Ladies rule 'Dixie Swim Club'

This year, Olympia Little Theatre is serving up an extra helping of theater.

The amateur company — launching the 2010-2011 theater season tonight with “Dixie Swim Club” — has eight plays scheduled instead of its traditional seven.

“The eighth play we snuck in is ‘The Basketmaker,’ ” said Kathryn Beall, the company’s artistic manager. That play is a world premiere, written by Dr. David Baughan of Olympia, who appeared in last season’s “Murder on the Nile.”

That play and another little-known one, “Sea Marks,” a romance about a lonely fisherman and an urban woman, essentially share the theater’s winter slot.

And it’s not just the number of plays that is growing for OLT.

“Because we are moderately priced and people are looking for good entertainment, we had one of our better years last year,” said Toni Holm, who is on the theater’s board. “Ticket sales were up.”

And season ticket sales so far are higher this season than last, she said. The company’s new season-ticket plan allows subscribers to choose any five shows, but a surprising number are choosing to see the full season.

“Forty percent are picking all eight plays,” Beall said. “I didn’t expect that. I expected maybe 20 percent.”

Balancing the little-known winter selections are OLT favorite “Harvey” and “A Few Good Men,” which has plenty of name recognition thanks to the 1992 film.

The theater also attempts to strike a balance between edgier material (this season, that’s “Men,” which has a lot of profanity) and shows that won’t offend sensitive audiences.

Because the actors are volunteers, there’s also an attempt to look at what roles each production offers. “Men” has a cast of 14 men and just one woman, so “Dixie,” with five women, and “Play On,” with seven women and just three men, help to even the score.

“A lot of plays don’t have good roles for middle-aged to older women,” Holm said. “We try to make sure we at least have one thing every year that fits that because we have a lot of good older female actors.”

This season, that play is “Dixie,” in which the characters age from the 40s in the first scene to 70 in the final one.