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Neighbors of a ­Thousand Faces

Look who’s inviting your community to play(s)

Masterpiece Theater doesn’t tempt me with its behind-the-scenes insights into actors assuming character. I want my characters in character, just as I met them, preserving their fictional illusion.
    Community theater is a different story, with a local angle.
    Show after show, familiar faces transform like Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces. (Don’t know Hugo? You have a gap in your childhood.) One of those faces may belong to your office mate.
    As you read, local theaters are imagining, mounting and striking another play — and another.
    Consider four we work with routinely.
    Twin Beach Players is making its home-stretch push toward Thursday April 7, opening night for The Miser. A 350-year-old French comedy is a leap for a grassroots, bootstraps local theater.
    “We’re strong enough to be judged on how well we do,” says Sid Curl, company president and theater pro.
    The 17-year-old company loves literary masters, which saves money, as it pays no royalties on plays aged out of literary protection.
    Twin Beach Players’ work with children in productions and in the annual Kids Playwriting Festival make it, Curl says, “the largest children’s organization in Calvert County with the exception of the public schools.”
    This year’s 11th Annual Kids Playwriting Festival is the other project keeping the company buzzing. Step one, again this year, is recruiting the playwrights.
    In Annapolis The Colonial Players opens Friday, April 8, with the musical The Secret Garden. Meanwhile, actors are just stepping into character for Colonial’s June production, Good People.
    At 67, The Colonial Players stands on the strength of heritage. A membership of some 100 theater supporters — dues are only $10 — gives the company plenty of energy, with new people stepping forward as others retreat. “We’ve got books and books of bylaws and procedures distilled from experience,” says Darice Cleewell, an actor, director and, by day, trainer who is completing her year-long term as Colonial’s president.
    Colonial’s standing shows in other ways. It already has its own home, its theater in the round in downtown Annapolis, plus a second property for sets, costumes and rehearsal. The company also has a reliable audience whose subscriptions guarantee revenue. “We’re able to take more risks than other companies, and we take that responsibility seriously,” says Clewell.
    2nd Star Productions is readying Guys and Dolls for a June 9 debut at Bowie Playhouse. Musicals are this all-volunteer company’s specialty, so even an ambitious play like this is not too big a stretch. It’s also likely to be a money-maker, which means surviving for another play, another season. Mounting a play, especially a musical, costs as much as $70,000, says company treasurer Gene Valendo.
    The actors who’ll play Guys and Dolls’ gamblers and molls work throughout the region. The board is small, dedicated and looking to expand. You don’t have to act to help.
    “I have no desire to be on stage,” says Jane Wingard, company president and award-winning set designer. A Prince George’s County drama teacher, she was an empty-nester when challenged to form the company.
    Part of that fun will be bringing to life next February’s much-anticipated Peter and the Starcatcher.
    “It’s the first Peter Pan play,” Wingard explains, “for a company that takes its name from Peter Pan’s second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”
    April isn’t too soon for Annapolis Summer Garden Theater to get is 50th anniversary season started. The Wedding Singer opens May 26. This Saturday, April 9, is spring cleanup with volunteers needed to ready the lobby, garden, backstage and everywhere else. Show up at 10am at the theater, 143 Compromise St., Annapolis: ­volunteer@summergarden.com.
    That’s one of many ways to join your neighbors in play.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com