The Volunteers of Community Theatre Deserve an Endless Ovation

  • Timothy Fitzgerald

Many of us work full-time jobs, what I refer to as a vocation to support our avocations. I can’t tell you how many times people ask me after seeing a show or hearing I am in a show, “How much do you get paid for doing this?” Of course, in community theatre, the answer is nothing. The look of surprise on their faces is astounding.

You put in hours of evening rehearsals three, four, five nights a week and sometimes even weekend hours. This is after working a full-time job; many folks work forty or more hours a week. Some people work more than that. A personal life? Well, that, for the most part, is your personal life for anywhere from 8 weeks to 12 weeks, depending on the performance schedule for the show.

And let us not forget about the people behind the scenes like the stage manager, the stage crew, the costumers and their staff and everyone else behind the scenes. Most community theatres get volunteers to do this as well. Some do provide a stipend where they can. And these folks are so crucial to the success of each production, but alas, they get no bow at the end of the performance.

Why do we do this? All this work and no compensation? We hear this from others all the time. It doesn’t make sense to them. But we know the secret, folks and it’s OK to share it with them. We do it because we LOVE it! It is our passion. Some people collect postage stamps; some folks sing karaoke. We do theatre for the love of it.

“But what do you get out of it?” The list is way too long, but I will give you a couple of examples. The social aspect of doing community theatre is an inherent benefit. In each production, you meet so many different people who share your passion and love for theatre. These people become part of your life as a result of the road you take with them. Some of them close friends, some acquaintances, but all a part of the circle of the theatre life. You might see them in this show but then not again for a year or two or five, but the connection remains and is ignited once you reconnect with them. It’s a great feeling!

Another is a feeling of satisfaction that you get to go on stage and escape from real life for a while by becoming someone else. Many times, it is someone that you don’t know anything about before you begin rehearsals. You learn along the way about the character and who they are and where they came from and understanding their journey, with great thanks to a great director. The director guides you along the way to help you bring that character to life for an audience. For example, if you are an insurance agent during the day and your character in the show happens to be a sleazy car dealer. You may not like who he is, but you explore with the director to help you become that person.

When you come off stage from a performance, you feel that satisfaction that you became someone else for a couple of hours and provided great entertainment for the audience. It’s also great when someone comes up to you after a show and is surprised to find that you are so different from what they saw on the stage.

Again, these are just a couple of things in addition to the whole thing being great learning experiences. So, how about you? Got something to add to this or share on this subject. Got an experience you want to share? I am all ears!