The Four Types of Community Theatre Actors

Vicki Trask

I’ve had the chance to work with several different community theatre companies and meet some amazing new people. I’ve come to realize that this is a wonderful environment to work in.

Blithe Spirit at the Mill at Sonning

Blithe Spirit at the Mill at Sonning

Community theatre is a remarkable world. It’s where people from all walks of life come to create incredible live productions on a minute portion of a professional theatre budget. It’s where emerging artists can hone their craft, and theatre lovers can express their talent in a less intense environment. I adore the friends and stories I’ve created over the years and as long as I can, I will continue to work with this community; but I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in the types of people I work with. 

The beauty of community theatre is that you don’t have to have any experience or training: you can come as you are, show what you can do, and hopefully leave on a positive note. However, that means that all walks of life are mingled together on stage. From the woman who’s just there to pass the time after a long day at work, to the boy who’s fresh out of theatre school with dreams of Broadway, everyone can share the space. 

I’ve found that you can separate every actor into four – rather wordy – categories:

  • The Unprofessional Unprofessional,
  • The Professional Unprofessional,
  • The Unprofessional Professional, 
  • The Professional Professional. 

How’s that for a tongue-twister?

Now the Unprofessional Unprofessional is not my favorite actor to work with because I know that I’m a bit of a control freak. This is the one who treats theatre like a hobby and just wants to have fun. It doesn’t matter if the show turns out well, it doesn’t matter if all the lines are memorized, they’re just there to have a good time. There is nothing wrong with that, please don’t misunderstand, but these are not easy people to work with.

The Professional Unprofessional is the one who treats it like a hobby but still invests time and effort into what they’re doing. These are the ones with flourishing careers and aspirations outside of performing arts but love the creative outlet offered by a non-professional theatre. They are hard workers – though constantly stressed – and tend to operate on a diet of coffee and vending machine food. Treat them well.

Unprofessional Professionals are also a nightmare to work with because of their negative attitude. They are previously paid actors (or working towards it) who “take a break” from their career pursuits to do community theatre. They bring with them great talent but also a sense of entitlement and a knack for starting stories with “when [professional company] put this show on …” There is something wrong with that, please understand, these are not easy people to work with. 

And then there’s the Professional Professionals who are also previously paid actors (or working towards it), but they are invested in their show. They’re here because they love theatre no matter what and want to work wherever they can. These are the people I admire. To quote the ever-fabulous Billy Porter: "If you're not interested in doing a play in a living room, then you can't be interested in doing a play on Broadway!"

They’re doing theatre because they love doing theatre.

Now, if you’ve ever worked in a community theatre production then I can assure you, you’re one of these people. That’s not a bad thing – unless you’re an Unprofessional Professional – but every once in a while, it’s good to step back and evaluate what you’re doing here. What are you hoping to get out of theatre? What personality are you giving off? More importantly: what type of people are you working with? How do you handle the different characters backstage?