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Community Theatre: How to Get Involved and Reap the Rewards

Updated on July 29, 2013
Live Theatre: Unlimited Possibilites
Live Theatre: Unlimited Possibilites | Source

Is Community Theatre for you?

Community theatre can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. However, many people will shy away from community theatre because of their "fear" of performing in front of live audiences. Well, I won't lie to you, for most (including myself) it can be a nail biting experience at times.

But wait... there is GOOD news! Community theatre has so much more to offer than just acting.

One thing you must always remember is that when a show is produced, there are many facets of putting a show together and without each of those required areas, the show will not be a success.

Think about it. The actors can't act... if the curtain doesn't open! Who is going to open that curtain? It could be you! See how important you just became?

Let's Start at the Very Beginning....

I have been involved in "Live Theatre" nearly all my life. Being a member of the drama and music department in High School gave me wonderful opportunities both on stage and backstage. After High School, I continued to dip my time and talents into community theatre whenever possible. That is where I began to really appreciate the art of live theatre and knew in my heart and soul that someday I would be directing my own shows.

Maria I was not...Yay for the costume girl!

The first production I auditioned for right out of High School was for the role of "Maria" in Westside Story. Here I was, ready and determined to win the director over with my singing, my dancing and my............ spanish? Well, two out of three ain't bad! Needless to say I didn't get the part I auditioned for, however, I was cast as one of the Jets chicks! As I sat in the audience listening to the other girls audition their hearts out, my focus turned to the two women who were going through dresses to costume the "Shark's" girls and the "Jet's" chicks with. I was completely involved in their conversation of how each girl would look and what jewelry they would wear, etc. I wanted to be a part of that so much. So, I got up and walked over to the two women and asked if I could help with the costumes. They were so happy to have the extra help and glady accepted my offer. From that moment on, I watched, listened, and learned everything I could regarding costuming.

Dinner and 1 Acts~ "Life After Elvis" & "When God Comes to Breakfast You Don't Burn the Toast"
Dinner and 1 Acts~ "Life After Elvis" & "When God Comes to Breakfast You Don't Burn the Toast" | Source
"He Olelo Ho'ohiki I Malama 'Ia" - "A Promised Kept" Kauai Pageant
"He Olelo Ho'ohiki I Malama 'Ia" - "A Promised Kept" Kauai Pageant | Source

The Concept of Backstage Theatre

The next couple of years, I learned how to design, buy, and make props for different productions. I would eventually have my own production team and assign people to take on different tasks.

The one thing I learned very quickly was that no matter how wonderful the actors on stage are, without the props, sets, costumes, lighting, and everything else that goes into making a production, there would be no show!

Every show I have been a part of allowed me to dive into areas I wanted and needed to learn. Set design/construction was introduced to me while doing "Cinderella", the importance of lighting design and being a lighting tech (which involved learning the correct colored gels to use for effects) was accomplished during "Once Upon a Mattress". Prosthetic design became a big part of my background while I was involved with the Mega-Pageant, "A Promise Kept" in Hawaii. This show would be produced for several years and thousands of visitors would end up seeing this extravaganza. I was actually a performer in this show, but every year I had certain responsibilities backstage. Sets, props manager, costume designer, and hair/makeup coordinator. I had the awesome responsibility of creating prosthetic wounds for the man who portrayed Jesus Christ and created his hair style as well as develop his make-up ensemble to resemble the picture of the Savior that was given to me. Throughout the the entire performance I would need to run back and forth from one side of the stage to the next, dressing and undressing actors, set props in their proper places, make sure "wounds" were intact, and help move set pieces as well as perform. I was loving it! The experience I gained from doing this show would lead to a job of costuming, hair and makeup for a film company that came to Kauai to shoot for a movie for IMAX and also as costume designer for an independent film shot in California.

"South Pacific"
"South Pacific" | Source

Always Growing and Moving forward

The next 10 years were primarily focused on participating in all aspects of theatre.

I firmly believed and still do, that if I wanted to be a director, a good director, I needed to learn, understand and be able to perform every aspect of putting on a production.
With every show, there would be different challenges and areas that required special training.
Lighting would be one of those areas I actually fell in love with. I love lights and the effects that you can create just by changing an angle or a gel. I would actually use a lot of my theatre lighting technique when I would stage a showroom in my home decor store store.

Set design and construction was always a little more involved for me. I absolutely love coming up with a concept for a show, designing that concept, then making it work for the show. It is an amazing feeling of accomplishment whenever a vision I have is put into place comes to fruition.

"Nunsense"
"Nunsense" | Source

Prop Mistress and her Props

Props were always a fun area for me. When producing community theatre productions, your budget is next to nil and you have to come up with clever ways to prop a show.

Buying, creating, making, and "begging" are the most common ways to prop a show.

My first step is to make a list of props needed and then pass out copies to every single person involved in the show. You'd be surprised what people have hiding in their basements or attics! I remember proping an entire show that required 153 props and never had to buy a single item. The cool thing about getting props from your fellow thespians and crew is that they usually end up donating the item to the theatre and then you have a prop for future productions. It's a great way to build your own props department.

What props I didn't receive by asking, I then would hit the thrift stores. They're cheap, reusable and it helps the "Thrift Store Organization." When I directed South Pacific in 2006, I bought a lot of props from the thrift store in town. I also needed a lot of vintage looking items due to the fact that South Pacific was based around the WWII era. I hit the jackpot when I was looking for authentic costuming for the show. Not only did I find WWII Army and Navy clothing, but I found surplus ammo boxes, a real parachute, gasoline tanks and so much more!

Casey Abrams paying bass for Nunsense 2008 ~ American Idol Season 10 Contestant
Casey Abrams paying bass for Nunsense 2008 ~ American Idol Season 10 Contestant | Source

The Rewards

Throughout the years of directing, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many talented people.
Community theatre has opened doors for several members of my cast and crew. I have had well known celebrities come to see my shows as well as film directors who have offered roles to various members of my cast and lighting techs. Do you recognize the young man playing the guitar for my Nunsense Show. Look hard.. It's a young Casey Abrams (American Idol Season 10 Contestant)

It's a Wrap

No matter what show I have acted in, produced, or directed, I would always have a hand in all the facets of the production. This allows me to pass on any experience I may have learned throughout the years to those who work a show for me. I have come to know some of the most talented set designers, lighting techs, costumers, and props managers in the business. I could never pull off a show without the talent that goes on behind the stage. If you are part of your theatre class at school, community theatre or professional theatre, I encourage you to look, watch, listen and learn all you can. Find the flavor in each area and enjoy being a part of the magic that is made.

Elizabeth Rayen
Elizabeth Rayen | Source

About the Author

Lisa has directed and acted in musical theatre for nearly 30 years. Her musical upbringing allowed her to pursue her career in teaching and directing and continues to direct shows today. As the owner of 2 online Home Décor sites, Lisa’s passion for Rustic Living all begins with her love for the home, outdoors, and her many hobbies. Lisa loves to laugh, and she share’s that love through her comedic hubs centered on her MOM. Lisa’s passions include writing, directing, acting, photography, singing, cooking, crafts, gardening, and home improvement, including decorating. Lisa also writes under her penned name, Elizabeth Rayen.

If you have a passion for writing and would like to earn money by writing for Hub Pages, Join today ~ It's Fast, Easy, & FREE!

Copyright © Elizabeth Rayen aka Rustic Living, all rights reserved. You are not allowed to copy or use the contents of this page without permission from its author.

Some of My Experiences as a Stagehand, Actress, Director... It's All Good!

Musical
Role
Crew
Westside Story
Jet’s Girl (singer/dancer)
Costumer
Cinderella
Director
Set Design/Construction
Once Upon a Mattress
Lady Larkin
Lighting Tech
Hello Dolly
Dolly Levi
Props
Camelot
Guinevere
Costumer
Wizard of Oz (2x)
Director
Costumer, Set Design, Props, Lighting Design, Music, Choreography
Forever Plaid (2x)
Director
Set Design, Lighting Design, Props, Costumes, Music, Choreography
A Promise Kept
Assistant Director/Ensemble
Make-up/Hair, Props, Set Construction, Costumer
COLE
Assistant Director/Ensemble
Costumes, Hair/Makeup, Props, Choreography
Nunsense
Director
Costumer/Set Design/construction, Makeup, Props, Music, Choreography
Meshuggah Nuns
Director
Costumer/Set Design/construction, Makeup, Props, Music, Choreography
Beauty and the Beast
Mrs. Potts
Props, Hair/Makeup
Annie
Director
Music, Costumes, Set Design, Costumes, Props, Lighting, Sound, Choreography, Hair/Makeup
Das BBQ
Fricka/Erdewalla
Music, Choreography, Set Design, Props, Costumes, Hair/Makeup
Copacabana
Musical Director
Costumes, Set Design/construction, Makeup

Have you ever had the

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Comments: Community Theatre: How to Get Involved and Reap the Rewards

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    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Mary (tillsontitan)! What a sweet thing to say. I love community theatre. My mother always reminds me how much of a ham I am! (It's her fault though!) *L*

      What a wonderful thing for you grandson to be involved. Since it is his second, I am safe to assume that he has been bitten by the theatre bug! Thanks for sharing your comment and votes. ♥

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      This is so great...you are so great. I can't imagine how wonderful it must have been being involved with all that talent and doing something for the community.

      One of my grandsons just finished his second community theater play. It was fabulous. The talent we don't know about is truly amazing. Thanks for sharing this delightful experience.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you chef-de-jour! You are right.. there IS nothing like opening night! The best strategy I have always had in directing is to team yourself with the best. Don't try to take the whole thing on yourself.. So many talented people who have so much to offer. I have a vision of how my productions should go, but the visions of others not only add to mine, but alleviate me trying to be right all the time! LOL

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      OOOthanks for this..I respect your versatility, hard work and talents. You must also have great nerve because to direct a show or a play you have to deal with so many diverse elements - from the actors/performers to the stage curtains! And everything in between. But there's nothing quite like that buzz of first night - the energy is just pulsating.Nerves,tension,excitement,anticipation...all ready to burst. Have you strategies for keeping it all together?

      Wondrous effort.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Suelynn! It's always wonderful to meet someone else who has done so much in the arts. So many experiences to share with one another. I'm sure without a doubt that you have many amazing experiences to share. Thank you for the votes. Lisa:)

    • Suelynn profile image

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Rusticliving, love this article. I grew up being involved in all the arts: dancing, singing, music, art, drama... and was in a number of school productions and many Eisteddfods (part of the Commonwealth!) I had never really thought about the directing side of things and love the insights you share. Needless to say, I love the theatre and the arts! Voted up, interesting and useful. Lovely to meet you. :)

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      I'm glad you had some experience with theatre in High School. That is always the best place to get your feet wet (in my opinion). I haven't done any community with any Hemet groups. I usually do the Idyllwild Summer Musical. I'm taking a break this year, but will resume productions next year. :)

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I was in the high school musicals at my school... I never did the acting but I was in the choir one year and a dancer the other two years... my only regret was my freshman year I choose softball over the musical. Softball was a waste of time cause I am horribly uncoordinated so I didn't get to play much... however, in theatre - you have memories that last for a lifetime. I have books upon books of pictures from my high school dramas.

      So, are you involved in that community theatre (I think it is a community theatre) on Florida here?

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Vinaya! It pleases me to hear about another theatre lover! I'm happy you are able to grab the opportunities to be apart of it! Thank you so much for your comment! :)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      I'm a theater lover, I don't miss any opportunity to watch plays being performed in Kathmandu. I have seen rehearsals, the green room and what goes backstage.

      I enjoyed reading your perspective and experience.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much. I too feel that kinship! Keep that hope alive and answer it. I can just imagine how wonderful you were (are) If you were near me, I'd cast you! :)

      Thanks for your support. It means a great deal! You're awesome! :)

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 5 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      No wonder why we get along! I was a Thespian in High School but when I went to college, it was my major nor my minor. lolo! I have always hoped that one day I would get back into theater but I have not ever had the opportunity to do it.

      You have certainly been in or got involved with all of your shows. My hat goes off to you! Voted up and shared! :)

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Oh I am so glad it brought back wonderful memories for you. Like yourself, I tried to be in every possible production and soaked up as much info as I could. What was your favorite area working backstage?

      Thank you for the vote and support Marcy! :)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      This brought back wonderful memories of my passion for stage productions in high school. I was in every possible play, musical and other event we had, and I loved every minute of it. I also helped backstage (and it's a wonderful, fun environment), with make-up and other things.

      This was a fun hub, and I'm very, very impressed with your resume of experience! Voted up and awesome.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you marellen! I think every show, no matter how big or small or where it's produced brings a wealt of information and a bundle of memories. I am happy that your experiences with theatre were fun for you. I applaud you for working as a stagehand. They are the hardest workers of any show! I can testify to that! :)

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      WOW... you are are cute! Thank you so much. It's true, I have loved my life in the theatre. I still direct from time to time (about 1 musical per year now) The wealth of imformation comes from knowing so many wonderful & talented people when you work shows. WHere dance isn't my forte, I do love to choreograph my shows. I can just imagine how badly you miss it! I know I would! Thanks for the votes and share my little Olive!

    • profile image

      marellen 5 years ago

      I was involved for a short time as a stage hand for several productions of a Broadway show held once a year in my hometown. Its amazing what is needed to pull a show off. It was great and a fun experience and one I will never forget. You, on the other hand have some memorable shows that you were involved in. Wow!!!!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      I want Playbills and autographs! This is so cool! You have led a very interesting career. I am so happy that you wrote this and shared this with us. I spotted this question on the thread and I just knew I had to send it to you. The theater life can be a bit stressful at times, but it is so much fun. Hanging around all the talent and impromptu moments of song and dance are what I miss the most from my university days. I bet you are a lot of fun and I KNOW you are wealth of information. Thanks again for sharing with us.

      Voted up, across and shared

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so very much Audra! :)

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      Impressive hub and resume'...very cool! Voted up!!!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Pannonica! I appreciate your comment so much! I am so happy you enjoyed it. Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Pannonica profile image

      Pannonica 5 years ago

      This is a really interesting hub, what a life you have led and your writing skills brought all of your experiences to life. Knowing the productions I felt I could see you there. Very impressed thank you, voted up.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for your amazing comment! I was led to your question by missolive who knew of my background. I was very excited to see that you had asked the question as I was preparing this hub for some time now and it opened my door to finish it! I can just imagine what an awesome teacher you are with your students. Have a blessed day!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Awesome is what came to my mind first, so I hit that button along with interesting, funny, useful, and UP. What a delightful hub, Rusticiving. Thanks for sharing your experience of the theatre in this hub. I wrote the question and am happy that you 'designed' this colorful and informational hub.

      I loved working the theatre when I was in school and later as a dance studio owner. Recital time was a blast-clearly a creative project for all involved. Thanks for the memories. :)

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      I am! I have loved theatre all my life! Playing with lights is addicting for me.. I love to see all the purdy colors! They make the coolest "gizmos" today. It's a lighting techs "Disneyland!" lol Thank you so much for the sweet compliment RHW! :-)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      How cool is that?!?! Wow - I bet you were so glad you ran over and asked those girls if you could help with the costumes! That is really cool - I think the lighting tricks were interesting too - I didn't know they had gels and stuff that could aid you in that!

      Way up and everything....I loved it all! You have a really admirable resume!