Friday, October 11, 2013

The Stigma of Community Theater

We’re all guilty of it.  Maybe you’ve spoken disparagingly about a local company performing a well-known staple of musical theatre.  Or you’ve criticized a different company for pandering to the blue-hairs.  Or (and I am certainly guilty of this), maybe you’ve poked  fun at a company  for doing yet another Neil Simon play.  (I’m looking at you, LVLT.)
But I shouldn’t be looking at them.  Or at any group looking to introduce any modicum of culture into our lives, even of the Neil Simon variety.  (That’s the last Simon ref, I promise.)  Howard Sherman wrote a biting counter-commentary of this mindset for Huffpost Arts & Culture.  In it, he takes us all to task for “…using ‘community theater’ as a punch line or punching bag.”
Here in Las Vegas, we have a wide variety of professional theatre available to us, ranging from Broadway stagings at the Mandalay Bay to lesser-well-attended dinner shows at the Las-Vegas-Hilton-that-was.  And we have more community theatre than that – I would wager that there’s two non-profit shows for every Equity show.  And that’s the way it should be!  And, most importantly, it shouldn’t be compared to professional theatre, and shouldn’t be found lacking because of the comparison.  Because -
…that’s not the point of it. If the participants wanted to be professionals, they might be pursuing those goals; perhaps some of them did, and didn’t succeed…The fact is, community theater is a hobby, a passion and an outlet for people who truly love theater; it’s the bowling league, the weekly pick-up basketball game, the book group for the performance minded.
This is a vital point to consider. Of course we all, actors stagehands and directors alike, strive to bring a degree of reality to the stage; of course we all attempt to entertain and engage and enlighten our audiences. And of course, we none of us have a quadrillion-dollar budget like the Mandalay Bay shows do, so we fall short compared to them. But – and this bears repeating – that’s not the point of it.
By slagging community theater, we’re undercutting our own best interests and evidencing our own cultural elitism; by allowing others to do so we join the juvenile yet dangerous bullies who taunted us in high school — by doing the same to adults whose only wrong is to enjoy doing that which we’ve made our careers.
One final quote from the article – “Is theater so healthy that we can afford to be so blithely arrogant?” You and I both know that, sadly, the answer is no.
Find the full article at Theater the Theater Community Disdains

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