The Volunteers of Community Theatre Deserve an Endless Ovation

The Volunteers of Community Theatre Deserve an Endless Ovation

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.

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Please Stop Looking Down on Community Theatre

Please Stop Looking Down on Community Theatre

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.

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Director Downfalls #1 - Poorly Worded Casting Calls

Director Downfalls #1 - Poorly Worded Casting Calls

As an actor in community theatre in a city in Australia I come across some… interesting directors. As a director of youth theatre I’ve definitely made a blunder or two. Thus I watch and analyse directors I work with in order to improve my own practice. This series will explore the various downfalls I’ve experienced or witnessed and how to fix the situation. In part one we’re looking at casting calls. These have needed to evolve over the years to move with the times. Unfortunately, we have directors in community theatre (and probably professional too) that haven’t kept up.

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A Love Letter to Community Theatre

A Love Letter to Community Theatre

Dear Community Theatre,

Before I had become acquainted with you, I was a young child. A young, introverted, homeschooled, shy-as-hell child. My mother had said before then we should get to know each other, but I didn’t budge. I didn’t want a spotlight. I didn’t want a line. I wanted to stay in my room and be left alone. I didn’t see what you had to offer, what my potential with you was, and I didn’t care.

Now, I can’t thank you enough.

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An Open Letter to Theatre Parents

Dear Parents,

Your child just came to you and said they wanted to major in theatre in college. Now this might seem scary to you. I'm here to tell you that you that's it's ok! It's ok to be scared. However, you should take into consideration in how your child is feeling. Your child is taking a risk. And it is a wonderful risk filled with fun times, new experiences and so much stress. Your child is going to need you now more than ever! Their worst fear right now at the moment is telling YOU! The last thing they need to hear is your protests and attempts to persuade them into a new major.

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Should Theatre Boards Be Eliminated?

Should Theatre Boards Be Eliminated?

Recently I involved myself in an online controversy by making derogatory comments on the boards usually fastened to theatres.  Some board members responded in a fury.  One said that boards do the best they can with what they’re given.  Theatre, he reasoned, “(I)s a dying art form.”

Now regardless of whether board members work hard, a problem exists when someone attached to a theatre thinks that the art is dying.  And this indicates a widespread problems with U.S. theatres.

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$carcity in the Arts

$carcity in the Arts

For a medium built on community, collaboration, and connection, I fear I am experiencing and witnessing a lot of scarcity minded behavior in the theatre. As I travel and direct around the country I am seeing more and more artists, myself included, being asked to work for less and less compensation. Worse so than that what often people report to me or I hear from potential employers is that as much as they would like to hire someone, they just don’t have the resources. “We accept volunteers!” 

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New Year’s Resolutions for the Theatre Community

New Year’s Resolutions for the Theatre Community

For many people, the beginning of a new year also marks the time of year in which people try to come up with resolutions, in the hopes that these specific goals in their lives will have been achieved by this time next year. Those of us who are highly active in theatre most likely have already come up with such resolutions related to theatre. However, there might be a few additional ideas for resolutions that some of us might not have thought about and should be willing to consider to make their year in theatre even better than last year. 

So without further ado, here are just a few New Year’s resolutions – in no particular order – for all of us in the theatre community to consider…

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Political Literacy in the Theatre

Political Literacy in the Theatre

So frequently in my rehearsal rooms, or in my classrooms, I hear theatre artists decry politics.  There seems to be an idea that one must learn their craft in a hermetically sealed bubble, lest the influences of the banal and mundane workings of the outside world impose themselves upon the art.  In the theatre, though, nothing could be farther from the truth. 

The fact is that ALL theatre is political.  The Public Theatre’s Oskar Eustis has said that it can be no coincidence that theatre and democracy were invented in at the same time.  He says “I think that theater is the democratic art—it's no mistake that they were invented in the same city in the same decade. It's the proper place to exercise democratic virtue, for the contesting of different points of view, identifying with other people, what citizens need”.

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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.”