Community theater sometimes gets a bad rap. Sitcoms portray characters playing scenes on tiny stages with wooden actors and garish costumes. I won’t pretend that doesn’t happen in real life. It does. I even believe there’s a place for wooden actors and garish costumes (maybe … somewhere). Having an outlet for artistic expression among amateurs, a place where people can learn from each other in an environment where they are not being judged against the best of the best, is a good thing. Every mom or dad who has cheered on a grade school thespian knows that self confidence and pride can be built in simple ways and that sometimes a sincere effort alone is worthy of praise, even if not a Tony award.
We see wonderful examples of creative expression in local art festivals. In any community celebration across America you can find artists with photos and paintings for sale. There’s not a Rembrandt or an Ansell Adams among the bunch, but people still buy and display the pieces that lift them, that touch them in some way. These painters and photographers are able to express themselves and have their efforts appreciated, enriching the artist and the community alike.
Whether on the stage or the easel, we should applaud and support local artistic efforts. That doesn’t mean we have to love everything produced just because it exists, or embrace mediocrity. I am a firm believer in high standards and quality production values. I also believe that quality is not just the domain of professional theater companies. There are a lot of worthwhile shows being produced on small stages all across the country.
(Check out closing weekend of KED’s Taming of the Shrew - photo below!)
Small theaters are the training ground for tomorrow’s professionals, a creative outlet for those who prefer the structure and security of a “real” job, or the ideal performance venue for those who perhaps lack the training, talent or desire to pursue theater full time. They perform in schools and rented halls, church basements and empty shopping malls.
There is no way that a community theater can compete with a professional show’s budget and scale, but there are gems on the local scene. For those of us who are just crazy enough to want to be part of the small stage theatrical world, we can help discover and polish those gems. We can bring visions, our own or that of others, to life, and live to tell about it!