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RT+ celebrates community success, acceptance
by ASHLEY MILLER
for the Sequim Gazette
Reader’s Theatre Plus is like the little theater group that could.
Founded by husband-and-wife team Jim Dries and Carol Swarbrick Dries, Reader’s Theatre Plus started as little more than a dream with the premiere of “Dear Jennifer” — by local author Rebecca Redshaw — in 2006. Five years and more than a dozen productions later, the group continues to gain community recognition, appreciation and momentum.
With the intention of creating a better community through the arts, RT+ strives to stimulate creativity in local artists, provide readings of original or seldom-read plays and contribute to fellow charitable organizations.
In addition, Reader’s Theatre Plus has given scholarships to graduating seniors at both Sequim and Port Angeles high schools for two years in a row. This year, the group hopes to give even more money to two students interested in the arts at each school.
The ‘plus’ side of RT+
Several “pluses” have come to light since the organization began, Swarbrick Dries said.
One “plus” is that community members who want to participate in theater but don’t have time for five or six weeks of intensive rehearsal for a fully staged play can do so. Reader’s Theatre Plus generally holds just three or four rehearsals before the opening of a play and actors always carry their scripts — yes, even on stage.
Each production runs two weekends.
Last February, the group presented the community with another “plus,” donating all of the proceeds from a musical dinner theater called “Murder Most Fowl” toward repainting the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse in its original colors.
RT+ has adopted the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse as “home” and does its part to keep the historical building in tiptop shape.
The group’s most recent “plus” is an unconventional drama titled “When the Rain Stops Falling,” by Andrew Bovell. Directed by Dries, the play follows a handful of characters throughout their lives, moving forward and backward in time.
“It’s almost like a jigsaw puzzle,” Dries said, describing the plot as “heavy” and “demanding of the audience and cast.”
“It has a flow of movement almost unlike any play,” he continued, “and it doesn’t really totally come together until the end.”
Time magazine described “When the Rain Stops Falling” as “The best new play of 2010.” The script is adult rated and not suited for children.
“It’s a good, interesting and powerful piece that deserves to be aired,” Dries said.
RT+ presented “When the Rain Stops Falling” in Sequim last week; a second performance takes place at 7 p.m. Monday, April 25, at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse, 1235 Lauridsen Blvd. Admission is free.
Meet the board members
Mary Griffith joined Reader’s Theatre Plus nearly three years ago. Since then, she’s been in half a dozen plays, playing the roles of Plum Lumkin in “Murder Most Fowl” and Eliza Stanton in “Shattered Ceilings,” among others.
The moment she decided to join the group stands out vividly in her memory. It was 2008 and she had just attended “The Women.” When she left the theater, it was with a sense of excitement at the idea of being able to participate in theater without a lot of rehearsals and memorization.
It took her nearly one year to do it, but Griffith finally called and asked about joining the group — and hasn’t regretted the decision since, she said.
Cheryl Bell, a recent addition to the board, joined the group in 2008. Most recently, she’s participated in the “American Hero Quilts, The Story” production. Her favorite part about Reader’s Theatre Plus is giving back.
“Every production benefits a group in the community and Reader’s Theatre Plus is such a fun way to have a positive impact,” Bell said.
Additional board members include Dries, Swarbrick Dries, Shawn Dawson, Barbara Wilson, Paul Martin and Ann Martin.
Still to come
The Reader’s Theatre Plus board is excited about an eventful summer and fall.
Don’t miss the group at the Sequim Irrigation Festival grand parade where they’ll be handing out free bumper stickers.
In the beginning of June the group will host its first garage-sale fundraiser.
The next month — the last two weekends in July — is the annual Gilbert and Sullivan festival with the silent auction. While all the other readings either benefit a local charity or add to the group’s scholarship fund, the festival and auction replenish the group’s personal account and help pay for printing, rental and royalty costs year-round.
Finishing the season in September and November, the group will present “Fort Duncan” and “Plaid Tidings.”
To stay up to date on Reader’s Theatre Plus, check out the group on Facebook.