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Community Theater

A pair of performances this week benefits the Triangle's one indispensable theater group

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When Manbites Dog Theater asks for help, people tend to respond. First they asked actor and director Jay O'Berski of Shakespeare & Originals to organize this year's benefit production, The Only Time I'll Tell It, for the noted independent regional theater. Then O'Berski asked a group of local writers for permission to adapt their words for stage.

Now they're asking you to show up and see the result.

Bring money. It is, after all, a benefit, and tickets are $25 a pop--only twice the customary price for a production whose goal involves raising a sizable portion of the theater's operating costs. The cause is obvious and worthy.

If in 10 years' time Manbites Dog had only staged significant works of courage, conscience, imagination and taste, that alone would be worth celebrating, particularly in an artistic community where these commodities were once regularly in short supply. But it has also repeatedly given shelter, encouragement--and, most importantly, a venue--to a number of the area's best fledgling theater groups.

Nor have its successful efforts in community-building been limited to the world of the arts. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Festival is a yearly staple, and an important regional festival devoted to queer theater and performance. Of course there have been missteps more than once along the way: Experiments require risk, and not all of theirs have paid off uniformly. But in terms of Durham and regional independent theater, for 10 years theirs has truly been the indispensable company.

That's why you're about to pick up the phone, dial 682-3343, and make a reservation. Even if you're going to be busy both Friday and Saturday night. (If you are, don't forget to tell them, so they can resell your seat.)

O'Berski still remembers what happened when he focused on Southern writers for a Shakespeare & Originals fundraiser two years ago. "We found a lot of people knew some of the characters and were excited to see what we'd do with them," he says. This weekend production has no shortage of regional names, like Gurganus, Betts, Edgerton and Shelton-Green.

But it's the lesser-known commodities who make this concert intriguing. O'Berski will direct the first chapter from Daniel Wallace's comedic novel Ray in Reverse, a work about group therapy in heaven. The author will be onstage. Lissa Brennan directs excerpts from two novels by author and former Flying Burrito waitress Sarah Dessen. And Tom Marriott adapts, directs and appears in a section of a novel in progress by Lawrence Naumoff. Its working title: "A Southern Tragedy."

If these names aren't familiar to you--at least, not yet--it's time you were introduced. EndBlock

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