Live! From Manteo!

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Theatre of Dare’s production of Oliver. Photo Busy B Photography.

Years ago, the odds of finding live, community theatre on the Outer Banks were about the same as finding a chest of gold doubloons washed up on the beach. So, a determined group of locals, including folks from the Dare County Arts Council and The Lost Colony, met to see what they could do to broaden the cultural horizons of our seaside county. As a result, the Theatre of Dare (TOD) was born.

Fast-forward to the present, and the non-profit volunteer organization is set to raise the curtain on its silver anniversary, celebrating twenty-five years of comedy, drama, and musical performances.

In the beginning, lacking an established venue, the plays were performed in local restaurants in a dinner theatre format. The group’s inaugural performance was Neil Simon’s California Suite, presented at the Port O’ Call restaurant in Kill Devil Hills. Later, the troupe staged performances in county middle and high schools. Now the theatre has found a home in the auditorium of the College of the Albemarle and has formed a loose partnership with their Roanoke Island campus.

When selecting plays to produce, the nine members of the theatre’s Board of Directors peruse suggested scripts and then cast votes on which plays to perform. Although “family appeal” is a consideration, the 2014-2015 season included a couple of edgier plays. Each winter and spring, three or four plays are performed with six performances of each show. Popular titles have included: The Odd Couple, The Glass Menagerie, and The Little Shop of Horrors. Based on ticket sales and audience response, comedies are overwhelmingly the preferred genre.  

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Theatre of Dare’s production of Psycho Beach Party. Photo Busy B Photography.

The actors and those assisting with lighting, costumes, sound, and set design are likely to be your friends and neighbors. Some are nine-to-fivers who have found that TOD provides the perfect outlet for realizing their dream of being on stage. Others simply have a desire to assist in promoting the artistic endeavors of the community. For example, Jon Bender maintains law and order as a Town of Manteo police officer; but off-duty he serves as vice president of the TOD board, directs plays, and acts on stage as well.

“They do it for love and fun; no one receives pay,” says Don Bridge who has been involved almost since the beginning and serves as board president. Don is a veteran actor and director and does whatever is necessary behind the scenes to help bring magic to the stage.  

The audience is comprised mostly of locals, including a loyal, core group of patrons who provide enthusiastic support. The shows attract a fair number of curious tourists too, pleased to take advantage of such an unexpected entertainment offering.

All proceeds from the shows go toward the costs of future productions. In addition, with funds raised from a raffle, the group presents scholarships to two Dare County high school seniors interested in pursuing theatre arts. This year, Addie Moore and Mary Elysse Santa received a $1000 scholarship each.

A grant from the Outer Banks Community Foundation helped fund this year’s presentation of Aesop’s Fables at Dare County elementary schools. The classic tales and moral lessons were brought to life by actors outfitted in whimsical animal costumes.

“The children were engaged and loved the performance,” said Don. “It was a great way to expose them to live theater.” ♦

Kimberly Armstrong greatly anticipates attending Theatre of Dare’s season opener with her husband in tow (although he is blissfully unaware of her plans).

The season opens in October with performances of the thriller, Wait Until Dark.
$11 for adults; $6 for students • theatreofdareobx.com

Kimberly Armstrong

Kimberly Armstrong’s artistic talents are limited to drawing conclusions. However, she can perform a rollicking rendition of “The Skater’s Waltz” on the piano.

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