Striving for Excellence in Community Theater

Striving for Excellence in Community Theater

Dee Dee O'Connor

  • OnStage Washington State Columnist

A few months ago, I was working on the set building crew, fussing over a detail when someone came up to me and said, “It’s good enough; it’s just community theatre; it doesn’t matter.”

I wanted to scream in frustration and throttle the individual, but I liked him so I said with a calm that belied my feelings, “Of course it matters. Just because it’s community theatre doesn’t mean I should do less than my best.” He grumbled an “I suppose you’re right” and thankfully left me alone to my fussing. 

I often expect people outside of community theatre to be dismissive. I’ve heard enough derogatory comments over the years to realize that there are more than a few folks out there who, being completely devoid of any talent at all, are nevertheless more than willing to pass judgment on those who possess a modicum of it — and who are at least out there trying.  I also realize that there are some in professional theatre who consider community theatre to be the bastard child of Aeschylus.

But what I can’t accept is when such attitudes come from within community theatre itself. To me, belittling the thing you’re a part of is symptomatic of a mental disorder.

Because it’s so easy to fall into the trap of complacency, we in community theater should fight it at every turn. Even if the status quo is working, we should always be asking ourselves if we can do better.  I fully understand that community theaters operate with varying degrees of limitations but we can still strive for excellence within those limitations. We should fuss over the details whether it’s on the set, in rehearsals, or in the boardroom. We owe that to ourselves and to our audiences.

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