Please Support the Arts

 North Fork Community Theatre

North Fork Community Theatre

Liz Chirico

You know the phrase. “If you build it, he will come.” And if it worked in Field of Dreams, it will work IRL. Except too often people love to complain about the lack of options, programming, opportunities in the arts, and they don’t support the ones currently in existence. That needs to end.

I’m an adult dancer in every possible way. I started dance at 31 with a very beginner tap class. As I’ve progressed in my skill level, I’ve bemoaned the lack of challenging adult options. So I’ve bounced around to different studios because I recognized that instead of complaining and not taking dance, I had the power to do something. That power is to give my money and time only to a dance studio that supports adult dancers with challenging and performance opportunities.

So now, I’m 37 still happily tapping and recently enrolled in a new offering at my dance studio, Musical Theater/Jazz. While the arrival of Baby Girl (9 weeks to go- dear LORD) will likely curtail my performing, for now, I’m still out there dancing and supporting the arts. I attend my friend’s theatrical endeavors, I promote their shows, and I plug my dance studio whenever I have the chance. I don’t complain that there are no opportunities for adult dancers anymore because they are there. And I support as best I can the new ones that crop up each year.

You’re probably thinking, “I’m only one person. Who cares if I don’t, see the show/take a class/share that FB event?” That’s precisely the attitude most take and that’s why so many beautiful programs fold after a year. If they last a year.

It takes tremendous amounts of time, energy and capital to start anything, especially something in the arts. Many people beginning that dance company, directing the local musical, or soliciting artists for a local exhibit all have other full-time day jobs. Not to mention wanting to maintain relationships with family and friends. These massive undertakings are being done largely by volunteers on their second or third shift of the day. Bugs happen, issues arise they may not have known to account for or how to fix. As an audience member, as an arts supporter rather than attend and lambast things in a negative review or skip the show entirely, why not offer constructive criticism instead? If you see a problem and you have the skills to help, offer those skills. If you can’t afford the full price of the ticket, barter and offer to usher, or sell concessions. I’ve seen many a show from the back row of the theater while ushering and it’s every bit as good.

Don’t presume watching the recording (if there’s one available) after the fact is the same as viewing the live show. Yes, you’re supporting your friend(s) in the show, the theater group but it’s not the same. The whole thing about live theater, live music, live dance is the “live” part- that element of je ne sais quoi, that anything can and will happen. You’re missing the electricity in the air as the lights go down and the curtain goes up, as the orchestra strikes up the first few notes of the overture or the producer makes their pre-curtain speech. Plus watching the DVD after the fact likely means, you didn’t pay to play, and in the world of community arts, every penny counts. Without your support that fabulous show you just saw may not happen next year.

So instead of complaining do something. Share something. Encourage someone. Donate your time or treasure (or both!) Remember what Everett Edward Hale said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Shows I'd Love to See Gender-Swapped

Shows I'd Love to See Gender-Swapped

Recently Newsies announced that its rights are open for community theaters to perform. What made this announcement even more special was the knowledge that part of the Newsies ensemble could include females. (Someone needs to give me a couple years to have my baby and get back into tapping shape so I can be in that ensemble but I digress.)  

In the community theater world, there’s always talk of gender swapping within shows and roles. This is the first major production I’ve heard of which explicitly allows for the inclusion of females into what has been traditionally a male ensemble. I want to look at some other shows and roles that might benefit from a male to female gender swap. Granted this is just a wishlist, knowing that doing anything like this would require permission first. 

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Dear Theatre, You Complete Me

Dear Theatre, You Complete Me

It’s kind of hard to articulate my relationship with art and theatre. I’ve had so many conversations with people through the years on what it actually means to me and how it makes me feel and it’s a subject I can talk about endlessly. Theatre touches something deep within me, and that happens whether I’m working on a show or am an audience member watching one. Just being around art, in all forms, is a satisfying experience for me.

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"Feels Like Home..."

"Feels Like Home..."

The sense of adrenaline floods you in an instant, with bodies flying past you as they check just one last time that everything is in the right place. The crew tightens all of the ropes lined up against the wall without a second glance towards the actors while the racks and racks of costumes are triple checked by the changers as they try to remember the order of each scene.

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Issues at Broadway's "Chicago" All Too Familiar When It Comes to Bullying in Theatre

Issues at Broadway's "Chicago" All Too Familiar When It Comes to Bullying in Theatre

After spending 22 years in a cast of a Broadway show, one deserves a curtain call worthy of that achievement. It could be a standing ovation during the final bow. Or a backstage celebration. Or parting gifts from the cast, creative and producers. 

But instead of being recognized for a rare achievement in New York theatre, Jeff Loeffelholz ended his own life with a mixture of painkillers and alcohol. 

What led Jeff to this point is going to be the subject of investigations by multiple organizations and their results could lead to a complete reshaping of working conditions in professional theatre.

While Jeff's alleged treatment behind-the-scenes at Chicago is horrific, for many other performers, it's all too familiar. 

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For When You Doubt Yourself

For When You Doubt Yourself

In any part of life, doubting yourself is inevitable.

From working for a promotion to applying for colleges, there’s a point where you stop and ask yourself: Am I sure that I can do this? Even the most confident people have these moments of doubt, whether they realize it or not. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most common feelings in the world. And when you’re working in the arts? That feeling multiplies by ten at every email with an audition or job opening, thinking of the hundreds of others who probably received the exact same email. It may not help having the “starving artist” reputation that surrounds our decisions either.

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Get Involved in Your Local Community Theater

Get Involved in Your Local Community Theater

Sometimes community theater gets a bad rap.

I have a few choice words to say to those people that my bosses would never let me publish under the Press’ banner. 

Why this is — I’m not really sure. Maybe they’d rather go see a professional show with working actors. Maybe they’re not into live theater. I can only conclude that these opinions were concluded by those who have never really given it a chance.

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If You're Charging People to be in Your Show, You Can't Cast Your Kid in the Lead Role

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Dear Moms and Dads who run participation fee theatre programs, 

If you're charging people to be in your shows, you cannot cast your kid in the lead role. Period. It's that simple. 

For the record, I have no problem with theatre companies that charge fees in order to be in their shows. Usually, these fees are reasonable and made public before anyone auditions for a particular production. They also help to ensure that a production can go off without a financial hitch. 

However, I find it incredibly unfair that someone has to pay $100 to be in a show when a director's son or daughter is playing the lead for free. 

Now if you or your kid is paying a fee, just like everyone else, that's a different story. But I've seen countless instances where they aren't and are just given a lead role by their director mom or dad. Nepotism in theatre is bad enough but this is even more unfair. 

We all want the best for our kids, as a dad myself, I completely understand. And in many cases, we want to create opportunities for them to flourish. However, rigging a system for your child's benefit doesn't help anyone. 

Photo: The Rose Theatre