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Calling all community theaters

Posted at 2:14 PM on September 17, 2007 by Melanie Sommer (2 Comments)

Chances are you've been a part of the community theater scene in Minnesota -- whether that's as an actor, a behind-the-scenes supporter, a ticket-taker, a supportive family member, or a member of the audience. Next week we're going to take a closer look at the passion and energy that goes into "puttin' on a show" in communities all around the region., in a series called Theater for All.

I have to confess that this project was my idea, precisely because I've played the role of supportive mother to a young actor who has performed in several community theater productions the past few years. My support has come through *a lot* of driving back and forth to rehearsals, etc.; buying costume pieces; encouraging friends and family to attend; and going to each show several times myself.

All of the theater groups my daughter has worked with have amazed me with their level of talent and professionalism. The set designers, costume designers, musicians, directors and actors are all volunteers, and they bring such talent and dedication... often they remain involved year after year. It seemed a great subject for us to explore a little bit more.

We also want to find out about all the community theater activities going on around the region, so we've set up an interactive map to help folks find that info. Now all we need is for you theater fans to send us some of that information. What makes your community theater so special? How are you involved? How does it improve your community? Write us a note, send us a link, send along a few photos, and we'll post them.

Comments (2)

I have been involved in community theatre in SE MN for many years....why do I do it? I love the idea of playing different people! You learn a lot about others by "putting on their skin", but you also learn a lot about yourself! You work at a very intense pace and in intense situations. You create a little family and no one else knows what you've gone thru to create this awesome piece of work that you are going to put out their to be judged. I like seeing and hearing different perspectives and ideas. I don't always agree with how my character may react to something....of course, I control that as an actor. I hope I am understanding the author's intent and bringing justice to the character. Whether it is drama or comedy...it is a joy!

Posted by Debbie | September 17, 2007 3:44 PM

I've been involved in community theatre in a variety of roles, from actor to designer to director, and most recently I worked at the Fringe Festival on a show as composer. I actually got into working in theatre by writing music for shows and from there started acting and eventually directing.

In my experience, live theatre should play an important role in the life of a community. Friends and neighbors creating and performing a play or musical piece for each other brings everyone together in a powerful way. In fact, theatre has always played this role in civic life, as far back as our history can recall. It's only until recently, with the advent of film and television, that people stopped performing for each other. Theatre is the most immediate and present of all the artistic mediums, and can put to use the skills, talents and abilities of the community (carpenters, actors, writers, costumers, directors, musicians, administrators, advertisers, etc). It has the power to inspire, to comment, to reflect—to tell stories.

The trouble with community theatre is that people don't understand the true power or potential that theatre has. They see shows on Broadway and professional companies (such as the Guthrie or at the Ordway) and think that it's the only way to do it. There are so many stories to be told in communities and the challenge therein is to find those stories and tell them in a way that is honest and true to the stories. It doesn't have to be big, expensive or "professional." It can happen anywhere: a coffee house, a backyard, a living room, a park, a field, a school. Anywhere where people gather.

Unlike neighborhood block parties (which is what National Night Out tried to begin), theatre is an event that we can come to and then go away from having been affected in some way. It can give us something to think or talk about. It can help us to become aware of and celebrate the talents and abilities of the people around us. It can bring us out of our houses or flats and gather together.

And while we gather, we tell each other and are told stories.

Posted by David Philip Norris | September 18, 2007 12:33 PM