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Theater Notes: Community theater, a treasure

By Staff | Dec 24, 2014

We are so lucky. We have three really marvelous community theaters within driving distance, and one amateur group here on the island that functions, occasionally, as well.

If you’ve ever been involved in community theater, you know even more why it is a treasure. First of all, almost everyone has a day job. No one gets paid. Rehearsals are in the evening or on weekends. And everyone pitches in on everything that needs to get done.

If you’re an actor, you memorize those darn lines and show up for rehearsals and probably spend some time painting scenery, nailing together sets, hanging lights and rounding up costumes and properties. It’s all necessary, and it’s all volunteer and it certainly is all fun.

I think it makes you a “theater lover” for life.

I did a lot of it in my life. Starting with being in eight shows when I was an undergraduate at Penn State. Eventually writing sketches, directing, being in my sketches and, yes, painting scenery, pounding nails and being there when you tore down everything after the final curtain.

You gave a lot, but you got a lot, too. I continued being in plays right along down through the years. Two memorable ones were when I played the lead in Emlyn William’s “Night Must Fall.” You won’t forget the play or movie if you ever saw it. I was the evil, murdering Bell Boy, carrying around severed heads in a Hat Box. I don’t think it was typecasting, because later I had a good-boy role in Ayn Rand’s “Night of January 16th.”

Enough about me.

You missed a delightful job the Cultural Park Theater Company, a solid community theater over in Cape Coral, did with “The Fantastics.” It closed on Dec. 14. I’m sorry if you missed it, even more if you’ve never seen “The Fantastics,” which is the longest running play in New York history, being on one stage or another since May 1960.

So, make up for it, and get out to Cape Coral and catch their “Christmas Spectacular” that runs until Dec. 21. And, if you want to get involved, they are always looking for volunteers. The boxoffice number is (239) 772-5862.

One of my long-time favorite community theaters is Bill Taylor’s “Theatre Conspiracy” at the Alliance for the Arts. He takes risks and does edgy plays. His last production was a premiere for S.W. Florida, “Swell Party,” by the acclaimed Atlanta playwright Topher Payne.

It was a swell play that certainly delighted me and my party. Next is one of those whirlwind 90 minutes of frolicking, “The Bible The Complete Word of God, Abridged.” It runs Jan. 3-24. Put it on your list, for sure. The box office is (239) 936-3239.

This quote from Bill Taylor talks about community theater the way someone who has devoted his life to it sees it. “Community theater provides a niche…People can see almost all of our eight shows in the season for the price of one ticket somewhere else. It’s an affordable option for theatergoers, but also an outlet for local actors and designers who have day jobs and can’t commit to professional theater. It gives them a chance to express themselves on stage and backstage.”

Our third community theater is “The Theater Laboratory of Florida.” They won the prestigious BroadwayWorld.com “Best Community Theater Company in Southwest Florida.” And in my book they deserved it, thanks to Annette Trossbach’s outstanding leadership. She claims that her amazing volunteers contributed almost 20,000 hours during the 2013-2014 season.

Go there for plays that you won’t see too many other places, and celebrate gifted directors, actors and backstage people. Their next one is a gem of a play, John Pielmeir’s “Agnes of God,” running Jan. 9-24. I predict it will be done brilliantly, just like one of The Lab’s best productions this season that starred Ms. Trossbach in a one-woman tour de force, “My Brilliant Divorce.”

The box office is: www.LABORATORYTHEATERFLORIDA.COM. A phone number is (239) 218-0481.

So in closing, make sure you put community theater productions on your list of must-sees. You won’t have Equity Actors and it isn’t Broadway. It is theater for devoted theater lovers.

I hope you are one of them.