To me, community theatre is all about the joy of theatre.
In Utah--community theatre doesn't always translate as amateur. And professional theatre doesn't always translate into quality. Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City pulls in a lot of money, but they maintain that they do community theatre in order to continue their mission of providing super family friendly entertainment. (They get special permission to edit works in order to uphold that aspect of their mission.)
Here are a few differences I've noticed between professional and community theatre:
1. Paid actors
2. Paid crew
3. Higher standard of work. We expect that this group will have qualified themselves in previous endeavors and patrons will pay extra for the experience of seeing educated, experienced professionals at work.
1. Volunteer actors
2. Volunteer crew
3. A negotiated expectation of quality. The expectation is that this theatre will provide an opportunity for amateurs to come together and do their very best, but the priority is providing an opportunity for members of the community to come together and share in creating theatre--regardless of qualification.
Many companies in Utah find themselves borrowing from both in order to thrive.
Utah's most famous artistic group is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It is a world renowned choir--made up of volunteers.
Across the Wasatch Front, you can find theatres everywhere. Some refer to themselves as professional, others refer to themselves as community. Regardless of how you see your own work--you're still competing with everyone for the paying audience on the weekend. So you better put on a good show.
Since January, I've worked on four plays and 1 film. I've worked with three different theatre companies.
So over the past 8 months of late nights and long weekends--while destroying my social life--what have I learned?
That no matter how you refer to your art--professional or community--the spirit of community theatre is necessary for the success of any artistic endeavor. Theatre simply cannot survive without the generous volunteers who do theatre for love. Those who take it for granted, do so at their own peril. And yes, I just used the word PERIL.
Because it seems that everyone in Utah grows up doing theatre--there are a lot of incredibly skilled amateurs--who volunteer hours of their time simply because they love it. And the professional companies do their best to compensate --but there will never be enough money to pay everyone what they're worth. And so those who choose to continue in the theatre, do it for love.
I am a professional who counts myself incredibly fortunate to work with talented and capable volunteers on a regular basis. I watched throughout the process of Carousel as volunteer actors and crew gave their blood, sweat, and tears to ensure that the play came together. They built sets and costumes. They cleaned. They drove miles for rehearsals. And their hardwork paid off. We felt a genuine affection for one another on the stage that affected our telling of the story.
On a personal note, I learned a few important lessons. 1. Despite my need to follow the spirit of community theatre and volunteer to help with everything--I need to simply focus on my job. If I can simply focus on doing my one job well--then I can relax and enjoy the process. 2. I remembered a quote from my piano teacher. Practice makes perfect if the practice IS perfect. 3. You love the ones you serve. It seemed the people happiest of all at the end of the whole process, were the folks giving the most.
Today, I'm grateful for the beautiful friends I made performing in Carousel. It was a privilege.
And now, here are a bunch of candid shots I took during the last weekend of our performances.
Last company meeting.
Serena laughing with her friend as we prepare for a company photo.
Natalie spreading her wings.
Brandon, Luke, Ian, Miquelle, David, Cat, and Allison all posing very strangly.
Joel and Sam posing in heaven for some shots for other people.
Peter posing in the back alley. He looks like he could star in Newsies.
Me cuddling up to Mimi.
Mimi and Amber doing duck lips in the dressing room.
Michelle doing Rachel's hair while Maddy looks on.
Nathan and Scott with Maddy's perfect face poking up between them.
For closing night, I handed out tootsie pops. This picture is just wrong.
And yet, it feels soooo right.
Still feels wrong.
Elsa and Amber
Ilizibith smiling in the alley
David Pederson looking mysterious in the alley.
Ian scaring me above the alley. Of course, I had to take a picture before he got down.
More crazy people.
Wait--same people--different kind of crazy. I just like how Elsa tilts her head in this picture.