John B. Wynne thrives on the vitality of live theater.

"Theater is the last vestige of the old oral tradition (of storytelling)," the 45-year-old actor said. "You can't live a one-sided existence in the theater. You just can't be alone in the theater.

"In a live performance there's a real connection between the audience and the performer, and the reciprocal trade-off is what makesit work."

Wynne has been acting since his teens, when he was given his first role in a repertory company before graduating from high school.

Since then, he has acted, directed, produced and worked in every technical area of the theater. He also has done design and technical work in television and film.

The character actor will be on stage in the role of Lloyd Dallas in the British comedy "Noises Off" at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Feb. 1 and 2, at Smith Theatre at Howard Community College in Columbia.

"Noises Off," by Michael Frayn, is really a play within a play that will have the audience "hurting from laughter," Wynne said.

"It's the humor of circumstance," he explained. "The acting company is ready to open thenext night, but they're not ready. So we're laughing about the situation -- it's farce, it's theater, it's life."

Besides acting, Wynne teaches theater at Catonsville and Carroll community colleges. He has taught at the Baltimore County campus for five years and led "Theater 101" classes at CCC intermittently for the past four years.

Wynne, who is also an artist, served on Carroll Community College's Building Committee and helped design a multipurpose theater for the Westminster campus. The design for the theater is based on the state-of-the-art, 500-seat facility at Catonsville Community College.

The Carroll theater will have seating capacity for only 300 to 350, he said.

"But I'm glad it's small, because it will be easier tofill."

He said the popular appeal of theater has dimmed somewhat,compared to other entertainment media, simply because television andthe movies are so much more accessible.

Even so, he's excited about the college having its own theater, though it might be eight or10 years away.

"It will be one of the last things built," Wynne said. "But that's symptomatic of our society. The arts have always been last on everybody's list."

He said drama courses could be more vital at CCC if there were a theater on campus.

"As it is now, the students have to travel to Baltimore to do any acting."

But the travel doesn't seem to be a problem for the highly motivated Carroll Community College students, he added.

"They know they'recoming to college for the higher degree of learning," Wynne said. "That puts more responsibility on their heads, so I have less problem stimulating the students here."

At Catonsville, Wynne is actually an administrator in his role as managing director of the Fine and Performing Arts Center Theatre. But he also teaches courses in theater, acting, directing, theatrical production and stage management.

"The thrust is to involve the student in the productions," he said."Some ask why they need to do the technical jobs, but in theater you're going to have to know all aspects of the show.

"You go into a repertory company, you're going to have to do everything."

Wynne is concentrating for now in acting in "Noises Off," to be followed by his management of auditions at Catonsville for "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off" in the spring and "A Chorus Line" in the summer.

So, who can act?

"We learn acting at about 9 or 10 months ofage, and we become very good at it up until age 9 to 14 years," Wynne said. "By 14, society, acculturation, gets its handle on us, and that spontaneous reaction is gone.

"When you get involved with it, you find your path," he said. "You find what you can do by what youdo."

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