Readers Theatre Plus

Don't let the title deceive you: Readers' theater definitely involves acting, says Carol Swarbrick Dries.

Four years ago, Dries and her husband, Jim Dries, founded Readers Theatre Plus in Sequim.

"It's really something to be experienced," Dries said.

"It's easiest to compare it to radio drama. Those who watch get to create, too."

The productions are minimally staged, she said, with very limited costuming, often just a hint.

Dries, a professional actress and singer, has performed on Broadway and in numerous television shows. She is aware of the demands of theater and the advantages of readers' theater for the participants.

"People who can't commit to a six-week rehearsal period can participate in these," she said. Readers Theatre Plus produces single weekend productions usually requiring only three rehearsals, a big advantage to working people, busy parents and active students.

Readers' theater is also ideal for people who panic at the thought of forgetting their lines. The script is in their hands the entire time.

The "Plus" might be the best part.

"Part of our mission is to educate through the arts," Dries said.

"That's the plus."

For other nonprofits, it can be a double-plus. The full proceeds from each of the group's four major annual productions are dedicated to a nonprofit organization. These have ranged from local groups such as the Sequim Senior Activity Center and Forks Food Bank to nationwide efforts such as Sew Much Comfort, which provides adaptive clothing for military members whose injuries create unique clothing needs.

"We're as interested in raising awareness as raising funds," Dries said.

As the beneficiary from the performance of "It's a Wonderful Life," Sew Much Comfort received more than just the receipts from ticket sales.

"They got two or three more seamstresses," Dries said, "and a donation of fabric."

Besides regular season productions, the group sponsors occasional free events such as the recent appearance of Ethan Casey, author of "Alive and Well in Pakistan," speaking about creating connections and understanding between Americans and Pakistanis. Readers Theatre Plus also sponsored the screening of "A Sea Change," a film addressing the acidification of ocean waters.

"A book is art. Film is art," Dries said.

Moreover, Readers Theatre Plus encourages local playwrights and their Oct. 23-25 production features short works by three local writers, as well as a published play:

_ "The Justification" by Sequim's Lynnette Baughman, a published novelist with a long list of writing credits, deals with racial conflict in the 1920s and is based on historical events.

_ William Chisham of Sequim wrote "My Bounden Duty," a playlet in the form of a conversation with Thoreau.

_ "Two in Torquey," by Alan Bennett, adapted by John W. Stone of Seattle, completes the first half of the program.

_ Scenes from "Almost, Maine," an acclaimed romantic comedy written by John Cariani, will close the evening.

The beneficiary of the October show, entitled "Small Town Shorts," will be SNAP - formerly Special Needs Advocacy Parents - an organization serving people with developmental disabilities on the North Olympic Peninsula since 1998.

Because all its show proceeds are given away, Readers Theatre Plus needed to raise funds for its operating expenses. In spite of the sluggish economy, more than 50 businesses and individuals donated to a silent auction and raffle in July, Dries said, making it possible to continue full support of nonprofit groups.

Admission is $10 and tickets are available in advance at Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St., and The Buzz, 128 N. Sequim Ave., Sequim, and at Odyssey Books, 114 W. Front St., Port Angeles.

Reach Sandra Frykholm at sfrykholm@sequim

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