Community Theater

I love theater. I have been writing and producing plays since third grade. Never got involved in Drama Club in high school though. I was too busy chasing down journalism. Took a theater class in college. Even won the class ‘Tony Award’ for playing the mother in law in workshop production of ‘Barefoot in the Park.’ Could never bring myself to be on stage in front of an audience though. I was convinced that MY destiny was to be the reviewer…the writer…the producer. A housemate dragged me into the community theater scene. I actually had NO idea such a thing existed. Outside of school I thought there was only the professional stage….like Broadway….or Broadway touring shows. Who would have thought that ‘normal’ people could do this? Teachers and Engineers? Mechanics and Housewives? Wow! My friend auditioned and volunteered me to do make up. The production was a revue of shows this group had done in their past 10 years. I hit the ground running and brushed stage make up on kids who were performing in segments from ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Showboat’ and ‘Oliver.’ After that it was on to ‘The King and I’….where I needed to transform 32 children – of various sizes and shades – into the Siamese progeny of one very pompous King. What fun. They discovered that I could paint and I was roped into doing flats – those wood framed canvas…flats…used for sets. And I could sew. So I was ‘volunteered’ to sew costumes. And my 35mm was never far from my hand in those days so I was soon taking publicity shots….and then writing the press packets and programs. I labored for a particularly curmudgeonly architect on sets for ‘A Funny Thing Happened n the Way To The Forum.’ Wanted to actually kill him when he made me redraw lines that were just an inch off. But I did it and he became one of my very best theater friends. I think I have done basically all of it. Heh. I have even been on stage. We couldn’t find anyone willing to do the housekeeper’s non singing role in ‘The Sound of Music.’ As assistant director, I had been reading the lines during rehearsals and the director sort of MADE me do it. I am glad that I did. My next project was to direct ‘Annie.’ That was back in 1988. Over 2000 people attended those performances….and I learned not too long ago that that production STILL holds the record for tickets sold for that community theater group. I dragged my husband into productions of ‘Scrooge’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Annie’ and ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’ He has a nice singing voice and is generally guaranteed a part. I dragged my DAD on to the stage for a production of “Shenandoah.’ We needed a guy who looked like a rebel soldier who could carry a gun. He even sang….albeit very quietly per the music director’s instructions. Hee. Life stepped in and I became a parent. Community Theater is a very intense little world for three or four months. Hard to drag a two year old to rehearsals. Hard to afford a sitter NOT to drag a two year old to rehearsals. So, we backed out as participants. We still attended performances….but it was difficult. I felt sooo left out. I still wrote and directed plays for groups of children in the school I worked at. Peter Pan….twice….Tom Sawyer…twice…The Wizard of Oz…The Little Princess…. As my children grew, our family shifted it’s focus to sports. We seemed to be tied up in practice and games and tournaments whenever there was a show to see or do. Then this spring we were hit with a double whammy. My son became part of the backstage crew for his middle school drama club. And I…was invited to assistant direct a production of ‘Tom Sawyer’. A musical. With a cast of 35? Maybe more. I haven’t had this much FUN in a very long while. It was incredibly intense. Things have changed since I directed ‘Annie.’ High school auditoriums are no longer free for theater groups. You have to pay for your rehearsal times. Our rehearsals took place in the Music room of my elementary school…a space roughly 1/8 the size of the theater we would be performing in.And sets had to be built on the fly…since we couldn’t get into the theater until the week before we opened. Sets are no longer built with wood and canvas flats. Now we use sheets of styrofoam insulation. It’s light enough to be carried, durable enough to last for the run of the show and can be carved and painted into just about anything. After the final two weeks of nightly tech and dress rehearsals….and a weekend of performances…I was exhausted…..and exhilarated. There is something so very wonderful about witnessing a 50ish year old woman who has never been in a play, pushing herself to actually sing a solo to an audience. And exciting about hearing an incredible voice come from an old friend that you didn’t even know could sing! There is something oddly exciting about hearing lines flowing correctly from a child who has NOT been able to give up the security of reading it from a script. There is something incredibly heartwarming about watching parents build sets, pass out fliers, sell tickets and ads as they support their children’s acting efforts. And there is something thrilling about seeing a cast come together as a ‘family’ of sorts, supporting one another and cheering one another on. Intense. For a short period of time. Friends forever….never to come together in the same way again. We will smile and hug when we run into one another at Wal-Mart…or Blockbuster….and breathe a collective sigh for the good times gone. Satisfaction for a job well done. And you thought all the hard work was just for YOUR benefit as an audience member? Naw. Next time the opportunity arises, volunteer to paint or sew or brush on stage makeup. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

(pictures are from a recent performance of ‘Tom Sawyer.’)

Explore posts in the same categories: theater, Tom Sawyer

One Comment on “Community Theater”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    This is actually getting a funny way :))…I identify myself so much with you…regarding dreams and aspirations…well, I guess people aren’t so much different from one another.


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