Through Lines: What is the Community in Theatre?

Whether we are discussing the ranks of the large professional theatres like the Shakespeare Theatre, or the mid-sized Regionals like Woolly Mammoth or Studio Theatre, or community theatres like the Little Theatre of Alexandria or Silver Spring Stage, what is most important about theatre has always been the community it supports and engenders.  That’s right!  Forget the actors and singers!  Forget the directors—musical, managing, and artistic!  Forget the playwrights and theatrical devisors, set and costume and lighting designers, technicians and stage managers, publicists and PR experts!  Forget them all!  It is the community of folk who gather in front of or round the stage that determines the nature and identity of that thing we call theatre.

We have an audience. You have a show. Let’s get them together!

Enter a theatre, purchase a ticket or two or three, mingle among the crowd or stand against a far wall, walk into the auditorium and sit among the audience, and suddenly you exist in association, in association with those other people sitting around you.  Suddenly, you are that theatre’s community, its identity of like-minded individuals who have come to see a show.  It does not make any difference if you like the performance that you will soon experience, or not.  Or that you might be at that production for reasons other than to see the show.  Like it or not, even if you go to a show because that’s what your boyfriend wants or that’s what your child needs, you still—at that moment—have that community’s identity.  In some small way, you are that farce, that Greek tragedy, that 1940’s musical, that one-man show, that contemporary experimental drama, or even that revival of Oh Calcutta!  And you will leave the theatre marked as such.

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About Michael

Michael Oliver has been working in the fields of theatre and education for well over thirty years at not only the secondary and university levels, but professionally, as the co-founder of The Sanctuary Theatre, Inc. Established in 1983, the theatre became well-known throughout the Washington area for its cutting-edge productions. He is now the Director of Sanctuary's The Performing Knowledge Project: where performance and education meet.
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