How Community Theatre Feeds a Creative Lifestyle
“No? Well, perhaps that’s just as well for you, Mrs. Boyle.”
I’m standing on the set of Cedarville Opera House’s “The Mousetrap,” the accusation hanging in the air among the actors, righteous anger roiling just under the surface and suspicion soaring from the audience to meet it.
When The Spare Room Project interviewed Doug Malcolm about the benefits of community theatre, I didn’t think I’d be in rehearsal for a community theatre production before the video released. But living a creative lifestyle means taking risks and moving quickly, so I took the plunge. I found that these new experiences and people fed my creative lifestyle in just the ways I’d been missing.
See the world through new eyes.
Like every show, “Mousetrap” brought together new people and new experiences. For starters, this was the first time I’d ever been in age makeup. It’s a powerful thing to see yourself as you might be in thirty years. On some level you confront your own mortality, asking yourself, “Who’s that old guy wearing my clothes?” It’s a powerful effect not just on your mind, but your body as well. I found myself standing up more slowly, as though my knees weren’t quite up to the challenge, and moving more deliberately, as if there wasn’t any hurry to see something new. When you look old, you feel old – at least insofar as your movements on stage are concerned.
How to memorize lines.
A cast is its own creative network, with a depth and variety of experience. I spent a lot of time backstage listening to the cast tell stories from other productions. Some of them were hobbyists, some professionals, but no two careers were the same and all were fun to hear about. So it was no surprise that when I asked the cast for a way to memorize lines, I got four: block the page, create a cue script, get a partner, or make a partner by recording the other lines. Students, actors, and orators of all kinds can use these techniques to learn lines faster and more efficiently.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
The most important thing I learned is that having a minor role doesn’t mean that the show isn’t worth doing. First, there’s a lot of acting to be done between lines – in fact, it can be argued that an actor’s worth is measured by how much energy he can add to a scene when there’s no lines to use. Second, every show has minor characters – statistically speaking, you can’t always be the leading man. Thirdly, you wouldn’t want to be; there’s an old adage that says if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. In other words, you can’t learn anything if you’re surrounded by people who know less than you. Take the opportunity to learn from the actor or actors who earned a larger role; you’ll be glad you did.
Maybe not frequently, but consistently.
Having such a great experience with “The Mousetrap” reaffirmed my goal to do at least one show a year. Generally speaking, the commitment required is most evenings for about six weeks. It’s a lot of time, but the benefits are worth it.
What was the last show you were in? Tell us what community theatre means to you in the comments below.
Photo credits to Scott Huck. Check out his website, or tweet this article to him @scotthuckphoto.
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