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With so many weekend options including movies, concerts, theatrical shows, escape games of sorts, etc, I have spent some time thinking about why community theatre is important and the reasons people should (and do) support it. Drawing from my own experiences, I believe volunteer theatre is a valuable resource in our communities for performers, crew members, sponsors, and audience members alike.

I was barely six years old when my mom took me to audition for a production of Peter Cottontail with a local children’s group, and after being cast as the lead in my debut performance I was hooked. While I dabbled in sports and other recreational activities, I focused mainly on theatre and performing and booked my first professional production at the age of eighteen. Over the next six years I traveled the country living the dream- making a living as a performer! But something was missing, and I started to realize that there was a difference acting on stage as a job vs. a hobby. While I still loved to perform, I yearned for the heart and sense of camaraderie I had always found in community theatre.

So what made community vs. professional so different? And why is community theatre so important to me, and so many others? Here are some examples:

Encourage New Talent

Many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small town playhouses. (Did you know Country music artist Chris Young and American Idol alum Colton Dixon both performed in Arts Center productions, just to name a few?) By sponsoring shows and attending performances, you are not only supporting an important arts outlet but also providing encouragement to the cast and crew.

Provide Opportunities for Young Artists

As I stated above, I walked into an audition as an average six year old and closed my first show feeling like a superstar! I have already written a blog focusing on why the arts are important for children (click here to read it!) so I won’t spend too much time on the subject, but I will say that I have seen theatre open up a world of new opportunities for children. While physical size and abilities sometimes hinder kids in sports and school activities, the world of community theatre provides a safe place for even the shyest or quirkiest of students. As a director, I have witnessed young children sobbing out of stage fright at their first audition who go on to steal the show, and the “outsider” who may have been rejected by his peers become the center of attention. There’s something about community theatre that accepts everyone and I treasure the wide variety of people I have met and the children I have had the opportunity to mentor.

Create a Need for Special Skills

Not everyone can stand center stage and belt out “Tomorrow” from Annie, and just as many of us don’t dare pick up a hammer and nail! Community theatre requires so many different skill sets, that virtually anyone can find a place they are needed. Your skill might be painting a backdrop, building a set piece, sewing a costume, holding a spotlight, working backstage, or even shopping for props! In one of the most recent shows I performed in, we even used an “illusionist” to teach the cast and crew magic tricks that could be used in the show! By supporting community theatre, you give your brother, mother, next door neighbor, Sunday school teacher, veterinarian, and janitor an opportunity to volunteer their time and skills.

Local Business Supports Local Business

The Arts Center, like many community theatre groups, is a non-profit organization and requires the support of local business to financially back shows and events. Sponsors not only help grow recognition of their own brand by including their logos on programs, marketing materials, websites, etc, but also keep the arts going in the community. Sponsorship isn’t expensive and community theatres can, in return, help their local business reach hundreds of potential customers through ads and sponsor recognition.

Just to name a few…

I could go on and on about reasons why everyone should support their local community theatre, but I hope you are coming up with your own ideas of how your ticket purchase, skill set, or sponsorship can benefit so many people.

Although our lives have all become very busy as of late, when you find yourself with a free Saturday night, consider attending a show put on by your local community theatre. I think you will be surprised to discover the incredible talent performing on our Middle Tennessee stages thanks to the support of patrons like YOU.