What do you do when you want to act? You quit school, pack your bags and move to L.A., right? Well, I decided to work a nine to five while doing theatre on the side post-graduation. Although I am ultimately pursuing an impractical career, I am taking the practical approach of saving up money while figuring out what my next step is. And all the while I am wondering (1), how long will I have to wait to do what it is I am truly passionate about, and (2), what in the world are the benefits of community theatre.

When I started doing research on community theatre, I mostly found information about how it fosters and nurtures a community. But what I really wanted to find was some success story about a famous actress who was discovered doing community theatre in a small town of South Dakota – and this is where I become fixated on what the world deems “success” and lose sight of why I want to do theatre in the first place. Back when I knew nothing about theatre and decided to study it in college, I was asked why by my high school choir director. All I could manage was a timid “because I like it.” This still holds true for me today, and I’m finally understanding exactly why.

Theatre is an inspiring and often thought-provoking storytelling art. And a local community production has the potential to have the same impact on a person as a Broadway show (without costing half a paycheck). This is ultimately up to the actors and collaborators giving their best efforts – not doing it half-heartedly because it is “only” community theatre. Monica Reida makes a very insightful comment on her blog, Fragments: “not everyone on the stage in a community theater production is someone with a theater degree. But ultimately they’re hard-working people that want to make a production that people will love, enjoy, and remember.” And according to the AACT website, community theatre blossomed in the United States as a result of The European Art Theatre Movement around the turn of the 20th century. A group of actors called the Irish Players made community theatre a form of protest against commercial theatre.  It seems that they thought they could do just as well or better, despite the fact that they probably weren’t making any money off of their productions. It is about “the art of making art.” It is about “putting it together.”

There are many more opportunities to develop as an artist for those who are able to look past the negative stereotype of community theatre. At this point in my life, it’s not about how prestigious the theatre I am working with is. It’s learning the persistence of putting yourself out there, experiencing auditioning, and getting to do what you love, even if it is only an audition. Yes, the director may not be working on anything going to Broadway, but by doing an audition, more people are exposed to your talents, your personality, and your capabilities. And in turn, you get to learn about yourself as a person and performer, as well as experiencr working with a variety of personalities.

So at the end of the day, researching the “top 10 reasons budding professionals should participate in community theatre” will not make you feel better about choosing to sit at a desk for eight hours a day instead of suffering like a “true” artist should. The most reassuring idea is the logic that you, as a true performer and artist, already know and are sick of hearing all of the time. It really is about the experience – the experience of auditioning, performing, and developing your craft. It’s all about what you put into the performance. That is the only way you can grow. And this concept does not change in the professional world. Theatre is theatre is theatre.

Already I have heard so many people talk about how they stopped pursuing a career as a performer simply because they just didn’t want to deal with the rejection anymore. If I can learn to press on despite that, and become a better performer because I took advantage of opportunities that others would not, I will have already taken a huge step.

Image via Grit.com

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