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Get involved in your local community theater

Hannah Swayze • Jul 1, 2018 at 4:45 AM

Sometimes community theater gets a bad rap.

I have a few choice words to say to those people that my bosses would never let me publish under the Press’ banner. 

Why this is — I’m not really sure. Maybe they’d rather go see a professional show with working actors. Maybe they’re not into live theater. I can only conclude that these opinions were concluded by those who have never really given it a chance.

I could sit here and type all the reasons that we should all invest time and money into our local theaters. Theater is the most collaborative form of art and a difficult art. Backstage, you learn electrical engineering, setting up lights, carpentry by building big, elaborate sets, leadership skills by stage-managing and even aspects of business by marketing, selling tickets and producing a show. Throughout the rehearsal process, especially as an actor, you are taught how to collaborate as a team, memorize lines, to hone your craft and how to fail.

However, I can’t force you, dear reader, to do anything. I can only try my best to explain to you why I feel this way.

Theater has always held a very special place in my heart. I was a “theater kid” in high school, and while other classmates were studying and going to football games, I was staying hours after school in rehearsal and spending Saturdays out of town at theater competitions. I minored in theater in college, and I still am a regular around the local theaters, trying to take in the shows that I can.

Theater, for me, was a place for me to fail when perfection was expected in every other aspect of my life. Terrified to let people down in other places, the theater became my escape.

If you’ve ever been involved in theater or done any acting or directing, you know that you have to put yourself out there and take risks. Every director will tell you that they’d rather pull an actor back in and tell them that they need to “tone it down” than have to coax someone into putting themselves out there.

So once I began to let go of that pressure on myself, I opened up. I made friends. I learned how to relax and have fun. This also translated into other parts of my life. I wasn’t as afraid to fail because I learned to take direction.

Theater and acting gave me confidence, a hobby and beautiful family of people who are always kind and supportive, and that has never ceased to be the case.

I do not take part in as many shows as I used to, but every community theater I walk into today — here or anywhere — is still as loving and wonderful as always. There is something to be said about an environment where everyone in the building has chosen to take time out of their lives to pull in a huge amount of time and energy to collectively tell a story.

The dressing rooms are full of people who genuinely want to be there strapping up petticoats and adjusting each other’s head microphones. The audience on opening night is made up of proud parents and grandparents who rush out to their cars during intermission to grab the bouquets of flowers to give to their family members in the show.

Actors and crew lie around and bond by guzzling iced coffees while they kill time between a matinee and a night show. They make the most out of their time together, because they know in a couple weeks this exact group of people will never be exactly in this arrangement again. They welcome in newcomers like a little baby bird and teach them how to fly. It’s a place where former politicians, veterinarians, teachers and children can all find common ground. It fosters the future of our country, giving young artists a place to learn and practice.

Theater is like nothing else. At least, it is to me. It’s a place to learn, grow, and make new friends. It’s a community that I am glad to know, and you can get to know too.

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