Julie H. Jordan
- Ohio Columnist
The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.
~ Stella Adler
Balance or budget? Laughter or gut-wrenching pathos? These are the questions every community theater asks itself when establishing a season. Many believe that audiences will only flock to those shows that evoke laughter instead of tears, humor instead of vulnerability. So, many community theater seasons are largely comedic; farces abound, and dramas are few and far between. However, groups run the danger of leaving out a huge part of the human experience by eliminating those shows that make audiences think, ponder, and, dare I say, question.
I am not discounting the value of laughter and its place on the stage. Audiences sometimes love a good comedy to forget about the everyday challenges of life. However, if community theaters truly seek to be “the seeing place” as stated in the quote above, a balanced season is necessary. Audiences need to be exposed to plays that elicit deep thought, reflecting on the human condition in totality. The “truth about life” is exposed through the laughter AND the tears.
In addition to audience considerations, theaters that focus on only one type of production ( i.e. only comedies) shortchange their actors as well and deny them a variety of acting experiences. Dramas require a different skill set than comedies and often, a much deeper analysis into the character at hand. A well-rounded actor needs to be able to handle both types (comedy and drama) or at least, be exposed to both.
So, when your board and play reading committees are evaluating plays for a possible season, go ahead and include that comedy, but think about adding some variety to your season by including a dramatic work, to achieve the sum-total “truth about life.” Your audiences and actors will thank you!
Photo: Whittier Community Theatre