PITTSBURG -- Betty Brown, who founded the Pittsburg Community Theatre more than 40 years ago, will play her last acting role in the upcoming production of "The Mousetrap."
But while the performance will mark her last stage appearance, the 86-year-old Pittsburg resident will continue in her role as the executive manager of the theater.
There is a certain measure of irony (and theater loves irony) that her role in the May 9-11 production of Agatha Christie's murder mystery "The Mousetrap" is that of the critical, snobby and overbearing Mrs. Boyle.
"It's very much the opposite of who she is," said Roberta Tibbetts, the play's director. "Betty is a little overwhelmed; we are making a big deal of this, (and she is saying), 'There are so many other people in the cast. Aren't you sick of me yet?'"
In a word, no.
"She has so much energy for her age. She wears us out half the time. She is very easygoing and very fun to work with," said David Ward, who joined the Pittsburg Community Theatre a few months after Brown got it going in 1973 as an adult education class in the Pittsburg Unified School District.
In 1979, after Proposition 13 resulted in funding cuts to the arts in education, Brown and several other theater members filed the paperwork for it to continue as a nonprofit.
"Betty went out and bought a book on how to incorporate," said Ward, who retired nine years ago as a math teacher at Hillview Junior High and is on the board of directors of the Community Theatre. He recalled with a chuckle how Brown led the expedition to Sacramento to accomplish that goal.
"At the end of the day, we were incorporated ... She definitely has the can-do spirit," he said.
Over the past four decades, the theater has put on about 140 plays, said Ward. Brown has directed more than 80 of them and acted in about 40.
"She has had quite a legacy. Everywhere you go, somebody always knows Betty," said Dianna Schepers, a fellow board member.
The Pittsburg Community Theatre used to put on plays at the Little Theatre of the Creative Arts Building at Pittsburg High School. But when restoration work on the building began, it moved to a temporary location until last year, when it began using the restored California Theatre in the city's Old Town as a permanent venue.
"Pittsburg is a sports town," Ward said. "Her thing was always to push for more arts within the city."
As far as Brown's character in "The Mousetrap," it's the type of role she excels at playing, Ward said. "She loves playing character parts, gritty parts."
Brown describes Mrs. Boyle this way. "She is very opinionated. Actually, this is the kind of role I play a lot."
While Brown is saying so long to acting roles to spend more time with her family, she has not ruled out directing a play next year.
"I enjoy being a director more, because the director is the creator," said Brown, who also works part time for the school district in the adult education center as a counselor helping students obtain their high school-equivalency certificate. "I'm not quitting. I'm not lying down and dying. I'm trying to take a smaller role and mentor the people that are coming in. There are lots of other people that are very talented."
Then it was time for Brown to go. "I really have to get ready to go out to rehearsal," she said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
What: "The Mousetrap"
When: 8 p.m. May 9; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. May 10; 2 p.m. May 11
Where: California Theatre, 351 Railroad Ave.
Tickets: $10-$20 available at www.pittsburgcaliforniatheatre.com or ticket box office 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.