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The expectation of Community Theatres to produce professional work

Back in the day, as we say, theatre was produced in New York, tested in out of town tryouts, then taken to a theatre along the great white way for hopefully a long popular run.  Later, if lucky, there might be a tour of a show to limited big cities.  This limited reach of live theatre left much of the country without the ability to see live theatre, unless they were part of the few lucky ones that could travel.

This is where the Regional Theatre system began.  Larger theatre companies were created in major cities to produce their own work for their region.  This exposed much more of the nation to live theatre, but certainly not all, and there was really very little opportunity for would be performers to get involved, test their craft, work.

Then, along with more open options for royalty permissions to produce plays came Community Theatre.  Smaller cities and towns everywhere started creating their own small theatre guilds and groups that encouraged community members to come out and be in a show, or help backstage, or help paint, run the box office, sell the tickets and more.  They were truly a community event with community members and family members coming out to support their friends and loved ones in the show.  Obviously these were not the most polished productions much of the time.  Sets, costumes, props were created out of what they had or could acquire and designed and finished by amateurs.  Direction and performance was a place of learning and of finding a creative outlet for the people involved.  They typically had no training, little if any experience, but maybe some innate talent and guts to rely on.  It was community on and off stage with all the encouragement and wide eyes that came with it.

Well here we are now, many many years later, with community theatre mixed with small and large professional theatres, with the lines often very blurry.  Does pay mean you’re pro?  Does it also require a certain level of expertise or training?  Theatres are abundant in cities and sometimes even in small towns… sometimes with more theatres than talent to support them.

Expectations have changed as well.  Audiences go to theatre expecting a high quality show, even if it’s a community theatre where every member is a volunteer.  The audience often has no connection to the cast or crew involved.  It’s no longer the community gathering on stage and off that it once was, cheering on your friends up there on stage doing their best acting, singing, dancing.  It now is often much more.  We expect a higher standard, a professional production, a level of talent on par with other theatres where performers are paid, more experienced, with years of training.

To attempt to deliver this high quality of production, the people involved rehearse evenings after work, weekends away from their family, countless hours, sometimes for a couple months or even more. Since the hours of rehearsal are shorter per day, rehearsals are spread out longer as they compete with work schedules and lives.  In the professional theatre, where a performer is being paid full time, they rehearse for 8 hours a day as their job.  They don’t have to work first, THEN go to rehearsal and work more.  So rehearsal periods in number of weeks can be shorter often than community theatre.  Maybe they rehearse 4 weeks, then perform 4 weeks, then move on to the next show.  Community theatre also relies on volunteers putting in long hours on the production side building sets, hanging lights and so forth.  These volunteers are often hard to find these days, unlike professional theatre with paid staff members in these roles.

So how do these compare?  With the commitment to countless hours on top of our every day lives, exhaustion that often leads to illness, and passion fueled work that often leads to absolute joy.

Community theatre involvement is huge.  Arguably I’d say it’s far more of a strain than that of professional theatre involvement, though of course the pros likely paid their dues over the years, got the training, worked extremely hard.

It boils down to an appreciation of the work of these people, driven by their love of this collaborative art form, of performing or designing or supporting in numerous ways.  I hope that audiences can imagine the work that they have undertaken for weeks and weeks to bring that show to life.  In our current model of all kinds of theatres blurring the lines of professional to community, coupled with the work of just getting audiences to come to the shows, supporting the theatre with ticket purchases and donations, attention should be paid to this extreme dedication and passion.

From the community theatres are born the future Hollywood stars and Broadway performers.  Let’s show them our deep appreciation and support on their journey.


Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts People

 

Patrick Spike is the Theatre Community Liaison, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. www.patrickspike.com

 

 

AACT Town Hall: Community Theatres come together

AACT American Association of Community TheatreLast Saturday I attended the AACT (American Association of Community Theatres) Town Hall held here in Portland.  Arts People has been a sponsor of a number of AACT events over the years and we consider ourselves a partner to them as well as a deep connection to community theatres all over the country and in Canada.  The Arts People system has always been a great fit for these organizations who have big goals and complex needs, but often small staffs with little time to accomplish tasks.

It was great to hear these groups sharing so openly their stories of successes and challenges so that other organizations might benefit from their experiences.  The performing arts are a small voice in our culture, it seems, struggling to be heard, to find support, to advocate for the importance of what they do, and to even survive.  I’ve unfortunately seen this struggle too often divide organizations and individuals from each other in what can often be seen as a competitive atmosphere, instead of supporting and uplifting each other. This discussion was clearly the opposite.  With AACT bringing together these organizations toward sharing (and it was a great turnout), they can glean valuable insight into how different organizations are benefitting from presenting different types of programs such as staged readings, educational offerings, new types of social marketing and more.

The meeting was held just down the street from our Arts People offices at Twilight Theatre, one of our clients.  I was able to introduce myself and see a number of our clients in attendance, which is always a pleasure.  Arts People was founded on a goal of working with and assisting performing arts organizations to succeed and thrive.  We’ve worked very hard over the years to maintain close relationships with our clients on a first name basis, so whenever we get the chance to get face to face we take it.  To see the generous sharing going on at this meeting was a complete pleasure.

I started my own career in theatre in high school, and then went immediately to community theatre. I learned SO much from performing, directing, and design, to what it means to serve on a board of directors, what level of professionalism in the work I came to expect in myself and others, and how I wanted to work in the creation of theatre, including my own personal style and voice.  It is a place for joy, creativity, learning, sharing, collaboration, teamwork, accomplishment and self worth.  I’ve carried all that experience and knowledge forward into my work in professional theatres and sometimes returned to guest direct in community theatres I have a connection with.

Thank  you AACT for all you do to bring these theatres together in meetings like this, to the theatres who generously share their knowledge and experiences to help others, and to the individuals who keep these organizations alive in your communities.


Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts People

Patrick Spike is the Theatre Community Liaison, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. www.patrickspike.com

 

 

AACTfest

Arts People to show off its performing arts specific tools at the upcoming AACT conference

AACT, the American Association of Community Theatres will be holding it’s AACTfest conference in Rochester, MN next week, and once again Arts People will be front and center as a sponsor and exhibitor at the event. Running June 26 – July 1, the festival “is the culmination of a two-year cycle of state and regional theatre AACT festivals across the country–with 12 community theatre productions, a theatre management conference, a youth leadership conference and youth festival, educational workshops, top vendor displays, the design exhibition and competition, a new monologue competition, social events, sightseeing and networking opportunities, all ending with a festival awards presentation,” says AACT.

“AACT has always been a perfect fit for Arts People to be a part of.” Says Arts People’s Director of Sales Marc Ross.  “This is an organization dedicated to the nurturing of arts groups all across the country who can greatly benefit from an integrated system such as ours.  With ticketing, fundraising, marketing all built in, Arts People can help these organizations to enhance their customer service, generate more revenue, and foster relationships with their loyal patrons and donors.”

We’re excited to support this festival and organization, and to meet with current and future clients!  We’ll be giving 30 minute no-pressure demonstrations of the system at our booth, and in fact people can visit www.arts-people.com/aact now to schedule their appointment ahead of time. Additionally, free white paper downloads are available on the page as well for help with social media communications, season renewal campaigns and more.

The future of the arts in our country is in the passion of individuals who make up organizations like those participating in the AACT.  It is our goal to help these organizations to thrive.  We hope attendees will stop by our booth and say hello!  Have a great conference all!

For more information on AACTfest 2017, visit https://www.aact.org/aactfest-2017-national-festival.

#AACTfest2017