Sheila posted this with a link to an essay written by John Barry about reviewing Community Theater.
I held my breath at first while reading it thinking, "okaaaay... This is going to sting." But it was pretty great. And clever. And insightful.
I live in a town with no professional theater. So we are fortunate enough to have some very talented people who were professional actors at some point in their lives involved in our community theater (because it's us or nothing). Some of them are very good. But most of us are policemen and lawyers and students and (ahem) artists, who really enjoy this but know we're just tolerable at it.
No one gets paid (well, the bookeeper does. But the bookeeper works for us). Even the cleaning is done by volunteers. We get yelled at when something goes wrong in the box office by patrons who don't ever realize that this isn't our JOB. Every year there is the task of deciding on shows for the upcoming season and the stress of balancing edgier fare with not alienating the older crowd (who pay our bills with their faithful attendance... I think some of them skipped Hedwig, though. It did well anyhow). We sell ads in the programs ourselves and design the posters. We pitch in on buying accessories for our costumes that simply won't fit into the budget. Heck, we're not even reviewed. We wouldn't know what to think of it. We're fond of saying, "Well, honestly, it's COMMUNITY THEATER." We know what that means. It's a labor of love.
The old ladies come to Sunday matinees and tell us how wonderful we did and make suggestions for future plays. One of them thinks we should do Phantom next year. She loves Phantom. Because, you know, a huge cast and an enormous chandelier would look great on our tiny stage. (The little old ladies rock. We love them.) Our families and friends say crazy things like, "When you're famous..." and bring flowers and make us feel like we accomplished something. Our community is pretty artsy so sometimes we get a packed house (which is always exciting) and on reception nights they exclaim about what they've seen you in before and tell you you look older onstage (well, maybe that's just me) and say bizarre things and try to be complimentary ("Did you do that lazy eye thing on purpose? That was AMAZING." urg). During performances you can hear people whisper to each other about plot points or clarify which cast member they know. That's my favorite. People will say hilarious things during a show. They talk to the characters. They ruin suspense. They make disapproving noises at the bad guy. Some actors find it distracting but I figure that the lady in the second row who's telling you what she thinks you should do next is REALLY INTO THE PLAY, which is wierd but also pretty great (and makes for a funny anecdote later).
The students all think they're going to be hugely famous someday. They're so cute. Well, the primadonna who demanded that someone do her hair because she is "accustomed to that being taken care of" - yeah her head needed pinching off. But most of them are adorable. The rest of us are just glad we have friends to get together with who don't think "playacting" is too silly for adults and who enjoy Saturday afternoons of set painting and long lunches. It's a thankless task in may ways, but everyone needs a hobby. Mine enables me to meet people I would never otherwise meet. I learn things about using power tools, which has never been a strong point for me. It shows me that inside the teacher and the nurse and the Russian translator and the photographer there may just lie actors and set designers and directors. People just as obsessed with theater trivia and film history as I am. Which is kind of reassuring.
It's just community theater. We know that. But we love it.