Actress is larger than life

Carol Swarbrick Dries is a real-life Auntie Mame.

Like that Broadway character, she is animated and full of the joy of living.

She'll convey her love of life and positive thinking in a one-person show, "Accentuate the Positive!"

This "feel good" night will honor Dries' good friends Phil and Lynne Rogers (see accompanying story). Proceeds will go to the Sequim Guild of Seattle Children's Hospital.

Dries will present an evening of song, fun and her thoughts on friendship and optimism, even in troubled times. The program reflects Dries' rich experience on Broadway, in regional theater, TV and motivational seminars.

A life on stage

Dries is president of Sequim's Readers Theatre Plus, a showcase for local talent. Proceeds from these productions benefit local charitable organizations.

Dries grew up in Inglewood, Calif. She began acting in high school productions and continued in summer stock shows in Sacramento during school vacations.

There she was spotted by a playwright who had re-written "Drunkard" about W.C. Fields and Mae West. He cast Dries as West and the show moved her to Connecticut for two summers.

The show moved off-Broadway but closed after opening night, leaving Dries in New York City looking for an acting job along with hundreds of other young would-be actors. She worked as a waitress, hostess, bartender and cocktail waitress.

"I waited tables very badly," Dries said.

"I was a great hostess. I was a terrific bartender and a wonderful cocktails waitress. But trying to get the order of what should come out first in a meal just didn't work for me.

"Then I started working dinner theaters and what we called industrial shows, which was entertainment for conventions. I got to work with some wonderful people, and it was fast, easy money.

"Sometimes there were Broadway directors and choreographers involved with these industrial shows."

Cries at 'Side by Side'

Dries used some of this easy money to visit London, where she saw a new show, "Side by Side by Sondheim."

"Before the show was over I was bereft because it was so brilliant and I wanted to do it so badly. I sat there after the curtain call and I just sobbed."

Her big break

A few months later the show came to Broadway, and Dries was lucky and talented enough to be hired as an understudy. That was seven years after she moved to New York.

Every year each Broadway show does one benefit for the Actors Fund Foundation that supports needy theater professionals. Dries and the other two understudies performed for that show and were greeted with rave reviews.

"The audience was amazing. I still get chills thinking about it. After the performance, Steven Sondheim came backstage and said to me, 'Lock this away in your memory because you won't have an audience like that very often.' Following that performance, Hal Prince, the director, said to each of us that when the Londoners left we would be taking over."

'A dark and stormy night'

That play led Dries into other roles on stage and TV and theaters around the country.

Seven years ago she and her husband arrived in

Sequim for a visit on a "dark and stormy night."

After struggling in the rain, cold and wind, they decided to return to Los Angeles as soon as possible.

The next morning they opened their drapes and fell in love with the beauty of the Northwest.

They bought land, built a house and set about establishing a theater group in Sequim.

Readers Theatre Plus is going strong, and Dries is actively involved as an actor and manager. She also performs at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle and various other theaters around the country.

She will be in the 5th Avenue performance of "White Christmas" in December.

Dries has written a book of motivational essays called "It Occurred to Me - A Guide To a Happy Self." It sums up her feeling that your attitude determines how happy you will be.

"Art is where we find truth. It provides the opportunity to be uplifted, not in a false way. Art changes perspectives."

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