Wikipedia states that community theatre is “theatre made by, with, and for a community.” In general, this is taken to mean the locale in which the theatre is located and in which the participants and audience live. But there’s a different definition of community that applies to my experience here. That definition which focuses on the shared “character; agreement; identity” of the people involved in a joint activity. Because when I try to sum up what this experience has meant to me, it is that definition of community that most accurately describes it.
I felt like part of a community- a group of people whose shared passion for the art leads them to not only endure but to enjoy all the details of a production. All these late nights, juggling schedules, reciting lines, examining characters and motives and events, cramming into costumes and enduring less-than-comfortable false eyelashes, joking about how weird the audience is or how crazy it was when that mini-catastrophe happened. All of it. It is this shared experience that defines this feeling of community- this sense of belonging.
When I think of “the acting bug” I think about that ever-elusive high that one gets from walking off stage and feeling that you have, within that moment, ‘nailed’ the performance. I had that with this production a couple of times and it feels pretty damned groovy. And it is that which I will be seeking out when I audition again for the next production. I’ve got the acting bug in this regard and it had been dormant for a long while before this.
But those singular moments are only a tiny piece of the overall tapestry of emotions I got from this. What means more, strangely enough, is all of the side effects. The joking and talking and laughing down in the green room while getting on makeup and putting on costumes and waiting for your scene. The energy circle before each performance during which we wished ourselves luck and reminded each other to have fun while squeezing hands for vigor. The awkward moments when you stepped on someone else’s line or skirt or your scene went drastically differently than you anticipated just because of the audience or a technical hic-up or just messing up. The celebratory cakes and gifts and thanks-yous. The fact that we all make ourselves more than a little crazy with all of it and we all love it.
In community theatre- because theatre in college was just a drastically different experience- I haven’t really had a bad time of it. I haven’t encountered challenging personalities or over-demanding directors or anything else that might make the experience less enjoyable. But I’ve also never felt this strong of a sense of community before and I have to believe that what my other more seasoned co-stars were saying was true: that this was just a really great group of people. Despite my one little scene I felt just as much a part of the cast as everyone else. I was no less valuable, no less appreciated, no less important to the play. I was a part of and I value that feeling more than anything else in the world.
My co-stars were not only great actors (and I honestly think that everyone did a pretty incredible job) but great people. They were kind, caring, funny, passionate, laid back, enjoyable people and all of those nights joking around in the green room or changing costumes back stage meant even more to me than those miracle moments when I nailed my scene. And the crew- the producer, director, stage manger, costume designer, set designers and even the people running the ticket booth and baking cookies for intermission- were no less incredible and overwhelmingly kind. And my family and friends who hooted and hollered for me when I got cast, came out to see me with excitement, and showered me with praise afterwards reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am to have such an amazing support network. I have so many fond memories of this production it’s hard for me to wrap my head around it all.
And although I’m trying to be nothing but grateful for all of it I can’t help but be more than a little sad that it’s over. Leaving the theatre that last night was nothing short of heart breaking and I’ve had to console myself that if I’m lucky enough to get cast again I may run into these incredible people in the future. But in the end, it's the fact that I had this experience- not that it’s over- which matters.