Twelve Important Questions to Ask About Your City’s Community Theatre

I have been involved in theatre for nearly forty years. I have twelve important questions to ask about your city’s community theatre.

Forty years—wow, that’s a long time.

I’ve seen fabulous theatre and some really stinky stuff, too.  Even on Broadway!

I’ve melted enduring out door theatre in the dead of summer until intermission when I could get some relief in an air conditioned rest room.

I witnessed a famous, well respected professional actor break character and fall into fits of laughter and not able to compose himself right through curtain call.

Another time I caught a dancer kicking a cape off the stage that had fallen off another dancer as he exited.

I’ve watched:

  • in horror as a friend’s period wig (1700’s) falls right off her noggin’.

  • a skirt slowly make its way down a high school girl’s behind because it didn’t get zipped,

  • a friend swallows a fly while singing

I have:

  • been bitten by mosquitoes while I sang a romantic song trying to dodge the gnats swirling in to my face

  • heard the crackling sound of beetles squished with my heel while dancing a jig

  • gained five pounds in one week (!!) from eating fruit pies (meat pies) for Sweeney Todd performing a sight gag

You name it, I’ve seen it or experienced it myself.

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Despite all of these experiences (and more), I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Theatre is a marvelous activity in which to participate, attend or support.

But how does one know the theatre is worth supporting?

Here are the twelve questions to ask of your community theatre:

1. Does the theatre company have a season?

Is the season varied, sprinkled with a comedy, drama and musical? Or do they merely produce the same sort of shows every year?  (You know, a Disney musical for the kids, a classic comedy or frightening thriller? Does the company ever produce a brand new play?)

2. Do they sponsor a special event, such as a new play contest?

3.  Does anyone else ever rent the theatre for some other activity? Do other theater companies use the venue?

4.  Do they welcome to new directors and actually hire them?

5.  Do you ever see new performers or designers working at the theatre from time to time?

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6. Do the sets and costumes look recycled?  Can you name the show a particular costume was worn in another show when you see it paraded in front of you in the present show you are seeing?

8.  Does every show poster look like others?

9.  Does the company ever try anything new or experimental?

10.  Does the company have a youth theatre program?

11.  How about any programs for seniors?

Image result for award winning community theatre senior program

12.  Did you leave a performance feeling exhilarated by the show?

If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding “no!”, then I’d suggest you support some other company.

Theatre people are creative people.  If the theatre never changes, it means it’s on auto pilot and frankly, I wouldn’t support it if I were you.  When you do, you are condoning their lack of creativity, their laziness.

So, there you have it–twelve questions to ask about your city’s community theatre.

Trust me, support the new community theatre company who has just opened their doors to the public.  They have more chance of doing something new and exciting than the broken record one.  They need your support.

Image result for award winning community theatre

What have you seen or experienced in a performance or viewing it?  I’d love to hear from you! Contact me at or








Announcing: Bumbling Bea The Play –Act one, Scene one

I’m one of those people who do what they say they are gonna do.


I am adapting Bumbling Bea into a play!  (I feel we need trumpets blaring and hi-steppers stepping….This is HUGE people.  )

marching band

Now you would think this would be an easy feat for me considering how many years I have directed plays.

 Nay, nay I say. ( I heard this on the radio one day and it cracked me up.)

I’m stalling, I know.

Directing plays since the dawn of man does make my job easier.  It’s a laborious process, however.  It takes me about two hours to adapt four to eight pages of the book version. Then I poop out.

Note:  This is the first draft of the scene.  I haven’t given you a cast list, or description of the set.  For those of you who are familiar with the book version, I think you’ll be able to easily follow the play.  At least, that’s my hope.

BB the play


Here it is:

 Act one, Scene one.  Enjoy!

Bumbling Bea Act One Scene 1B

Note #2:  I’m seeking beta readers for the play.  Would you be interested in helping?  Just think–someday when it is published you can say you helped make it into the terrific play it is destined to be.

I’m a fan of the play version of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Bumbling Bea the play is loosely patterned at it.

Also, this is family fair.  I expect to see youth theater and community theaters producing it.

I honestly think Bumbling Bea will have much success in play form.

Daring words coming from the cautious me.

Contact me at or

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Conversation Hacks: 25 Questions to Ask Your “Artsy” Relative

Here are conversation hacks:  25 questions to ask your “artsy” relative. A few holidays are coming up soon–Easter and Passover.  If you are lucky (or maybe you think not) you’ll spend time with your family and friends. Families are still families even if social moires have changed (I think for the better.)

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

My husband recently retired from his instrumental music teaching position and I from teaching drama.  Our daughters were both theatre majors and heavily involved in music as well.  One daughter is still involved in the arts.  Her sister became a nurse (which she should have done all along, but everyone has a journey.)

We always have plenty to talk about when we get together and surprisingly it isn’t Broadway.  We can dish like the best of them, however.  Whenever this occurs, I’m sure our sons-in-law don’t know quite what to do with us.  We try to keep it to a minimum around them.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

I thought about this challenge for other members of my family. They need conversation hacks–easy ways to converse with others.

My personal hack is F.O.R.M. ( questions about family, occupation, recreation, money) to create conversation and usually I have little problem talking with others if I initiate the conversation.

It doesn’t go very well the other way around.

I bet other arts people have the same problem I do.  In fact, I know they do.  It’s one of the reasons arts people are such good friends with one another–we understand each other, because we are creative people. We try out best to talk sports or politics and sometimes we are successful. Remember, we are chameleons.  If there is someone who can change themselves in order to blend with others, it’s an actor.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

However, if someone would take the time to sincerely converse with us, I think they’d find what we do to be fascinating.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

As you read the questions, just stick in art, music, dance or theatre as the project.


Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to Ask your Artsy Relative

  1.  What are you working on now?

  2. How is it progressing?

  3. Is it ever frustrating? How so?

  4. What’s the best part of the project?

  5. Do other people help or work with you on it?  Who?

  6. What is their involvement in it?

  7. Do you work with a budget on the project?  If you don’t mind my asking, how much money is it?

  8. Is that the usual budget for a project like this?

  9. Is this the first project of this kind you’ve done?

  10. How is it different from others?

  11. Do you have a deadline for completion?

  12. Are you confident you’ll make the deadline?

  13. Are you ever worried about it?  What are the worries?

  14. Does thinking about the project keep you awake at night?

  15. Is the worry well founded or unrealistic?

  16. When you visualize the outcome of the project, what does it look like?

  17. Is there a message you want to convey through it?  What is it?

  18. Have you patterned your project after someone else’s?  Whose and why?

  19. Who do you admire who has done this same project or a similar one?

  20. Why do you admire them?

  21. Will there be a public exhibition of your project?  When is it?

  22. Will admission be charged to see it?  How much does it cost for admission?

  23. Do you set the price of the admission or someone else does? Who and why?

  24. What is your most proud moment concerning the project thus far?

  25. Do you think you’ll attempt the project again? Why or why not?

So there you have it–Conversation Hacks: 25 quetions to ask your artsy relative while sitting around the dinner table. 

Trust me, they are dying to share their work with you.

Just ask them.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

Contact me at or my website

I’d love to chat with you!

Playwriting Contest

Start a Play-writing Contest Using 20 Questions

This is my most recent article I penned for Litpick. I hope it’s helpful to you.

Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

by Deborah Baldwin

Twenty-nine years ago, I was president of a community theatre, the Columbia Entertainment Company, in Columbia, Missouri. Also, I was the director of a youth theatre program for them. I volunteered hundreds of hours to both programs. It was an amazing learning experience and one that I draw upon from time to time in my career.
Here is the story of probably the most important thing we did in this company: We created a national play-writing contest for large cast youth theatre plays. It is called the Jackie White National Play-writing Award Contest and is still in existence to this day. That’s a long time for a contest of this nature to flourish, especially sponsored by a community theatre.

The Origin

Thirty years ago I was a young woman who needed scripts for large casts—over thirty students in number, ages fourth through ninth grade. At the time, there were very few plays to choose from, much less musicals for kids. I lamented to a board that I was having a difficult time finding any suitable plays for the season. In the past, I pad the roles with extra non-speaking characters or ones with little ad libs, but what I really needed was youth theatre plays with large casts, period. The board member suggested our company create our own playwriting contest specifically for this purpose. So, really out of desperation, we did!

Please understand, we had NO idea what we were doing. We merely figured it out as we progressed. It took us a few years to perfect the contest, but it is still one of the most valuable programs the theatre created.


The Why

Generally, playwrights need their plays or musicals to be produced before a publishing company will represent them. The Denver Performing Arts Center sponsors a New Play Summit each year in February. Their contest is very clever. The first time the winning entries are produced as stage readings with minimal set and costumes. The audience gives feedback after the performance through a survey. If the play suits DPAC’s needs, during the next season, they mount a full production of it. My husband and I have attended several years of the New Play Summit and enjoyed being part of the creative process. We feel more invested in the play, because we offered our suggestions. Whether DPAC intends to or not, this is a terrific way to encourage audience members to return to see the production once it is produced.
Your contest could be created by your drama class, community theatre or even youth group. There is no end to the possibilities a contest of this type affords a group. The contest can be as big or small as your group desires. You could sponsor whatever kind of contest you want—ten minute plays, musicals for youth theatre, plays focused on bullying or plays concerning tolerance. It’s all up to you.
Now before you look at these questions and think is an overwhelming project, I want you to consider the people who will receive such fulfillment from the contest. Playwrights are always seeking places to get their plays read and produced. That could be you!


Here are some questions to contemplate when creating your own playwriting contest:

1) What is the mission of our contest? What is our end result? Are we looking for a particular subject to be explored? Reach a particular audience? Attract an underserved demographic?

2) What are the requirements of the winning script? Cast size, gender and age of characters, length of play or musical, set, costumes props and the feasibility of producing the script within the confines of our budget are all important questions to consider.

3) Is any subject taboo? In some social circles, certain subjects are considered inappropriate.

4) How about inappropriate language?

5) Should we charge a fee to enter the contest? How much?

6) Are there granting agencies or donors we could approach to fund the contest?

7) What is our budget to spend to advertise the contest?

8) What free media sources will we use to publicize the contest?

9) Will we fully mount the winning entry?

10) Should we present a stage reading?

11) Can anyone enter the contest? Are we seeking only student scripts or adults?

12) Who will read the scripts and make the final decision on the awardee?

13) Will we award 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards as well as honorable mention? How many honorable mentions?

14) What will the winner receive? A cash award, gift, certificate, lifetime season tickets?

15) Where will the cash award money come from? A donor? A service organization? Your city’s arts council?

16) After the awardee is selected, will we publicize the winner?

17) Do we want to bring the winning playwright to the performance?

18) If the winning playwright attends, is it our responsibility to provide room and board to them?

19) If the playwright is present, do we want to host a social in their honor?

20) What is our time line?


A Contest with Their Head in the Right Place

I am an indie author, too. Recently, I ran upon an indie author book contest in England created by a popular children’s author, Edward Trayer. The Whistling Shelf Award is a fairly new contest. When I was perusing his website regarding it, I discovered he charges an entrance fee and donates a portion of money to the Blind Children fund in England. Now, that’s my kind of author. Because of this, I quickly entered my book, Bumbling Bea, into its competition. I look forward to this year’s awards.

I believe in philanthropy and I believe in the power of theatre. I bet you do, too.
Try your hand creating a playwriting contest. The Jackie White National Children’s Play Writing Contest is one of the most important programs the Columbia Entertainment Company ever created. If a desperate, young director like me with no experience creating a contest can be successful, so can you!
Columbia Entertainment Company playwriting contest:

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:
Wishing Shelf Book Awards


Deborah is a veteran drama teacher having taught in Missouri and Colorado for nearly thirty-eight years. Specializing in youth and community theatre, Deborah has directed more than 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike. Recently, she and her husband moved to Kansas to be near their family and first grandchild. Her award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea, can be purchased through Check out her blog at: or her website Deborah serves as handmaiden to her two quirky cats and sings harmony to most any song she hears.

author and fan of Bumbling Bea

The Top 20 “Must Haves” for Your Drama Classroom


I’m feeling in the mood for giving.

Beginning Teaching

So, the top 20 things “must haves”  for your drama classroom–There are so many things to think about when you are a beginning teacher.  I remember my first year as an English teacher (which was a minor of mine in college.) Since I never student taught in English, I knew very little of what I needed for my classroom.  Teachers weren’t as team oriented as they are now and I was on my own to figure out everything.

Now new teachers have a mentor at their school who shows them the ropes of teaching in their school.  The first three years of a teacher’s career are the most pivotal.  If you “stick” in the job, you’ll probably continue teaching for many years.

But you see, I’m stubborn.

Even though I was completely on my own I wouldn’t give up.  Truthfully, it really did take until the third year for me to find my groove.  It was a tough experience for me, but I gained so much knowledge from those years.  I learned about teaching, but I also learned about myself.  (Oh, and my first husband walked out on me two days before my first day of school that first year.  Did I mention that?)

So, what does this all have to do with the “must haves “of a drama classroom?

Lots! I’m here to help you.  I’m going to make your life easier

Just Download my list of
“The Top 20 Must Haves for a Drama Classroom” and you’ll be set to go.


I’m always here for you.  You aren’t alone on your journey.

Contact me at or

I’m happy to help and advise you.


Some Favorite Theatre Quotes

If you are anything like me, you enjoy quotes about various subjects.  Sometimes they are funny things I hear people say in real life.

Other times, they are beloved artists or authors.  If a person can succinctly express himself, it doesn’t matter if they are the most wealthy and powerful, or a commoner.

Here are a few of my favorites concerning theatre:

Great acting is not easy.  Anyone who says it is, is either shallow or a charlatan.  And one of the hardest things about acting is admitting that it is hard. Richard Cohen

Theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation. Stella Adler

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.

Oscar Wildeoscar-wilde[1].jpg

I am confused by life, and I feel safe within the confines of theatre.  Helen Hayes

Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.  Sanford Meisner

Theatre doesn’t last.  Only in people’s memories and in their hearts.  That’s the beauty and sadness of it.  But that’s life.  Beauty and sadness.  And that is why theatre is life. Unknown

All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper.  That’s what makes theatre live.  That’s why it persists. Stephen Sondheim


The purpose of theatre is to put the audience in a better position to understand the world around them.  Mark Fortier

The theatre is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed.  It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.  John Steinbeck

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.  Twyla Tharp

twyla-tharp-2_credit-greg-gorman1And lastly,

All the world’s a stage,

and all the people merely players

They have their exits and their entrances

and one man in his time plays many parts.

William Shakespeare


Purchase my book, Bumbling Bea on Amazon at