CRANBERRY TWP — Southwestern Butler County's maven of live theater began in a tent along Route 19, where she staged dinner theaters, before buying the barn next door and refurbishing it into Cranberry's only venue dedicated to live performance.
Marie Teets, owner and managing director of the Comtra Theater for nearly 30 years, died on Sunday of cancer.
Dotty Diller of Cranberry was Teets' secretary and general helper for more than 50 years.
Diller remembers when Teets welcomed theater fans into a tent set up on the edge of Route 19 in what is now Piazza Plaza for a comedy, drama or thriller, and then into a house in the back of the property for dinner.
“People would sit on bleachers in the tent, then eat in the house,” said Diller. “It was very nice.”
She said in 1984, Teets found out that the house and barn next door were for sale, and soon the Comtra Theater was born.
Teets and Diller worked closely until June, when Teets' illness prevented her from working. Diller last saw Teets Feb. 6 when she visited her in the hospital.
“She said 'Oh Dotty,'” Diller said sadly. “That's all she said.”
Because Teets was the sole representation of the theater business in Cranberry, all those associated with the Comtra are in a state of flux.
“We're all sort of hurting now,” Diller said. “That theater has practically been my life.”