Curtain Call reflects on a decade of changes in community theater
Only during the holidays and seasonal changes are there breaks in what our area theaters offer us; so it’s very rare indeed when the theaters are dark. Next week, Connecticut theaters will open their doors with gusto and start offering dramas, comedies, musicals and worlds of wonder that will not only entertain, but enlighten us. We are so fortunate to have so many community theaters in our area because they are really connected to us. They work, play and share their talents with us.
Since this is not only that time of year when I like to look back at all the theater I’ve covered for the year, but since it’s the beginning of a whole new decade, I’m thinking of all the changes I’ve witnessed in local theater — especially community theater. I realize that this has been an amazing decade.
For starters, I have given rave reviews to our local community theaters more often than ever before. This could be because we’re so close to New York and many community thespians head to the city and are so influenced and/or impressed by professional theater that they bring that sense of professionalism home with them.
Many local directors and actors have had theater experiences in their college years and/or have studied with famous acting schools. There’s no question about it; the talent in community theater has grown tenfold. The amateur is more than ever defined as “for the love of” and it shows.
What I have become acutely aware of is the uniqueness of community theater. It is polished, but not so much that it makes it less human, less relatable. Our professionals are so spit perfect that they become dangerously close to being distant from their audience. Always, theater must connect to the audience or all is lost. Community theaters connect on stage and off. There is something special and touching about a community theater production that features local actors that we all should be proud of.
While the performances keep getting better and better, so too the productions. Some of this has to do with the way community theaters have embraced technology. The sets feature better sound, video projections, laser lights and so much more. The costumes are more professional looking and in some part due to clever experienced costumers and/or the generosity of area theaters to share costumes and props. There’s a real sense of “working together” within the greater theater community.
Happily, more and more directors are stepping out from their usual venues and venturing into other theaters enhancing the theater experience for them as well as other theater audiences. Local community theater actors are also moving from theater to theater experiencing new stages, and new audiences.
Overall, in the past 10 years, community theaters have been recognized by their local residents and beyond as top rate affordable theaters. So though they are home grown, they are far reaching. Audience members look at the stage and recognize their neighbors, their employees, their family members and are appropriately in awe. It was a very fine decade and hopefully will continue to thrive.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.