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Stories brought to life by True Story Theater in Arlington

True Story Theater performers, including (clockwise from left) Michelle Mount, Tonia Pin-heiro, Ani Nguyen, and Kamau Hashim, act out situations shared by audience members.

Jason Jedrusiak

True Story Theater performers, including (clockwise from left) Michelle Mount, Tonia Pin-heiro, Ani Nguyen, and Kamau Hashim, act out situations shared by audience members.

TRUTH ON STAGE: Using a combination of improvisatory drama, music, and movement, True Story Theater will act out real-life situations shared by audience members during a series of performances in Arlington over the next several months.

Christopher Ellinger, artistic director of the 16-member troupe based in his hometown of Arlington, said he is “excited to put down deeper roots” through the theater’s community partner series. Supported by a grant from the town’s Cultural Council, True Story Theater gave the first of its performance with local organizations on July 1, with “Stories of the Robbins Library.”

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The upcoming shows are “Stories of Loss and Healing” with the Children’s Room on Friday; “Stories of Welcome” with the Arlington Vision 2020 Diversity Committee on Aug. 10; and “Stories of Creating Sustainable Community” with Sustainable Arlington on Oct. 12.

All three shows will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Center, at 369 Massachusetts Avenue, with $10 and $15 tickets available at the door.

The troupe also stages performances and offers theater classes in the facility’s yoga studio, with details posted at www.truestorytheater.org.

Ellinger, who founded True Story Theater 12 years ago, said people should not fear sitting close up to the actors, because audience participation is strictly voluntary. Performances generally have a mix of serious, lighthearted, and inspirational moments, and last 75 to 90 minutes with time at the end for discussion, he said.

The mission, according to Ellinger, is promoting social healing by respectfully listening to others’ experiences and spontaneously transforming them into theater, “however ordinary, extraordinary, difficult, or joyful.” He said audience members benefit from new insights, deeper connections, and a greater perspective of our common humanity.

“It’s about expressing the inner truth of people’s deepest struggles, visions, and victories,” said Ellinger, who during the show assists audience members who want to share their stories but are not sure how. “I really believe that everyone has a story that’s very compelling to witness. It’s our job to bring it to life.”

CHANGE IN FOCUS: After her son, Kevin, suffered traumatic brain injury in a car accident as a 17-year-old in 1980, Westborough resident Arlene Korab searched in vain for resources to help them both.

She eventually learned of a group of similarly frustrated parents and eagerly went to a meeting. Instead of the support group she expected, however, Korab was welcomed to the first board meeting of the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts.

“That’s how it started,” said Korab, who was a volunteer board member for 10 years before agreeing to become the nonprofit organization’s executive director — but only on an interim basis, until the search committee identified a permanent replacement.

“For years, I’d joke, ‘How is that search coming?’ ” said Korab, who had served in the position for 23 years before retiring on June 28.

Looking back over her career, Korab said she is gratified by how the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts has grown in size and services. Today, the organization offers 33 support groups for survivors and their families, recreational and socialization opportunities, and information and resource coordinators through its headquarters in Westborough and regional offices in Pittsfield and East Wareham.

In addition, Korab is credited for the numerous awards presented to the association during her tenure, as well as spearheading the 2007 class-action lawsuit that led to a settlement from the state enabling thousands of brain-injury survivors in nursing homes to move into the community with financial and other support. She also played a significant role in establishing the Statewide Head Injury Program, a division of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

While Korab has “loved every minute” at the association, she said the time was right for a new generation of leadership with fresh ideas. Assistant executive director Nicole Godaire took over as her successor on July 1. Korab remains available for backup support while spending more time with family and friends — especially Kevin, who lives independently in Dartmouth with 24-hour care.

Korab also said she plans to continue promoting awareness of traumatic brain injury. It is so misunderstood, she said, because survivors may walk and speak well, but still struggle with agitation and memory difficulties. Despite outward appearances, employment is impossible for many.

“The BIA-MA is everywhere that it can be,” Korab said, “and anybody who needs it should call.”

For more information, call the organization’s help line at 800-242-0030, or visit its website, www.biama.org.

CELEBRATING POPEYE: Watertown resident Fred Grandinetti, author of three books and numerous articles about Popeye, is paying tribute to the sailor man’s 80th anniversary as an animated cartoon character Sunday on his award-winning cable-access TV series, “Drawing With Fred.”

Popeye first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre (later renamed Popeye) by Elzie Crisler Segar on Jan. 17, 1929. His animated debut came in a Betty Boop cartoon on July 14, 1933.

For his anniversary tribute, Grandinetti wrote “Clothes Make the Sailor Man,” which stars longtime collaborator Brandon Stumpf , an actor, model, and middle school art teacher from Nashua.

In the segment, Stumpf plays a character named Fred who has difficulty deciding what to wear at an 80th celebration for Popeye. The sailor’s pal, Eugene the Jeep, magically produces shirts with drawings of Wimpy and Brutus that were actually created by Grandinetti.

Editing and special effects were provided by Vatche Arabian of Watertown.

Grandinetti said it is important to recognize this milestone of the Popeye cartoon series, which is the longest running in the history of motion pictures and television.

“Generations have discovered the spinach-eating sailor man through his animated adventures,” Grandinetti said. “These cartoons have brought pleasure to literally millions of people all over the world.”

“Drawing With Fred” airs on local-access channels in Watertown, Needham, Winthrop, Salem, and Londonderry, N.H.

The segment “Clothes Make the Sailor Man” can also be viewed at www.facebook.com/drawingwithfred.

MUSICAL ROLES: Several local actors will perform in the Boston Children’s Theatre production of “Pippin,” opening Thursday and continuing through next Sunday at the Governor’s Academy, 1 Elm St. in Newbury’s Byfield section.

The musical’s two casts feature 58 actors from 38 local communities and Germany, ranging in age from 9 to 14. They include Marshall Youn of Arlington; Maerose Pepe of Belmont; Lindzi Hutchinson of Brookline; Genevieve Wharton of Lexington; Newton residents Francesca Bosio, Tema Siegel, and Yarden Yacoby; Owen Sherrin of Sudbury; and Deirdre Pedersen of Westborough.

Tickets cost $15 and $20 for adults, and $10 and $15 for students. For more information, call 617-424-6634, ext. 222, or visit www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org.

People items may be submitted at cantrell@globe.com.
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