Monday, March 4, 2013

A Glimpse into Community Theater ACT I

Lights, ACTION! The blue light keeps
things behind the scenes safely lit. 
The boys are nearly grown and I am an at-home writer and domestic administrator. This relatively recent shift in focus and responsibility keeps me busy. It also provides the illusion of “spare time.” This sense of spare time motivated me to do something I’d always wanted to do—act. Thanks to the coaxing of a friend, I tried out for a part in our community theatre production of a Neil Simon play. I was cast in the lead female role. And so my baptism into the reality of local stage acting began.

I had no inkling of what to expect. I came in cold and somehow pulled off a huge role in front of all of our friends and neighbors. It was not easy by any stretch. But it was one of the most thrilling and fulfilling experiences of my life since the birth of my children. I greatly encourage every and any person who has ever had a twinge of yearning whilst reading about auditions in the community section of the newspaper or upon seeing a playbill posted at the mall on the community board near the cookie store to go for it. And I’m going to make it a little easier for you. My next few blog posts will provide a little behind the scenes guidance to participating in community theater. While much of what I offer pertains to actors, these tidbits could also help aspiring crew members become acquainted with the realities of community theater.

First, I take you backstage. Community theater productions are sometimes performed in theaters. They might also be performed in parks. And when the theater is undergoing renovations, the play could be presented in the conference room in a city public works building. Since we were in just such a situation, backstage was a makeshift hallway behind the set. That hallway also served as the dressing room for the actors.

1. I recommend investing in—or digging out of the attic—a small suitcase. There are things you won’t want to leave backstage during the run of the show. A suitcase makes it easy to keep up with and transport items you need or want during production.



I made use of this vintage suitcase
given to me by Mrs. Sheldrick, our widowed
next door neighbor, when I was a child.
2. Actors need strong hangers that can hold clothing while dangling from a two by four. And ask for help with dress changes so you don’t drop hangers, lean on the set or end up with a pile of clothes on the floor that the tech crew could trip over.


This is my partial wardrobe. I had six dress
changes for the five scenes it took to
portray Mrs. Edna Edison.
3. Actors also need to find a chair that can be placed near clothing and makeup. Not that you’ll be sitting while powdering your nose. You’ll need the chair to sit if you have a few minutes during a scene for which you are not actually on stage.

4. Your mirror could very well be taped to the back of the set, so DON’T TOUCH THE MIRROR! You could literally knock things down on stage while trying to adjust the mirror backstage. Or worse, you could knock down the entire wall. 


Full length mirror installed
with a little gaff tape to
the back of the set.
5. Be sure to practice dress changes and makeup at home. Backstage, during a live production, you will be lucky to have a blue light illuminating your dressing area. 

6. If you are fortunate enough to have some lighting, make sure the lamp is directed downward. Otherwise, you’ll be giving the audience a bonus shadow show on the ceiling. Should this happen, laugh it off and suggest they charge a few extra dollars at the door for the errotic shadow display.

My next post will cover the critical role of sticky notes in a community theater production.


Check out Asheboro's community theater group, RSVP, online at RSVPtheatre.org. Interact with RSVP cast & crew on Facebook, too!


Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 


Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
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