• James Stranahan

Community Theaters: Where You’ll Find True Commitment and Entertainment

Professional actors, as you would expect, place a lot of value on getting to Hollywood or Broadway. It’s where the money is, after all, as well as the chance to star in incredible productions and really see your career take off. I get it - I didn’t stay in Aspen when I graduated from high school. Instead, I took off for the Berklee College of Music and then the American Academy of Dramatic Arts so that I could study from incredible professionals and get ready for my own career. Now that I am here at Tip-Top Productions and have all these high-tech gadgets at my fingertips, I can honestly say that I love what I do. The more tech I have at my disposal, the more I can do with my films. In its own way, Broadway is no different - have you seen the awesome sets they design? Check out a showing of The Lion King sometime, and you’ll see what I mean.

So, yes, the top of the film or theater world comes with the perks you’d imagine, but I thought recently about the importance of something that has become ubiquitous in many cities: the community theater.

When I was younger, I acted in community plays here in Los Angeles and in the suburbs, the smaller productions that didn’t have the money behind a Broadway show. What each one did have, however, was a passionate cast and crew that poured their hearts into the production so that it would be professional and captivate its audience.

Have you ever been to the rehearsals of a community play? It’s a scene of tremendous energy. Over to the right, there may be a pianist who is diligently working with an actor on a difficult part of a solo. Off to the left, there may be a few people who are hammering together the staircase to be used during a crucial scene. Up above, you could spot the engineer who is trying for the tenth time to fix the wiring of a spotlight that refuses to do its job. Down in the front seats are probably the stars of the show, who are running lines and doing everything they can to get the timing just right. The director, of course, will always be running from person to person, doing an admirable job of keeping everyone together and moving the play or musical forward.

Most of these people, incidentally, have day jobs. They are teachers, businessmen, graphic designers, and other professions, but they all have one thing in common: they love the theater. They are also determined to put on a production that will be every bit as professional as those you see in New York City and elsewhere. They succeed more often than not.

There’s a camaraderie that’s immediately noticeable. Yes, everyone has their days when the stress can get to them. Even so, they are all guided by a larger vision of what their play is going to be like and of the responsibility they have to give their audience a really good time. By the time the final curtain comes down, dozens of people will have gotten to know each other very well and created something special.

So, these days, every once in a while, I like to get away from the glitter of Hollywood and check out what’s going on in a community theater. I have enjoyed watching some genuinely talented actors take me into the worlds of Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams. These people may never make it to the so-called big leagues, and they might not even have any aspirations of doing so. They still, though, know how to put on a really good play.

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