My family and I recently enjoyed a fantastic trip to Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Certainly, we visited many iconic historical sites, the Colosseum, Pompeii, Knossos, Ephesus, Hagia Sophia, and the Acropolis to name a few. But, one lesser known site was of particular interest to me. On the slopes of the Acropolis, the first plays were performed in the Theater of Dionysus at the beginning of the 5th century BC. So popular were they that theater quickly spread over all of Greece.
It would be easy to assume that over 2500 years later in an age of instant access to digital…everything both the appeal and relevance of live theater would be waning. I, for one, believe that nothing could be further from the truth. Live performances are more relevant BECAUSE we now live in a digital world. Whether it is a large, professional theater in a major metropolitan center or a community theater in a small-town theater highlights one thing that cannot be truly enjoyed on a screen: community.
Community theatre positively impacts neighborhoods across the United States, unlike any other arts and culture genre. It requires the creativity of dedicated volunteers – ushers, actors, costume designers, set builders, directors – to produce high-quality live shows that not only entertain, but leave a lasting impression, provoke thought, and promote growth.
Community theater promotes self-improvement. Much knowledge stems from theater performances. Self-knowledge is instilled in both the performer and the audience, as both have the opportunity to look inward. We may see our surroundings with new eyes and understand how we affect those around us. Actors grow as performers, becoming more competent both as performers and as people.
Community theater reminds us that body language is still of the utmost importance in communication. Such expression allows us to explore the language and the emotions that make it effective. Community theatre provides a platform on which actors can express themselves by bringing the words on the page to life with their movements, actions, and tone.
Community theater creates new connections. For performers and collaborators, the cast and crew is a group of people who become your family for a few months. They’re all there to support, encourage, and help each other on the way to a common goal. During the weeks leading up to the first performance, they probably see each other more than their actual family. From the moment the curtain is raised on opening night until the minute it falls for the final time, they all become a part of an experience that will be shared and remembered by all for years to come and will never be duplicated.
Community theater is important for the growth of youth. They need a place where they can explore the creative aspects of their minds, and where they can express themselves without fear of rejection. The community theater can bring together inexperienced youth and seasoned veterans alike for a common goal: to put on a great production. It can teach everyone about working with one another and bettering themselves as individuals and as a whole. The youth can also benefit from spending time with positive role models who share in common at least one interest. The Veterans may even mentor them in other areas as well. Even the audience can benefit from such an effort, not only in the form of a performance, but they will get to experience a diverse group of people working together as one.
Finally, community theater can instill an immense sense of civic pride. Broadway would not be pursuing the renovation of the former school building on Main Street if it was not proud to support the Off Broadway Players. The board of directors and many others would not give so much of their time if we were not proud of our theater. You would not spend your hard-earned money on a ticket if you were not proud of your fellow community member’s efforts. Supporting local performers is a way to show community pride.
Live theater is an ancient art form that is constantly undergoing reinvention. The relevance of live theater in a digital world? The answer is simple: community.
If you would like more information about Off Broadway Players or would like to connect with us please visit our website: offbroadwayplayersva.org