SOMETIMES, IN youth, we find a niche that give us an upper hand in making friends and adding enjoyment to life. Perhaps it's the ability to tell a good joke or be a good listener, or to be seen as an accomplished athlete or simply a nice guy.
Directing and acting in plays did it for Owen Brown resident David Harter, who discovered theater as a preteen, while living in London.
"I was really jazzed by it," says Harter, who won a playwriting contest in high school and directed a school production of his work.
In January, Harter, 44, found a way to relive that joy. He started the Elkhorn Theatre Troupe, which meets and performs at Borders Books & Music in Columbia Crossing shopping center.
It's a community theater group that performs scenes from classic dramas and comedies. Once a month, members of the group perform a scene or monologue in a 20-foot-wide space in the bookstore. Their audience is composed of fellow members, newcomers and bookstore patrons who happen upon the performance.
Afterward, people are invited to join in, reading parts in a scene from another play. Harter directs the readers, and readers switch parts.
"We're all learning from each other as we read," he said. "Every cycle, every time we change parts, we get better. I love to watch that."
Elisabeth Ogrin, a Columbia resident who is purchasing a home in Long Reach, directs improvisational sessions after the readings.
In grade school, theater became a social activity for Harter. "I was always the outsider," Harter said of his early childhood.
His father was in the foreign service, so Harter spent his early years traveling from city to city. He saw David Storey's play, "Home," with Sir John Gielgud in London at age 10 or 11 -- that's when he fell in love with theater.
He began acting in plays in junior high school, and classmates recognized his talent.
"It was like, wow, all of a sudden I'm popular," he said.
The Elkhorn Theatre Troupe has brought local residents together. Members go out together. Friendships have been formed.
The group has six members who attend each monthly session and two or three others who usually attend, Harter said. Some, like Harter and Ogrin -- who studied theater at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. -- have theater backgrounds. Others are new to the craft.
Kings Contrivance resident Carey Gire, a computer engineer, attended the first meeting in January.
"He just came on a lark," Harter said. Now he's the troupe's stage manager.
The group's meetings, held at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, are open to the public.
"You can come in and watch, or you can come in and participate," Harter said. "Nobody needs any preparation."
Borders Books & Music is at 6151 Columbia Crossing Circle.
Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, on Centre Park Drive and Route 108, held a fund-raiser for the disABILITY AWARENESS project (dAp) on Oct. 2.
Nearly 400 people attended, according to LaDonna Rader, dAp fund-raiser chairwoman. The event, which featured a Chinese buffet and silent auction, raised $15,000 for dAp, Rader said.
The dAp project is an educational program, partly funded by Howard County public schools. It seeks to help students understand what life is like for individuals with physical and mental disabilities.
Kids against drugs
Boy Scout Pack 373, Den 10, sponsored by New Hope Lutheran Church on Guilford Road, competed in the Kmart Kids' Race Against Drugs on Sept. 30.
The event was a miniature car race for children, ages 7 to 12, and was held on the Dobbin Center parking lot on Dobbin Road.
For every child who participated in the free event, Kmart donated $5 to local drug and alcohol abuse prevention organizations.
Den leader Ana Kenny and assistant leader Mark Nueman coordinated the Scouts' participation. Scouts included Eric Brecker, Kevin Brinker, Michael Dyson, Alexander Kenny, Andrew Nueman and Ryan Pak.