I read an interesting article recently by Howard Sherman on The Huffington Post about problems in America with how community theatre is perceived by those in professional theatre and the media. Simply put, community theatre is often ridiculed and mocked. This may not be new information for many readers of The Drama Teacher.
Anyone who has even remotely been involved in community theatre of any kind would understand its importance and value. Community theatre often serves as a worthwhile creative outlet for those who pursue a career in other fields and its biggest asset is in its title, that feeling of belonging to a genuine community with a common interest and common set of goals.
Over the years I have taught many students in Drama at high school who have forged careers that have no connection to the performing arts, but as an adult they have turned to involvement in community theatre to satisfy that passion for theatre that is still running through their blood. Desk job by day, community theatre by night. There are also a whole band of creative people who find ways to work in both the professional and amateur theatre at the same time, like Jason Bovaird, a local lighting designer in Melbourne who runs his own professional lighting design company and is somehow able to work in community theatre as well.
Community theatre is not meant to nor pretending to be professional, so why people in professional theatre decide to deride it, beats me. If it is all about the suggestion that non-professionals working on stage shows in a community setting are hurting the artistic quality of the professional arena, then perhaps professional theatre needs to take a good, hard look at itself. Granted, while most of us have spent money on an amateur show that was less than fabulous, don’t even get me started on all the times I have purchased expensive tickets to professional theatre productions (plays and musicals) that were a complete waste of hard-earned cash.
Community and professional theatre both produce amazing work and not-so-fantastic material. They always have and I suspect, always will. Both have their place in the wonderful world of theatre and both deserve respect from not just their own devoted fans and members, but from each other as well.