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Actress believes in community theater

Karen Worley is a professional actress in a mystery dinner theater in Virginia Beach, but she loves musical theater so much she does it for free.

“I enjoy musical theater,” said Worley, who plays Mrs. Sowerberry in this weekend’s production of “Oliver!” at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

Worley acts in “Murder Rides Again” by the Mystery Dinner Playhouse in Virginia Beach every Friday and Saturday night. The mystery play, which comes with a four-course meal, is performed at the Doubletree Hotel.

Despite getting paid to act, though, Worley auditioned for “Oliver!” because she likes the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Worley also was in last year’s production of “Peter Pan.”

“I really believe in what they’re doing,” Worley said of the center.

Worley plays Mrs. Sowerberry, who with her husband, Mr. Sowerberry, takes in the young orphan for a short period of time. The Sowerberrys run a funeral home, and love the business of death, Worley said.

“She and her husband have a love of anything to do with funerals,” Worley said. “Death is how they make their living. The whole theatrics of a funeral in that day and time, they get real excited about that.”

The two have a song together titled “That’s Your Funeral.”

In addition, Worley plays two minor parts for other scenes, which leaves her with a total of three costume changes throughout the show.

The key to costume changes is to “slow down to speed up,” Worley said.

“You have to stay calm when you have a quick chance,” Worley said. The changes often do not go very well the first time they are practiced, but “then you wonder why it was ever a problem,” Worley said.

Acting is a family affair for Worley — her daughter, Carrie Mae Barba, plays Nancy in the production, and played Peter Pan in last year’s community theater project.

“I enjoy doing shows with my children,” Worley said. “It gives me a chance to spend time with my daughter, doing something we both love.”

Worley will be seen on stage during all four productions of “Oliver!” this weekend. She has an understudy to cover her show in Virginia Beach.

“It’s a whole lot of fun,” Worley said.

“Oliver!” will be performed March 12 at 7:30 p.m., March 13 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and March 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $12.50 to $30. To order tickets, visit www.SuffolkCenter.org.