Community theater | Mark’s Remarks

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What a gift theater has been. It’s something I got into long ago, and I’ve always loved it. 

Perhaps it’s an insatiable need for attention, or maybe it’s because it’s just a lot of fun. I don’t know.  The older I get, the more observations I make and the less serious I am about the whole thing.

The theater world I’ve been in has been interesting – a different kind of community, a sometimes strange and unusual subculture of sorts.

As a young person, your first experience in theater is usually the moment when you get bitten by the bug.  You do a little something in front of an audience, you get a laugh or some applause, and it draws you in.  It is a little intoxicating. It is addictive. It is something you want to do over and over.

Usually, someone tells you early on that you are good. Sometimes, people tell you you are fantastic, when you are really just good. Sometimes, you get enough applause and accolades that you get an inflated ego and self-importance takes over.

These folks are in every community theater. They fancy themselves as theater experts after getting a few shows under their belts.  Their full theater resume may come solely from their work in community theater, yet somehow they have achieved superior status – at least in their own brains.

How dare I say this to you? Well, I’m talking about myself. I am that person. I did a few shows, had some really juicy parts in some productions, and hung out with a group of people who told me how great I was, when in fact, I was probably pretty mediocre or novice at best.  

Suddenly, I knew a little more than most people. I expected to always be cast and I expected to get the parts I wanted.

Finally, I began to see it isn’t that easy. Sometimes you don’t get cast. Sometimes someone else sings better, sounds better, and (gasp) even looks better.  Sometimes you don’t fit the director’s vision. Sometimes you are too tall, too short, too old or too something.

And thankfully, it happens to us all. There comes a time, hopefully, that we are all brought down a peg or two.

I think if most people in theater embrace the fact that it’s all supposed to be just storytelling and fun, they will save themselves a lot of heartache. Sure, be serious about your part and do a fine job. But for heaven’s sake, don’t be above taking direction and don’t think you’re too good to play in the ensemble.

Also, don’t bad mouth a director because the whole audition process didn’t go your way. This is a typical response when a “full of themself” person is not cast.  

For some reason, they think it helps to text and call people and tell them how awful the experience was.  

I was in a show a few summers ago in which there were a number of principal parts and a very large ensemble. Most of the kids in the ensemble were pretty good actors who had all tasted a bit of the fame that comes from high school, college and community theater productions. But, they were cast in the ensemble in this particular show.

It’s hard for younger folks to understand what being part of an ensemble means. I can’t tell you the number of those kids who wanted to do something special during a scene in which three of the main characters had a bit to do.  

Those kids told the director they wanted to do various funny things during said scene. I wanted to step up and say “But you’re distracting the audience from the main characters!” No one seemed to care, and I would have looked like a pompous diva had  I spoken up. But I can’t be the only one who felt that way.

Community theater is really like a study of personality types. Most of us are full of ourselves and may think we are better than we really are. Most of us have inflated egos. A lot of us are self-centered and competitive. Several of us think we should have larger parts than we usually get.  

Then there are some people who are mature, willing to listen and learn, and just grateful to play a part, big or small.

But just like life gets when we decide to get over ourselves, theater can become a fun and drama-free environment.  

I was blessed to be part of such a production this spring. The cast was phenomenal. No one seemed to be too self-centered, too egotistical, or too self-important. No one sat around and talked incessantly about all the past productions they’ve been in, or told stories of all their past theater triumphs. 

Some theater folks who have been around for a long time like to hear themselves talk. But this time, I decided to hide all of that and keep my mouth shut.  

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