Challenges of Community Theater Productions

Julie Jordan

  • OnStage Ohio Columnist

The process of mounting a successful community theater show is, by no means an easy one.  That is, if you want your production to be moving, polished, and thought-provoking.  I’m sure that in professional theater, actors drop out of roles on occasion, and it is sometimes difficult to find the right people that you envision.  The difference is, you have a lot more options, and there are many actors and stage personnel clamoring to be hired.  In Community Theater, it is sometimes challenging.

I live in an area, Cincinnati, Ohio, that is saturated with numerous community theater groups, and that is mostly a good thing.  However, try losing an important support person (i.e. lighting) or an actor after rehearsals have begun, and you find that those you would most likely wish to fill these roles are otherwise committed to another show.  Very talented support people are at a premium, and some book up over a year or two ahead!  Actors talented enough to believably perform a dramatic role are usually cast in another role for the same time slot as your show, so the search- and- find mission is especially daunting.

Next, there is the challenge of space.  Most community groups do not own their performing spaces, so are hostage to rent hikes and availability due to other facility users.  Add to that the chance that facilities are not always maintained by the owners.  Groups that have ventured out to buy their own facilities are faced with the financial challenges that come with ownership, and unless there is a good amount of money in the till before the purchase, they are driven by fundraisers, often resulting in patron-driven (safe) seasons.  

Finally, it goes without saying that working with actors, technical, and backstage crews to create a particular vision is demanding, but working in a community theater atmosphere comes with other obstacles as well.

Photo Credit: Lily Lim