Sunday, June 27, 2010

Comments On A Mind Set.

In the Spring of this year I was invited by Theatre Vault website to submit an article listing areas and directions where Community Theatre (in a general sense) could stand improvement.

I responded, pointing out my favorite picky details that have slightly dented a 55-year love affair with good and great theatrical experiences.

Apparently my article was acceptable to the regular readers of Theatre Vault. (Nobody was breathing heavily at my front door.) And, a few weeks ago, the Editor of the TV website invited me to submit another article along the same lines.

This time I hesitated. For one thing, I felt I had adequately covered the subject the first time around. There’s a fine line between constructive criticism and theatre bashing, and I’ve been on the receiving end of spurious attack enough times to not wish to inflict that on anybody else.

But I changed my mind. In response to a recent less than glowing review of mine, a reader pointedly reminded me that I was “reviewing a community theatre production, and not Broadway’s latest and greatest.”

I found this comment to be demeaning, not only to the theatre group he supports, but also to the community of non-professional theatres as a whole.

And I’ve heard it before. “It’s just community theatre.” To imply that one standard should or does exist for professional theatre and a lower one exists for community theatre is to suggest that the many incredibly gifted performers in community theatre are not good enough to stand equal to their paid brothers and sisters.

In fact, almost the opposite is true. There are over 40 theatrical organizations in this city, all fighting for the same dollars and patrons. No group is going to survive without constantly challenging the others to improve. Furthermore, many years ago the area went off the “A” list for professional touring companies, simply because they knew they couldn’t compete with both the quality and quantity of local presentations. Only in the areas of elaborately staged large musicals will you see much in the way of professional theatre here, and even these groups don’t always make a profit.

The bottom line is simply this; there’s only one standard. As an audience member, if you like a show, it’s good. If you don’t, it isn’t. It’s as simple as that. Your judgment should be based solely on taste and experience, without qualifications. If you are working on a show, and have the mind set that it’s “just community theatre,” the show is dead already. Make it the best it can possibly be, and settle for nothing less. Invite – even dare – comparisons to anybody. A positive, rather than defensive, attitude is everything.


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