My involvement with community theater began when I was 7 and saw my second-grade teacher moonlighting as a perky teenager in Bye Bye Birdie at our local not-for-profit playhouse. At that moment, despite a total and complete lack of talent (well, not complete . . . I’m a beast on the kazoo), I sold my soul to the THEE AH TAHR and have never looked back. Here’s why.
- Community theater provides exposure and opportunities to art to those far from the Great White Way. Geographically and financially, community theater is way more accessible than Broadway or even national touring companies.
- Community theater fosters a sense of pride and solidarity within the community at large. It is a chance for people from all over town to come together and say: “Look what we’ve got right here. We are awesome!” Your local theater company is an ambassador of your town. It represents the people, the businesses and the heartbeat of your community. It’s a living, breathing portrait of who we are at our best: when we work together — for good.
- Community theater is your community. These are your neighbors: your pharmacist, your Sunday school teacher, your Olive Garden hostess, your electrician, etc. People you see and interact with every single day being brave and vulnerable enough to let you in on their other lives, their hidden talents, their truths. That’s just so cool.
- Community theater is actually pretty good stuff and a great bang for your buck. So true, chances are you’re not going to see million-dollar chandeliers crash or multilevel moving set pieces transform like Optimus Prime at your local movie theater. But you will see some beautiful sets and costumes, energizing production numbers, incomparable theater magic, uplifting characters and heartbreaking songs all for about the same as you’d spend on one movie ticket, a popcorn combo and a post show fro-yo. But live in living color.
- Community theater has a place for you regardless of age, gender, race, identification or skill set. No sing, no dance, no problem. We need carpenters, tech nerds, salesmen, seamstresses, bartenders, painters, problem solvers, shoppers, writers, artists, photographers, hair and makeup artists, clerical wizards, computer geniuses, researchers, marketers, electricians, coffee makers, cookie bakers, and much more. And we don’t care if you’re old, gay or ugly. If you can breathe and your pulse is tangible, we will find a way to use your talents and be grateful as hell for them.
- Community theater is a community in and of itself. You will become part of a family that has your back on and way, way off the stage. For better or worse. In sickness and in health. Resistance is futile. Not that you will agree with everybody all the time. And the drama is not always limited to the show. But that’s not how DNA-generated families work either, and frankly. you don’t have to climb in bed with or have Thanksgiving dinner with your theater family, so . . .
I could tell you story after story about how being involved in community theater has added color and magic to my life, but I’d rather you go find out for yourself. Call them. Google them. Buy a ticket. Work a shift. Run a spotlight. Sing a song. The thing is this. Get to know your community theater and you will get to know, and love, your community.
Landers is a blogger and volunteer at the Henegar Center for the Arts. You can find more of her Four Minute Musings at http://fourminutemusings.blogspot.com/