Be Part of The Process
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
“On either side of the footlights, those involved represent a diversity of age, culture, life experience, and a strong appreciation of the importance of the arts.”
I try to attend community theatre in NEPA as much as life circumstances allow. At first, my intent was to support local community theatre. Then I considered writing reviews of those productions for this blog. After more thought, I reconsidered. The folks who put their heart and soul into mounting a production at a Community Theatre are all volunteers. They volunteer their time, talent, clothing, furniture, money in order to create live theatre for their communities. They come from all walks of life, experiences, cultures, ages, vocations. Their motivation sprouts from the love of theatre as an enhancement to everyday life. They do not make a living as theatre artists. Their passion might be theatre but for many and varied reasons, community theatre is the outlet they have chosen to feed the passion. Therefore, I do not think reviews of community productions would serve the theatres.
I will continue to attend as much as possible, local theatre. I will write short blurbs that, hopefully, will be informative and not critical analysis of process, production, or writing.
The stories that local theatre tell are usually tried and true stories that are chosen for the theatre’s specific audience. The seasons are usually quite full.
As a professional director for over 45 years, the stories I choose to champion have changed along the way. For a time now, I have been most interested in the new voices in American theatre. So I was a happy camper when I was invited to Diva Theatre for their Annual 1 Act New Play Festival. Good for them for encouraging new voices from the local community. Good for Lackawanna Council of the Arts for helping to encourage those voices. I really applaud the effort. Great to see some old pros lending their experience/talent to the neophytes. Lessons passed on – great opportunity to develop.
Go to the theatre. Advertise locally. A good 15 minutes before a show, most audience members spend their time thumbing through the program, inspecting the actor bios. It’s the perfect opportunity to advertise.
“Theater goers are essentially a captive audience while they scan through the program. Small business can use this time to reach hundreds of potential customers. Ad space is relatively inexpensive and will help the performing arts thrive.”
I encourage any involved with local theatre to contact me if they are curious as to my opinion of something I might have seen that they were directly involved with creating.
I asked my theatrical collaborator of 25 years, Timothy Brown, what he felt was the importance of Community Theatre. After all, through the years we have worked on educational and community projects before he turned professional. Why should local actors, designers, and technicians get involved with community theatre? Why should audiences go to non-professional community theatre? Here is what he had to say:
10.) The community theater house tends to be small. You may find yourself sharing a make-up mirror or warming up outside. Developing good social skills and respect for your fellow actors, cast and crew are essential.
9.) Community theater often works within a small budget. Learning to work within limitations expands creativity and exercises patience.
8.) Small audiences will happen. This will increase your concentration and ability to stay in the moment - you can't always rely on that sure big laugh. Smaller audiences tend to be quiet - so keeping your energy high is important.
7.) Working with new playwrights and local playwrights will give you a chance to direct, design or originate a new role. Many community theaters in an effort to serve their audience will originate new work with local talent.
6.) You get to know the community and what it means to serve an audience.
5.) The audience that attends your theater productions often know many of the artists creating the work. Many will be loyal for years - sometimes decades.
4.) Community theater allows participation and experience for artists that no longer attend school.
3.) Many of these points fall under the rubric of team building - something that is invaluable in today's work place.
2.) It's extremely fun. Good community theaters tend to shun toxic environments and foster hard work and productive play.
1.) You get to work with artists that have more experience than you. Many popular plays require generational casting and their experience can be invaluable. This is an opportunity that can't be overlooked as many high school and college productions will have a much more homogeneous cast - both age wise and by background.
Thank you, Tim, for your contribution. In the theatre, we are never alone.