Community Theatre – Is it Waiting for Guffman?


Jesus Christ Superstar - First Waterworks production that really impressed

I have been in love with the theatre for as long as I can remember. The first experiences involved Christmas pantomimes every year in the UK. As a youth I was blessed to live close to the Cumbernauld Theatre which is known in the UK for excellence while still being a community effort. As well as being able to attend some great productions I participated in youth workshops and learned a lot while having a great time.

Glasgow has a rich heritage of theatre and during my student years I saw a wealth of different productions from the very avante garde to the more traditional. Some productions left me and my friends wondering what we had just seen. I remember one particular production of “Macbeth” which came complete with a rubbery, blood spurting heart but little else and left us scratching our heads. On the other hand there was the joy of seeing a lavish production of “Lady Windermere’s Fan” which introduced me to the wit of Oscar Wilde. I remember my sides being sore from laughing after watching Elaine C. Smith take on the title role in Willy Russell’s “Shirley Valentine”. When I moved to Newcastle I was privileged to see both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the 20th anniversary touring production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

Then I moved to Farmville, Virginia.

At first I thought it wouldn’t seem so far to go to Richmond or Charlottesville but we started a business and it got hard to venture too far from home. Then my friend Stephanie got involved with the local community theatre group, the Waterworks Players. Lon and I went to a few shows and were amazed to see what they could pull off with such little resources. I started by helping develop the website and taking photographs of the shows. A few years later I was asked to join the board, which I did, but having just become a Mum I couldn’t become involved with actual show production. I continued doing as much as I could while still being amazed at what they managed to do and thankful to be able to attend the productions.

Steel Magnolias was my first time Stage Managing a show

Steel Magnolias - My first stage managing gig

As Sean got older I decided to try my hand behind the scenes with some stage managing and sound. It was so much fun being involved with the shows on this level. I never believed I would ever have the guts to actually get on stage but was happy to be involved at my current level. Then 2 years ago we put on a staged reading of a show by Longwood Professor Brett Hursey. The cast still needed another female so I decide to give it a shot. I figured this would be an easy introduction since I didn’t need to learn the lines. I didn’t realize it would be so much fun and was surprised to find I didn’t get stage fright.

Community theatre does get a bad rap being mocked by most of the rest of the theatrical community. There was a really good article about this recently, “Theatre The Theatre Community Disdains” by Howard Sherman and it was great to see this article standing up for the community theatre world. What Mr. Sherman says is very true about community theatre groups and what they have to offer, but there is so much more to be gained being involved with your local community theatre group.┬áMy theatre family here in Farmville has become even more of a blessing in the past year. Along with friends and relatives, my theatre family has been there for me especially during the course of this particularly hard past year. Being involved with the shows kept me busy but I also knew I was surrounded by people who understood those moments when it was all a bit too much.

If you have any interest or curiosity I would urge you to seek out your nearest community theatre and give it a try. If you are here in Farmville or the surrounding area come join us at the Waterworks! We are always happy to have new faces. You don’t need prior experience just a willingness to dive in and learn while working alongside a great team of people.

Update 3/15/2012
Just after I posted this blog entry my step-daughter contacted me to say she was thinking about trying out for 9 to 5 at her local theatre. I encouraged her to go for it and was thrilled to hear she did audition!

Update 3/16/2012
So proud of Michelle for being cast as Doralee in 9 to 5. I knew she could do it! Now we have to plan a road-trip to Tennessee in May :)

Life is Beautiful, Living in America

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