Are we losing the 'community' in our community theatres?
I can still remember the opening night of my very first show. As a 15 year old, you are a messy mix of wanting to be noticed and being horrified when you are. Oh, the ‘actoring’.
The joy was that I was surrounded by experience; people who helped me learn to perform and become brave enough to grow. The community in ‘community theatre’ was strong and, while I learned that there are good and not quite as good ways to approach a piece of theatre in the amateur world, I became aware that it was what participation in community theatre did for individuals that made it most appealing to me.
I love the ones who struggle with nerves, but do it anyway; who are brave; who step out of their comfort zones and into the cushioned and understanding arms of fellow performers in their local community theatre company.
Since I began the Idiot project, I’ve studied the challenges of many companies and developed ways to make things better for them. This has exposed me to many wonderful theatre communities who love what they do and support and respect the people who do it with them.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I am passionate about encouraging and equipping community theatre to expect more and to be extraordinary. I see this approach in so many productions, performers, producers and companies and it thrills me to pieces.
But this drive to improve should never be at the expense of people. We should always respect the time and talents offered to our companies. We should never treat our volunteers like staff, we should keep our heads out of our asses and seek to include the diverse range of people who seek to participate in the arts.
Working to create a piece of theatre that is the very best that your team is capable of, carries a beauty and value. This attitude empowers individuals to reach further, respect everyone’s efforts, and encourage each other to create something far bigger than themselves.
Our theatre communities are all different and extremely valuable, making up a smorgasbord of creativity that provides training and companionship, a place for our creativity to thrive and even explore the potential of making it a profession. Size does NOT matter. Bigger is not better. It’s simply different.
Whether your season is a series of plays, musicals or cabaret, or whether you perform in a 90 seat hall or a 500 seat theatre, know that you are family to thousands of creatives who need to feel accepted, challenged and seen.
I do not want to be part of a theatre community that is embarrassed by their amateur status, who fail to cultivate a culture of belonging, joy and humility.
I want to be part of something great, but that greatness comes from all of us working together to do our best, not from a company driving their cast and volunteers to be a product, simply for the purpose of selling tickets and satisfying individual egos.
I love you, community theatre. You are joy, family and passion. Don't forget who you are and what you're worth.