"Community" Theater

The beauty of community theatre is that it is the people's theatre. It is your friends and neighbors sharing a passion. - Ruth Legg, Geneva, NY, American Association of Community Theater

Even though I don't act, or do stagecraft, I love theater. I wonder sometimes if there might be an actress hidden deep inside me, underneath the shy person who always chooses to remain quietly on the sidelines. I love the dimensional effect of people being right in front of me, real and alive, but not being necessarily themselves. I love watching them interact with other people who are also not being necessarily themselves. I love the "otherness" of theater, that I can be sitting in a room but also be on the coast of Maine or in the south of France or a New York city hotel room. I love the way a director's imagination can entirely change the way we perceive a character.

One of my dearest friends has, in her "retirement," begun a community theater program here in our town. I've been helping her, doing my usual sideline thing - a little marketing, a little shopping, even a little accompanying. The first production, a musical review, goes up next weekend, so rehearsals are intensifying as the show comes down to the wire.

I spent yesterday's extra-long daylight savings Sunday afternoon in the church basement where the production will take place. The cast was having a good time, still making some blunders, but nothing fatal. Sitting on the sidelines affords me an opportunity to watch the interactions between cast members and crew, and this particular group really impresses me. There are 14 in the cast, ranging in age from 25-65. Several of them are alumni of the high school choral program where my friend (the Director) once taught. Some are members of her church choir. A few are right off the street, urged by friends to audition. Some have acted a lot, even professionally. Some have never acted at all, but are eager and willing to learn. Each of them comes with their own life in the everyday world, their own problems and dilemmas of day to day living, which must be left at the door when rehearsal begins. They are our "friends and neighbors, coming together to share a passion." And they have come together without a hitch, and are supportive and kind and encouraging. That is a testament to them as people, and also to my friend, their director, who has a great knack for bringing people together and helping them work as a community.

It will be, I think, a good show and an emotionally satisfying experience for everyone. I know I'll be proud to sit in the audience and cheer them along.  They've come together to make something beautiful and meaningful - a worthwhile community effort, building community feeling and excitement.

Community theater.

I wish you could all be there to feel it too.

How about you? Have you ever participated in community theater or some other community building effort? How has it affected your life?