I’ve been a performer for as long as I remember. As a nine year old I was producing and creating performances, roping my brothers and school friends into them regardless of whether they were willing or not. The Flying Ding Bat Circus opened in our back yard with death defying feats including jumping off logs and walking handstands. Not much flying went on but I’m sure my brothers would have jumped from the garage roof if I’d put it in the programme.
I can remember producing re-creations of the television show ‘Bewitched’ for my year 4 class at school [the script was pretty much an adlib based on that weeks episode]. My favourite production though was a dance performance piece that a friend choreographed for a cast of 2 girls and 2 boys [one of whom has become a well known Australian political journalist who probably cringes at the memory]. Every lunch hour for weeks I demanded perfection until finally we performed it for our class, enjoying great critical success. As Producer, I went into discussions with the school principal and successfully negotiated a performance date to present the dance on school assembly.
The gig was cancelled at the last moment, I suspect because my journalist friend’s father complained. The kid soon left the school and we never heard from him again. Good grief, I haven’t thought about that in years. My children would have a field day with this.
I loved performing. I loved the attention and the ability to make people laugh or be inspired to applaud. I wanted to create theatre for people. That little girl makes me laugh just thinking about her.
At a recent rehearsal, I was reminded of the sacrifices we all make to be able to do the things we love, in this case community theatre. A wonderful man, whom I have worked with many times, was chatting about the set he was building the day before. He was also in the show and was one of those people who would always be there to load and unload trucks, bump in or out of the theatre, giving countless hours of his time without fuss. Hours that were costly.
Spending those hours building sets had cost him significant overtime he had declined at work. I had to be picked up off the floor when he told me how much that overtime was worth but he just smiled humbly and went back to his rehearsal. Lovely, wonderful, beautiful man.
There are many stories like this one in our theatres. People who make sacrifices in their jobs and personal lives to bring the show to the stage. This is the true cost of community theatre.
Community theatre exists for these people and yes, they make these choices to sacrifice, but for goodness sake don’t be the ass that treats them like staff. Celebrate your people – all of them. Those quiet ones who are making props, painting sets, sewing a trim on a costume, styling a wig, cleaning up the kitchen and closing up the rehearsal space, and so many, many more whose only recognition is their name in the programme.
I’m not naturally a tactile person. In fact, I have a personal space of about 20 metres. Over time my friends have trained me to accept and give hugs [much to their amusement] so understand the significance when I say I want to hug you all. It blows me away that you will sacrifice so much to be involved in your community theatre. Thank you.
Thank you, Musical Director who spends hours of personal time creating rehearsal tracks for cast members.
Thank you, actor who works full time, spends 10 hours at rehearsals and all your free time in a hot, sweaty workshop building a set, or the actor who travels 50 minutes just to attend a 30 minute costume call or the one who sits through a 90 minute trip on public transport at ten o’clock at night to attend rehearsals.
Thank you, quiet lady who sews miles and miles of fabric creating beautiful costumes that will bring our show to life.
Thank you, props maker who spends hours on a prop that will be seen for 30 seconds on stage.
Thank you, mothers with little children for the time you spend at rehearsals or behind the scenes. I know the conflict this can sometimes create within you when deadlines must be met.
Thank you, generous professional people for donating your skills and time so that we can enjoy excellence within our limited budget.
So the next time you want to complain about anything, pull your head in, reconsider your approach and decide whether a] it’s really important in the scheme of things and b] there is a way to deal with your problem that allows everyone to keep their dignity. I’m not that 9 year old anymore, performing in my backyard. I want to learn to better appreciate you all, totally aware that I will never know the fullness of your sacrifice to be part of the show.