Theater Info for the Washington DC region

The Meaning of “Community” Theater

By • Mar 16th, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice

“Community” theatre has more than one meaning. It doesn’t just mean that the company consists of highly talented amateurs from the community. It means that within a company, or a specific production of same, all volunteers should behave as though they are in a community. Which means taking whatever actions that can be taken to better the community as a whole.

You are not just acting when you are in a show, even if you are a lead. You have other responsibilities to consider outside of your performance. For why being a good performer may get you the part, being a good theatre person will get you future parts, and open more doors. (Not to mention make people feel better when you are around.)

You know the stage needs to be swept before every show. You know where the broom is. If you aren’t in costume yet, get sweeping. If a cast mate cannot find their script, or prop, or costume for some reason, join the search party. Talk with the stage manager and find out what, if anything, you can do while backstage that would make the life of the techies easier, and then proceed to do it. Spread the word to other actors as well.

People do come to live theatre mainly to see the actors. I believe this and stand by it. But this truth is in no way a free pass to go through a production concerned only with what is your immediate and obvious responsibility. You should tend to your own jobs first, naturally, but anybody who has been in a play knows there is always plenty to do. And often not quite enough time to do it in. So when applicable, be proactive in improving the entire production, not just your performance. (After all, your performance benefits from a cleaner, well run, and happy overall production.)

This is meant not only for actors. But tech crews, stage managers, lighting and sound people, and of course directors. Every theatre has certain things that must happen in order for a show to be successful, but also remember that every venue, and indeed every production is unique. Being 100% present in a production, no matter what your official title, means helping everyone else do their own thing.

It takes a little more energy, and a little more time. (Yet another reason I advocate getting to the theatre early each night.) But it pays off. Not only for the show, but for your reputation as a team player. A true community actor.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

One Response »

  1. Spot on Ty. Community Theater does mean “being a team player”. I have my list of those actors who are not a part of the team and who by all acounts show up, do their part and leave. Those I won’t work with again, or cast in the future no matter how talented they are. Helping everyone in the production with anything you can is what I believe makes a well rounded and professional community theater family member. Unless of course, such as in the last production I was in, the director or stage manager says, the crew will do everything, you just check your props and be ready to act. Such as it is at times.