Stop the Bashing Within Our Theatre Communities

Stop the Bashing Within Our Theatre Communities

One thing that I have seen a lot more often around my theatre community is that people are bad mouthing their first theatre community. Sometimes we don’t realize that other people in our theatre circle are listening to what we have to say about different topics. Including this one which has so much to do with how we are viewed by others, especially potential directors you might work with in the future.

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How to Select a Good Season

How to Select a Good Season

Whether you’re a big commercial theatre company, regional theater, community theater, conservatory, or high school, picking a season should never be random and thoughtless. The shows an organization produce are integral to how it's perceived by potential theater-goers. When choosing a season, it’s important to keep the actors and director in mind, as well as the type of theater-goers you’re trying to attract.

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I Can't Stand Censorship in Community Theatre

I Can't Stand Censorship in Community Theatre

For over forty years, I have been performing and directing in community theatre, and one thing has been a real concern to me…censorship of a published work.

I guess for me; it is about presenting the piece as it was written for the stage. By not doing this, you are not giving an audience the real product as it was meant to be. I was involved in a production of The Full Monty, and we did THE FULL MONTY at the end of the show. Audiences loved it! You do need to have the right lighting effects in order to pull this off, of course. But we did, and it went off without a hitch.

When allowed to direct it for another theatre company possibly, I asked if they would be going all the way. Their answer was, “No.” That cemented my answer for that opportunity.

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Journal of a Reluctant Stage Mother: The Crazy Feminist on the Board Who Believes in the Bechdel Test

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  • Margaret Sanford

The Crazy Feminist on the Board Who Believes in the Bechdel Test

I didn’t set out to become a stage mother. I quit theater when I was 19, and it was quite liberating. I did not have a thick enough skin to be an actor, and I never would. Once I learned that about myself, I walked away and focused on other things like horses. But much to my surprise almost 30 years later, here I am on the board of a local repertory theater.

Three summers ago, I enrolled my then 11-year-old daughter in the Wakefield Repertory Theater’s production of Shrek. She was ambivalent. She was downright furious when she was cast in the ensemble. But the program was less than a mile from my house, reputable, and really, really affordable. Within a week she was hooked. She made friends, and she found her passion. Great! I thought. There are our next few summers. All set. Done.

Then in November of the same year, I learned that the theater’s nonprofit board had morphed and they didn’t have enough folks on the board to run the program. This is the way of nonprofit boards. They are all volunteer. People bicker, they burn out, their kids age out and they change over time. I don’t know what made me raise my hand. It was probably though the thought of telling my daughter that her beloved summer program was no more.

Suddenly I was in a position to help pick the show. Due to the timing of the new board coming on, we had to choose a show and secure the rights before we hired a director. Suddenly my priorities were front and center. What were they?

1.       No princesses.

2.       Gender neutral casting opportunities

3.       More good parts for girls than boys

4.       No princesses

Why this passionate bias against princesses? To put a group of middle school kids in a show that glorifies cis/het relationships seems quaint and outdated. These kids ask each other, “What are your pronouns?” like they are asking what kind of coffee they want for their Starbucks order. They have a much more evolved and practical view of gender than I did at their age. So to put on a misogynist Disney princess ode to heterosexual romance musical is antithetical to everything I believe in as both a mother and a board member. What is the underlying message of these shows? Beauty and the Beast: You can change him if you love him enough! The Little Mermaid: If you are pretty, you can just bat your eyes, and the prince will fall in love! Don’t get me started on Cinderella. Women are evil except you, Cinderella! Most of those shows require that certain parts must be played by a girl or a boy. We have ten times as many girls as boys in our productions, and I want our casting opportunities to reflect that.

I know I irritate the crap out of my fellow board members with my No Princesses! stance. But they are a tolerant lot, and we tend to back down when someone feels really strongly about something. So, for now, we choose shows where almost every lead can be played by a kid of any gender. Last summer we did Alice in Wonderland. This summer we are doing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the first time in the history of our 20 year existence. We are very excited. And I sure as heck don’t see why Caractus Potts can’t be played by the best actor for the job regardless of their gender. But now it is time for me to step back and let our director do her thing.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own.

Why We Do the Classics

Why We Do the Classics

We do shows like Kiss Me Kate, Bye, Bye Birdie, and Carousel not to show how we should be, but how we shouldn’t. I didn’t realize it at the time, but performing Kiss Me Kate in high school was extremely educational. Not just because we were doing a piece of theatrical history, but because it was teaching us young artists how we shouldn’t act in society.

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The Power of Community Theatre

The Power of Community Theatre

The idea of "theatre" is a fascinating concept. People actually choose to bare their souls on stage, allowing themselves and their audiences a chance to experience life through a different lens. They put their bodies and mental health into a state of constant exhaustion while learning lines, perfecting choreography, and mastering songs. We always find ourselves as theatre-lovers romanticizing over the lights of Broadway and the stars we see perform on the Tony Awards.

But what about the "unsung hero" of theatre--community theatre?

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We’re Not So Different: Sports and the Arts

We’re Not So Different: Sports and the Arts

I want you to imagine something. Imagine huge crowds of people filing into a special venue to witness a display by professionals working at the highest tiers of their field. The tickets were expensive, the seats aren’t quite comfortable, the drink prices are outrageous. Specialized, high-powered lights illuminate the playing area and loud music fills the air. The professionals emerge, dressed in specialized clothing and equipment, and begin their hours-long display. The action is intense, sometimes exciting, sometimes heartbreaking, and about halfway through, there is a break for everyone to recover and chat. When it’s all over, the crowd will cheer for a job well done and grumble if their expectations weren’t met, but they’ll probably go to a similar event in the future. Those same fans will gather around their televisions once a year in a celebration of the best of the best, usually with friends, food and drinks at the ready. 

Now, here’s my question: did you picture a Broadway show, or a sporting event?

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Hot Topic Plays - An Actor's Take

Hot Topic Plays - An Actor's Take

It's 2019, and we have a lot of issues. Theatre and art are rightfully being accepted and respected as part of the conversation about our feelings and the problems themselves, as well as changing policy and, well, the way we live.

In reaction to the news and national events, we open up our computers, and we create; we gather our friends, and we create; we get on stage, expose our guts, and we create. We create plays and work that responds to this new world we're in, the very one we attempt to change through art and creation.

That's awesome. Really, it's awesome. But it also could potentially create some issues.

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What Community Theatre Unknowingly Gave to Me

What Community Theatre Unknowingly Gave to Me

I am a devoted advocate of community theatre and have been for more than 40 years. Admittedly, I always wanted to become a professional and do theatre full time, but the cards never seemed to be in my favor. Between bad timing, injury and financial obligations, I am what I am…a community theatre performer and director and proud of it.

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