable. I wish more people would take a look at the arts.''

``I think the theater has been exceptional in terms of building self-confidence,'' says Clarice. ``It makes them feel good about themselves. I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma and didn't even know what the theater was until I came to Dallas.''

``We both knew that we had been missing lots of things,'' Mr. McCoy agrees. ``My own hometown is about 250 population in very rural country.''

Today, both parents are college professors. David, who has a doctorate in educational technology, is also an active photographer and teaches that subject. Clarice, an MBA and CPA, teaches accounting.

``I wanted them to be much more well-rounded than I was,'' Clarice continues. ``I was very shy myself and I was wanting to make sure that my children were not that way.''

According to David, it worked.

``I never really planned on being an actor,'' he says, ``but it's really helped me because I'm not good at meeting people.''

``And Dawn,'' says Clarice, ``approaches theater in a more outgoing and emotional way than David.''

Theater is only part of Dawn's life.

``I have tap and jazz lessons on Wednesday,'' she notes, ``Ballet and piano on Monday and Thursday. On Tuesdays I have theater, and on Friday I don't have anything.''

``And she would like to do a lot more,'' Clarice points out, ``but I can't spend as much time with her, because now I have two people that have activities. I honestly wonder sometimes if I will be able to make it 10 more years.''

``Our role,'' adds Mr. McCoy, ``is to make sure that when they get to a point where they need to make a commitment - like selecting a university with a fine arts major, which is something else David might want - they would have the same kind of support from us that they would if they were going to be in the world of business.''

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