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, 79, owner and managing director of the Comtra Theatre for nearly 30 years, died Feb. 10 of cancer. Dotty Diller of Cranberry Township 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 Comtra are in a state of flux. “We’re all sort of hurting now,” Diller said. “That theater has practically been my life.” Lynn Snyder of Cranberry began acting at Comtra 20 years ago, and has been directing plays and musicals there for 15 years. She remembered swimming in Teets’ pool and occasionally spending holidays together with Teets and her husband, Clifford. “She was like family,” Snyder said. She recalled disagreeing with Teets occasionally on theatrical issues, and how Teets would stubbornly stick to her guns and never relent. “You did it her way or no way,” Snyder said with a chuckle. Neither Diller nor Snyder knows what will happen to the Comtra Theatre now that its leader is gone. Asked what she will miss most about her friend and theater mentor, Snyder reacted like all those who consider Marie Teets and the Comtra Theater synonymous. “Just knowing she’s there,” she said. Teets grew up in Rochester, Pa., and graduated from Geneva College. She spent 30 years working for TWA as a sales representative and, after retirement, she started her own travel agency. She continued managing Comtra up to last year when she performed the Hepburn role in “On Golden Pond” with her daughter, Ellen, and reprised one of her favorite roles in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” A funeral service was held Thursday at the Devlin Funeral Home of Cranberry. Contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.