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Written by:  Odile Fredericks
Date: June 29, 2011

There's something about community theater that excites me, whether I'm watching my son in a school play or am out at a local performance in the Triangle. It's the feeling of that somehow you own the place—You know the players, they're all taking on new personas, and anything could happen. This is live!  (Photo by Rachel Green courtesy of Applause! Cary Youth Theatre)

The Triangle offers lots of spots to enjoy community plays, and some are offered for free, with donations accepted. The Durham Family Theatre's teen performance camp is presenting "Snow Angel," by David Lindsay-Abaire, a Pulizer Prize-winning playwright, at 7 p.m. Friday, July 8, and Saturday, July 9, at the Fellowship Hall of Trinity Presbyterian Church, at 917 W. Trinity Ave., in Durham. The plot answers the question, What happens when 14 teenagers get a snow day off from school and have strange encounters of the ghostly kind?

Although the production is free, donations are accepted. To reserve a seat, send an email to durhamfamilytheatre@gmail.com with the topic: "Snow Angel," your name and the number of seats you need. The theater is on the corner of Trinity Avenue and Gregson Street, and free parking is provided on the Gregson Street side of the of the church.

Also in Durham, Walltown Children's Theatre, a nonprofit that opened in 2000, offers a free show for kids each week in the summer,usually at noon. Cynthia Penn, the theater's artistic director, says the shows are unique because the theater casts more children in roles than adults. "It's wonderful when kids see that," she says, noting that performance on Friday, July 1, "Leaps & Bounds," looks at what it's like to be in a Walltown summer camp.

Other community theaters I've frequented in the Triangle include Raleigh Little Theater and Playmakers. If you know of others, share a comment in this blog and tell me about them.

As a child, I enjoyed seeing people I know up on stage. There was my older sister's lanky boyfriend, who often wound up playing female roles on stage. He went to an all-boys school, so somebody had to play the female roles onstage. He was hilarious in comedies, and in such classics as "Arsenic and Old Lace," with his body lumbering around in high-heeled shoes. I also couldn't take my eyes of my friend's mother, who would cast off her role as mother to step into the spotlight as a range of characters. Then there was our local priest, who had a penchant for acting, sometimes even playing a serial murderer.

Watching them on stage encouraged me to start my own theater at home with neighborhood children. We wrote our own scripts, sewed our costumes, created props and invited our parents to watch. The unexpected always happened. One time, an actress lost a skirt midway through a performance and refused to go on with the show. But acting together taught us about getting along with others and about getting creative, especially in solving difficulties. Community theater moves our families out of the house, builds friendships and exposes us to new forms of art. And summer is a wonderful season to head out. Check out the listing of local theaters below and add some of your own.

Raleigh Little Theater, in Raleigh

North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre, in Raleigh

Playmakers in Chapel Hill

Applause! Cary Youth Theatre, in Cary

Walltown Children's Theatre, in Durham

ManBitesDog Theater, in Durham



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