Located in Fort Worth, The American Association of Community Theatre (AACT) represents over 7,000 theaters and 1 million volunteers. These theaters produce over 45,000 productions each year, entertaining over 7.5 million people, and also provide educational and community outreach.
The AACT website notes that theatre is “essential to the cultural health of our communities. Community theatre enriches the lives of those who take an active part in it, as well as those in the community who benefit from live theatre productions. On either side of the footlights, those involved represent a diversity of age, culture, life experience, and a strong appreciation of the importance of the arts.”
Professional actress/singer/director Alyson Reim Friedman traces her roots to community theatre with fond memories. “It’s an awesome opportunity for young and old pre-professional experiences.” She was an outgoing, talented 8th grader when she was cast as the lead in “Annie Get Your Gun” at the Hendersonville, NC Community Theatre.
Alyson continued in school productions (obtaining a Master’s in Theatre), participated in statewide competitions, worked summer stock, apprenticed in professional theatre, and worked in regional theatre in the Dallas Theatre Center — all before moving to New York City. She has performed in off-Broadway productions, industrial films, and other regional productions.
Ms. Friedman recognizes the nurturing environment that is community theatre. “It is a warm and inclusive environment. It’s a great place for testing the acting waters or to feel a part of a cultural community. There are so many good directors who bring out good performances. If you can step outside your comfort zone you will have so many more opportunities.”
A lifelong community theatre actor/director/stage manager, Shana Aborn finds community theatre “a fun outlet for those who love the stage, but don’t want to (or can’t) pursue it as a career. It builds teamwork and camaraderie, and provides a built-in social outlet.”
“It’s helped me grow and mature as a performer. I’ve become more open and fearless. I’ve indulged my passion for the stage. I’ll never make it to Broadway, but I’ve performed before thousands of people over the years, and worked with some incredibly talented actors, directors and crew. I’ve made lifetime friendships.”
Theatre is a bonding experience that lasts long after the final curtain. Ms. Aborn should know since it’s become a family affair. She met her husband John during her first show with the Forest Hills Parkside Players. “I was the ingénue and he was the stage manager. We began dating and marred six years later.” Now their children Daniel, 14, and Sarah, 11, are involved in backstage activities and acting.
Both women believe that you perform in community theatre for the love of the art. “The word ‘amateur’ doesn’t mean ‘unskilled,’” says Ms. Aborn. “We do not do this for money or fame, but because we’re passionate about the stage and want to bring it to a wide variety of people – many of whom either can’t get to or can’t afford a Broadway show. If anything, community theatre groups have it tougher than the pros; we juggle our stage work with day jobs, families and other commitments.”
Advice for your audition and beyond
“There’s much more talent than there are roles available,” says Ms. Friedman. “It’s important to know exactly what you want to do and your cast-ability.” To make your audition the best possible, Ms. Aborn offers the following advice:
- Read the audition notice carefully and come prepared. Some require actors to prepare a short monologue, while others hold a “cold reading.” Musical actors are expected to prepare a few bars of a song and learn a short dance sequence.
- Read the script beforehand so you know which part(s) would be best for you. You’ll understand the context of the scene when you do the reading.
- Understand the character’s background and motivation. How would he/she walk or talk? What is the relationship to others? When you read, think about what motivates the character you’re portraying. Is it revenge? Fear? Love? Whatever it is, use it. Don’t be afraid to move around the stage or make bold choices.
- Be confident, and don’t psych yourself out! The production team wants you to do well – they want to like you. Conversely, leave attitude at the door. If you think you’re “too good” for a community theatre group, why try out?
- Be sure you can commit. Theatre groups rehearse on evenings and weekends. Performances can run up to four weekends. On your audition form list your conflicts – be honest! A director will try to accommodate conflicts when making the rehearsal schedule.
- Auditioning for a musical? Choose a familiar song which suits your range. Bring the sheet music. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes you can move in.
- Rest the night before. Try some stretching exercises before you go. If you’ll be singing, avoid dairy products, which can affect your vocal quality.
- Don’t be intimidated by other actors. Every actor has something unique to offer, and you may be just what the director is seeking.
If you’re offered a part, take it! The more experience you get, the better. You’ll get to know and learn from fellow actors. If you don’t get cast, it doesn’t mean your audition was bad or that the casting was rigged. Many factors go into casting a show, and directors have to make difficult choices.
Once you’re cast, be professional. Come to rehearsals on time and ready to work. Learn your lines quickly. Often, community theatre actors are asked to help with set construction, props and other backstage duties. If you can lend a hand, do so.
Now, go break a leg!
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title to learn more.
by Sonja Kuftinec
The Community Theater Actor’s Bible
by Lew Holton
Basic Community Theater
by J.T. McDaniel
The Art of Auditioning
by Rob Cecina
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