It truly hurts me to acknowledge that there are people out there who try to give community theatre a bad reputation. It’s the truth, folks, they exist, and I genuinely feel they need to be educated on the importance of community theatre the benefits that it provides to all of us.
Having been involved in community theatre for over 40 years…yes, I admit it and do it proudly….I have personally seen this wonderful genre from multiple sides. As an actor, producer, stage manager, director….I have seen it. And the benefits that have been reaped have contributed to many aspects of my life, socially and privately.
When I first got involved, I was a teenager who had a miserable home life. One of seven children, I lived in a strict Irish Catholic family and was locked inside a shell. If there is a term for being more than introverted, that was me. I didn’t live up to my Dad’s expectations by being involved in sports. My interest in the arts was not encouraged or supported. I loved music and knew I wanted to be involved with something where I could immerse myself with people who shared my appreciation. I discovered community theatre and auditioned for my first production. My singing was okay, but I was not the most talented apple in the barrel. But I had one thing going for me…the desire to be a part of it. I got cast in the ensemble with not a lot to do, but for me, it was a beginning.
Every production after that was a learning experience for me. I learned self-discipline from having to learn music and choreography with deadlines given to me by the directors. I took every opportunity on stage as a learning experience. I would observe my fellow actors and how they handled themselves in the different roles they played. I would absorb as much as I could to learn about the craft. I would learn from my music directors about how to use my voice correctly and get tips on vocal presentation and advice on how to listen to others. I would learn from my directors about stage terms as for how to use the stage appropriately. I learned from the directors about character work and how to create a character and the importance of working together as an ensemble while still maintaining an individual presence on stage. The choreographers took someone like me with two left feet and help me to discover my hidden ability of coordination. I wasn’t the best dancer, but I was pretty good and improved with each performance.
I wish people would understand that being involved in community theatre isn’t just “Hey, let’s do a show, just for the fun of it!”. Many of these people on or offstage are usually students or adults with daytime jobs, who receive no money for their time. They give up their personal time to do something they love. For me, it usually means rehearsing four to five times a week, giving up hours and hours of “me time.” This is a passion. We may not be paid for doing this, but we put our hearts and souls into it. Wanting to give an audience the best show possible. Community theatre may not have all the resources available to professional theatre, but the powers that be care about the quality of their productions and providing entertaining experiences for the audiences. And getting an audience is life or death for the continued existence of the theatre company. It is important to remember that with the rising cost of theatre tickets, community theatres can provide an affordable option making theatre more accessible to the masses.
Many of your professional actors can attribute their humble beginnings and training from these community theatres. Many of these community theatres also offer training for children, which we didn’t have growing up. Again the benefits to these children can be immeasurable.
I am proud to be a part of community theatre and thank it for helping to make my life more complete than I ever thought it could be when I was that introverted unhappy child. It has been a road worth traveling.