Things I Learned From Community Theatre
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
When I was 11, I auditioned for my first community theatre show. This was a moment that changed my entire life, because for the next six years, I became I devoted member of the theatre family. It's been almost a year since my last show, and while I feel as if my stage days are over, there are a few things that I miss about it. One of those things is the community, whom I have learned so much from over the years. Those people helped me in so many ways, and have taught me many valuable lessons that I have carried with me over the years. As a sort of thank you, this is a list of a few of those lessons, because I really don’t know where I’d be without them.
The only one who will do your job is you. Whether it be a solo, dance, set change, cue or simply getting ready on time; I learned pretty quickly that I couldn’t count on other people to help me remember it needed to be done. I had to remember to do things myself and learn how to be responsible with my time, ultimately learning how to be self-sufficient along the way.
You have to ask for help. While I managed to keep up with the music or dance instructor for the most part, there were definitely times where I felt overwhelmed or fell behind. Eventually, I learned that if necessary, it was worth it to ask for help from the instructor or a cast mate. Was it embarrassing? A little bit. However after a few years I figured that in the end, the payoff of figuring out how to do the thing in question made it worth it. Swallowing my pride and asking for help is a skill I continue to utilize, from meeting with a teacher for clarification to asking for advice with a personal problem.
Mastery takes time. Sometimes, even with help, it took a long time for me to pick something up. I would get discouraged at times, but because we were on a schedule and I had to have the solo, dance step, etc. down before opening night, all I could do was keep working at it. In a way, I was forced to persevere until I had perfected what I needed to, which has helped me not to give up in difficult situations.
There will always be someone better than you, but that’s okay. Something that I figured out pretty early on is that I was not the best by a longshot. There were kids who were better at singing, acting, dancing, and just more adjusted to theatre in general. However, there were some things that I was better at, related to theatre or otherwise and I wouldn't have traded those talents for the world. That’s how life is, and that’s okay. You can’t be the best at everything, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can let go and just have fun.
Scary things are a part of life. There isn’t one part in the theatre process that isn’t at least slightly unnerving. From auditioning to doing something onstage that’s a little unnerving (being slung over the shoulder of another actor, being lifted in a dance number, climbing up on a tall set piece, etc.) to actually doing everything you’ve been working on in front of an audience, it’s a huge test of courage. However, even though it doesn’t always go smoothly, it’s always worth it in the end to get out of your comfort zone.
Make the most of what you have been given. Though there were a few exceptions, for the most part, I landed parts in the ensemble. Though I would sometimes be discouraged by this, it was always still a good time and as I got older I learned that it was exactly what I made of it. So whenever it was my time to go on, I would simply dance and sing my little heart out and by the end of each show, I felt like I had contributed to the show, even if my part was small.
You’re never alone. Though I loved singing, dancing, and costumes, at the end of the day, the best part was the people. Some of the years that I participated in theatre were some of my hardest, but my theatre friends were always there for me. I have many fond memories of not only having fun with but crying on the shoulder of a fellow cast mate. We were there for each other. When I was on my period, there was always someone with Advil and/or chocolate. When I was having trouble on my math homework, the older cast members helped me grasp the subject. When the very worst happened, and our beloved artistic director passed away, we spent long hours on the phone together, holding each other, or simply reminiscing to keep his memory alive. The thing is, we weren’t just a group of people who did shows every so often, we were a family. Even though I don’t do shows anymore, I’m still a part of it, the beautiful community of people so passionate about performing that they’re willing to devote time and money to the business that we call show.