It’s really easy to poke fun at community theatre. Be it in movies, shows, or even some plays themselves, community theatre is the ugly step-child kept in the basement of the professional, union actor’s house. Hell, I poke fun at it myself while being entrenched in one show after another, needing longer and longer breaks between each one.
But, here’s the thing, while there is no hope of money, fame, or really any type of recognition besides the odd blue hair that recognizes you in a Gerrity’s parking lot, community theatere is one of the loves of my life.
I was always an entertainer. Even as a little girl, I would read books out loud to a row of stuffed animals just as soon as I could understand the letters and I once belted out Livin La Vida Loca (which my mother did not know I knew) at a backyard barbecue with a karaoke machine in 1999. Dorothy Gale, Lydia Deetz, Esmerelda, and Belle were the women I modeled myself after. I dressed as them any time I put their movies in, imitating my favorite scenes with my carefully curated props that sometimes included a prop or two. To make an already long and self-indulging description short, I was always a little theatrical.
Funnily enough, while I did get into acting as I got older, my social awkwardness and lack of funds usually kept me away from pay-to-play theater camps and most school shows for fear of my peers finding another thing to pick on me about. Instead, I studied about acting under a few different mentors that shaped my idea of acting and theater as a kid into a teenager. I learned how to plant myself but to stay flexible, and how to pull on my own emotions so as to better channel them into a different character.
Mostly, I learned the artform and how loud I could possibly project my voice.
Very loud, is the answer.
It wasn’t until after college, where I had a crisis of faith and dropped my Theatre degree for an English one, did I truly understand the beauty of theatre, specifically community theatre.
It’s pure chaos, plain and simple. It’s having to memorize a leading part a week before the show opens, it’s making most of your own props while you’re sick with the flu, it’s figuring out how many outfits you can fit under one outfit so you can make a costume change in less than a minute. It’s messy, stressful, tiring, and something most of us do for free, but it has lead to the most satisfying experiences of my life.
That’s kind of why I decided to write this blog post now. Not because I’m giving up community theatre, or anything, but I feel like this year and next are going to be a culmination of what I, and my family, have been working on since we started the whole thing together.
Tomorrow, I’m performing in a play that my mother is directing on a set my father built, and that all of us, cast and crew alike are perfecting with each rehearsal.
If you haven’t seen my billion posts on Facebook, we’re doing The Haunting of Hill House at Actor’s Circle, and even typing that now seems ridiculously surreal.
As I’ve stated before, I’m obsessed with Shirley Jackson and Haunting was the first ever novel I read of hers that catapulted me into reading and learning everything I could about her. Again, I can go on for days about this woman (and probably will in my next blog post), but needless to say, she and her famous ghostly tale mean a lot to me.
So I’m beyond ecstatic to be able to be a part of the production, while working on it with my family. Even the character I get to portray is a dream role; although nightmare might be a more fitting word for Eleanor Vance. Girl’s got issues.
These last few months of pulling this show together have been the most fun I’ve had in awhile and a definite escape from some personal demons. While I’m incredibly anxious to get through the next two weekends, I almost don’t want them to end either.
And I think that’s the true beauty of community theatre. If you can get past the egos and drama (which there are a lot of) it’s a group of people coming together to create art. The tapestry of talents, polished or not, make each show a unique experience that you honestly can’t get anywhere else. We’re hand-crafted and made with love.
So, if you feel the need to make fun of community theatre, go right ahead. We know what we are and we revel in it.
But if you don’t feel the need to poke fun at us, here’s the info for The Haunting of Hill House:
Performed at: Actor’s Circle at Providence Playhouse 1256 Providence Rd. Scranton, Pa 18508
Phone number: (570) 342-9707
Show dates: September 5-7 and 12-14 at 8pm and September 8th and 15th at 2pm. Tickets are $10-12, except on September 5 when they will be $6-8. Call the above number or post on the Facebook event page to reserve your seat!
Poster courtesy of Actor’s Circle
Picture courtesy of Kate Hurley