WEEKEND: Dungeness couple in ‘Titanic’ drama

SEATTLE — For weeks, Dungeness resident and actress Carol Swarbrick Dries and her husband, Jim Dries, have been immersed in one true drama.

From 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. most nights, the couple have been in rehearsal for the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of “Titanic,” to be performed this weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sailing and sinking — “the triumph and failure of technology, all in one fell swoop,” as David Armstrong put it.

Armstrong, artistic director at the 5th Avenue, is a great admirer of Swarbrick Dries, who has performed in a dozen 5th Avenue productions since 1999.

She and Jim are co-founders of the local Readers Theatre Plus troupe — even as the actress is appearing in not only “Titanic” but also “Damn Yankees,” to open later this month at the 5th Avenue.

‘Titanic’ performances

“Titanic” will be performed just four times: at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, at 2 p.m. Saturday and finally at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the theater, 1308 Fifth Ave. in downtown Seattle. Tickets are available via www.5thAvenue.org and 206-625-1900.

In “Titanic,” Swarbrick Dries portrays Ida Strauss, wife of Macy’s co-owner Isadore Strauss. Ida has the opportunity to board one of the ship’s lifeboats; her decision to stay with Isadore instead is one facet of this fact-based story.

Jim Dries portrays George Widener, one of the richest men in Philadelphia and a first-class passenger on the Titanic.

He, too, is awed by the production, which incorporates historical photographs and Ken Burns documentary-like effects.

“The talent is just unreal,” Dries said, noting that the cast of 34 is accompanied by a 70-voice choir and a 24-piece orchestra.

‘Last Lifeboat’

Later this month, Jim Dries will be back in Dungeness to direct “The Last Lifeboat,” a Readers Theatre Plus production also inspired by the 100th anniversary.

Admission will be free to the performances at 7:30 p.m. April 27 and at 3 p.m. April 28 and 29 at the Dungeness Schoolhouse, 2781 Towne Road north of Sequim.

Swarbrick Dries isn’t in “The Last Lifeboat” due to a previous engagement: She plays Sister, one of the wives in “Damn Yankees,” from April 21 through May 20 at 5th Avenue.

That means rehearsals from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., with a quick dinner break before the “Titanic” run-throughs.

“Carol goes from playing one of richest women in the world in 1912 to a 1950s housewife and rabid baseball fan,” Armstrong said.

Swarbrick Dries “is the real deal,” he added.

“She can be hilariously funny; she can also be incredibly moving.”

The actress, for her part, marvels at what the spring season has brought.

“Titanic” and “Damn Yankees” have called on all of her resources; “it’s a great challenge,” Swarbrick Dries said.

“And I’m grateful for the challenge.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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