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    Troupe to take theater out to audience

    Anastasia O’Brien
    Play Around actors (from left) Erin Stulb, Charles Edwards, and Chris Soule. The troupe performs this month in Hingham.

    After a year spent locating a space and cast members, the Play Around theater is ready to take the stage and emphasize the “community’’ in community theater.

    The Quincy-based troupe, which will unveil its first production at the end of the month in Hingham, plans to perform for free in nontraditional spaces. As her company gets its footing, founder Anastasia O’Brien has big plans for performances in many communities south of Boston.

    “We could have just done what every other group does, but why just be another community theater group that’s just going to do the same thing?’’ she said. “I combine my company with a strong desire to give back to the community.’’


    The 20 members in the group hail from all over the region, including Quincy, Milton, Randolph, Holbrook, and Braintree.

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    It has taken O’Brien a year to find performers who share her passion for theater and charity. They have different levels of experience, but O’Brien gives them the opportunity to get involved in a variety of ways. Members can grow in every aspect of stage production from writing scripts to stage directing, costumes, and lighting.

    “The people within the group help out. They’re very self-sufficient and all involved in putting the show together,’’ O’Brien said. “I wanted them to feel like they were contributing.’’

    This month and next, the Hingham Public Library will be the venue for Play Around’s first show. Selections from Neil Simon’s plays will be read, including three scenes from his most popular comedies.

    In the future, O’Brien plans to partner with libraries, schools, retirement facilities, shelters, and youth centers to host performances and to hold youth workshops to give children a chance to find an interest in theater. The Braintree Youth Center is one site where O’Brien hopes to hold an acting workshop in the near future.


    “I wanted it to be a little different from the other community theater groups out there, and I felt passionately about exposing people to theater who can’t afford it or get to it,’’ she said.

    The drive to make theater accessible to everyone comes from an experience O’Brien had while attending a show shortly after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. After the show, she realized that those few hours were the only time that week she had been able to not think about what had happened.

    Theater “didn’t have to be so self-serving if I made the focus about the audience, it wasn’t so focused on the actors,’’ O’Brien said. “I think there are times that escapism is perfectly appropriate and necessary.’’

    That was when O’Brien decided that if she were going to start a theater company, it would fill that role. To entertain for a few hours and allow people to escape their own reality for someone else’s world, she believes, is a way of giving back, and it is one of the central goals of her group.

    For now, Play Around is based in O’Brien’s home in Quincy. Costumes and props are being donated by the actors, and the troupe accepts donations for costumes and set designs. O’Brien hopes that once Play Around is a recognized name, she can apply for grants and work with local charitable organizations.


    O’Brien herself has a lengthy background in theater. She has produced and acted in local film and theater productions, including the independent film “Harrison Macauley Is Going to Kill Me’’ by Orange Pictures. She is currently an acting coach for the Milton Players, and she also produces a web series called “Red Circles.’’

    Of her career, she said: “I thought I had to move to New York to land it, and it just occurred to me that I do have this career. The natural thing for me to then do was own my own theater company.’’

    “An Evening of Neil Simon’’ will be performed Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. at the Hingham Public Library, 66 Leavitt St. For more information, contact O’Brien at or 617-750-4078. To book a performance, contact events coordinator Jocelyn Padilla at or 617-481-5842.