Are you missing these people in your life? What is special about community theatre actors?
That’s my student portraying Mary Poppins!
This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have a very long relationship with community theatre. I helped to create one in Columbia, Missouri back in 1979 I believe. It is still in existence today.
In fact, I co-developed a national playwriting contest for youth theatre plays while being involved with Columbia Entertainment Company. You can find more information about the contest at: Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions
But I digress…
Sometimes, although less now than in the past, people who aren’t involved in community theatre have sort of scoffed at it. As though the people who enjoyed it were dopey or something.
It is no different than playing on a adult intramural soccer team or bowling with your league buddies. My community theatre friends just enjoy performing on a stage under stage lights. (It’s the next closest thing to playing dress up and make believe and didn’t we all enjoy that when we were kids?)
Community theatre actors come from all walks of life. Many simply love theatre, but chose to have another vocation other than performing.
I direct many doctors, lawyers, teachers, fireman, policeman, nurses, college students, business people, and whole families from the youngest only six years old to the eldest in their eighties. I work with people from television shows I watched several decades ago.
I have a varied acting resume as well. Through community theatre, I’ve been directed by a Yale graduate, a Broadway professional, a high school drama director and even a priest!
What is special about community theatre actors (and let’s not forget all the technical people either,) is the comradery one feels when you work with them. There is simply no other group of people quite so warm and supportive.
Think about it. These people put in an eight hour day at their jobs, rush home to eat a bit of dinner and head out to the theatre in under an hour.
It can be grueling and…it can be boring but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun! Many times they rehearse for three hours with no breaks. Or they sit around for an hour and chat with their cast members while they wait to rehearse. It’s all part of the experience. (Note: Professional theater can look the same.)
They memorize their lines while driving in their cars, during lunch breaks or watching their child’s soccer games. I am sure there were times where my husband and/or daughters knew my lines as well as I did from quizzing me on them.
Usually, community theatre actors bring in their own personal items to fill out their costume. It is not uncommon for them to purchase several pairs of dance shoes, tights, leotards, wigs or purchase contact eye wear since they can’t wear their modern glasses in a play set in the 1800s.
But the costumes can be outstanding and exciting to wear. These aren’t generic Halloween costumes or something dragged out of an attic. I’ve had costumes custom made especially for me. Here is one from Cricket on the Hearth:
The men are known to grow mustaches or beards if need be. Or the opposite. They’ll cut off their long hair or shave off their beards if it gives them a look of authenticity. Women have dyed their hair for a role as well.
If the show is a musical, the musicians bring in their own instruments, music stands and whole drum sets. I know some musicians accompany for little to no stipend. That’s okay with them. They enjoy the experience just as much as the cast.
You want to talk about a time commitment?
Usually the rehearsal schedule is four or five evenings straight for about six weeks and then the run of the show. A spouse might not see their partner for weeks on end. (If the spouse is smart, they’ll get involved in some capacity and now the couple with something new to talk about!)
Sometimes the actor will help build or paint the set, create props or sew a costume or two on the weekends. And….when the show is over, they help strike the set!
They throw the BEST cast parties too. Check out one my favorite cast party recipes here:
They hand out gag gifts, act in funny parodies of songs from the show or sit around singing songs from the show yet. another. time.
They can go overboard a little, but that’s because the experience is very intense. I’ve even been known to have separation anxiety from my cast members and that’s the worst feeling of all.
But they persevere and sign up for the next audition or merely serve as ushers, but generally they continue to be involved in some capacity.
In other words, they are completely invested in the production!
So the next time, you see your neighbor dash off to rehearsal and he doesn’t have time to chat, just remember he isn’t sitting around home in front of the television or on his phone. He could be sitting around wasting his time, but he’s not.
He is doing theatre and he loves it!
Sound like fun to you? Try it.
The American Association of Community Theaters is a not for profit organization which can give you more information about community theatre and a whole hosts of subjects you might be interested in. Check them out here: https://www.aact.org
What community theatre productions have you been involved in? Tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DeborahBaldwin.net