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American Association of Community Theatre--Improving Communities One Theatre at a Time


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 words to the wise

the impact of community theatre

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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.


Below are the words of some of those whose lives have been touched by their involvement in community theatre.

Kalamazoo Civic Theatre production of "Henry IV, Part 2"

Community Theatre has provided me with a strong, happy, supportive family for many years. It not only strengthens the cultural environment of even the smallest community and provides an emotional outlet for those participating and observing, but it is a haven for those who don't find acceptance of their differences and talents anywhere else. I wouldn't trade for the opportunities it has provided me to observe and communicate and love such a broad spectrum of individual and unique personalities and situations.
- Kay Armstrong, Dallas, TX

As Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
- Dennis Gilmore, Athens, TX

Community theatre is an extremely rewarding activity. Working with people of all levels of experience, background and commitment creates new challenges on a daily basis. Their energy, excitement and passion keeps me working each and every day, and every hardship is made easier knowing that we're all working toward the same goal - "another opening, another show"!
- Tim Jebsen, Midland, TX

I am immensely grateful for what community theatre has brought to my life; the marvelous friends I have found, the joy of working with those friends and feeling the audience respond. The satisfaction of seeing mature talents at their peak and the excitement of seeing young talents develop. 
- Bennett Wood, Memphis, TN

What an honor it is to have spent my life among talented, intelligent, creative and interesting "theatre people." For me it is a place for life-long learning, discovery and for giving back. To borrow a thought...Theatre improves lives one person at a time.
- Ginger Heath, Charlotte, NC

After a layoff from theater of about 14 years, I discovered I was missing an Identity even with my own family. I got it back at my local community theatre and also noticed that I liked acting. It gave me some escape from the necessary pressures and cares of teaching. The theater also had projects and problems to solve that were necessary to keep the place alive. There was a certain satisfaction that came in helping with those. It was a place to socialize. After retiring from teaching and we being faced with large remodeling projects, I really was doing it for the exercise. It beats other ways to keep active. But mainly I am in it just for the love of live theater.
- Wayne Pressnall, North Platte, NE

For almost 50 years I have experienced some of the most happy and rewarding times in my life volunteering at Venice Little Theatre. It has been my privilege to work with and learn from the many talented people who have walked through our doors. I thank God for this experience and look forward to a few more years.
- Geri Becker, Venice, FL

Community theatre is unique in that it benefits the viewer and the doer, and promotes teamwork through an exceptional mix of diverse talents and skills. It is a richly rewarding pursuit that can be enjoyed through our lives.
- Jim Sohre, Army Europe Command Entertainment

It has been an amazing journey for me and the stellar staff at Theatre Memphis to have joined forces over the past few years and to achieve what some thought to be unachievable. Faced with an aging building, difficult economic times and stiff artistic competition, we have been able to expand our reach into the community by producing a top quality product and engaging our volunteers to new levels of involvement. We can boast a professional level of artistic excellence in everything we do and still be an outlet to our foundation - the volunteers - who give so graciously of their time on and off stage. By focusing on a long-range plan and generating an active board of directors, we continue to accomplish many goals…day by day. I give thanks everyday for the opportunity to lead such an historic and vital asset of the arts community in Memphis, the MidSouth and America.
- Debbie Litch, Theatre Memphis, Memphis, TN

I have loved my involvement with community theatre. It is a passion and I can't imagine why everyone in the world is not here. It builds self esteem in both youth and adults, teaches discipline and respect and the fun you have and the people you meet are like no other experience in life. It truly is a life-changing experience. As we say, "There are no strangers in community theatre, only people you have not met yet."
- Ginny Morrison, Seville, OH

Community Theatre has the power to reach huge audiences and leave a great impression and impact on the communities they collaborate with. In this day in age, we all need to collaborate to ensure artistic strength and growth, and working with others in our community will allow all of us to succeed. Good Art Begets Good Art, so we forge relationships and strengthen programming to ensure that tomorrow and far into the future the arts are not only present but an active and vibrant part of each community.
- Scott M. Brusven, Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre, Fargo, ND

The beauty of community theatre is that it is the people's theatre. It is your friends and neighbors sharing a passion. If you find yourself new to an area, volunteer for the local community theatre. You'll meet the best people in town.
- Ruth Legg, Geneva, NY

Theatre has been the passion and joy of my life. To be able to study history, psychology, humanity and entertainment all at the same time through theatre is a true blessing. Serving as President of AACT opened all of these wonderful and exciting experiences of travel and meeting some of the most wonderful people whom I have ever known. I will always be appreciative for the wonderful life that I have lived based on theatre. 
- Ross Rowland, Muncie, IN

I believe that community theatre is America's theatre. For a variety of reasons, community theatre thrives in this nation like nowhere else in the world. Seeing the positive impact that it can have on youth, seniors, area businesses, and a community's identity is a humbling but energizing experience. Our ongoing challenge is to continue to raise the bar on our work - constantly make it better - while continuing to have that positive impact that theatre education and participation bring.
- Murray Chase, Venice [FL] Theatre

Community theatre offers a gateway to new worlds of experience, emotion and knowledge. It has been such a joy to explore those worlds with colleagues and friends, volunteers and audiences in my own city and across the country.
- Mary Doveton, Lawrence [KS] Community Theatre

The theatre has opened my eyes and shown me the life of others in a way I could never have hoped to see by simply sharing a conversation with them. I have seen inside the souls of people whose passion for the stage is as deep as mine and whose gifts are deeper. Each time I become part of a production, I am thankful that I have the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the heart to feel what is in front of me.
- Annette Procunier, Theatre Thoughts, Ltd., Ontario, Canada

Community theatre as an avocation has given me incredible opportunities to play roles and given me learning opportunities that I could not have imagined. I learned how to operate a power screw driver because I watched a five-year-old boy helping to strike a set one day and thought, I can do that! Community theatre has helped me to grow in a safe place, where everybody wants me to succeed.
-  Carole Ries, Topeka [KS] Civic Theatre & Academy

During my career, I've had the privilege to work with tens of thousands of theatrical organizations: I'm most proud of my affiliation with community theatres. By promoting unity, creating an accepting environment for debate, self-expression and interactivity, community theatre is the centerpiece to the fabric of our society; an unmatched component to the very health of our neighborhoods, towns and cities.
- Steve Spiegel, Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW)

Community theatre is that wonderful network of friends we can laugh with, cry with, argue with, party with, and yet come together to provide wonderful entertainment for our communities. Because of community theatre I have an extended family around the world who share the same love and excitement of the performance
- Frank Peot, Sun Prairie, WI

It is a great joy to me to provide community members the chance to dare and scare themselves; to find and share their talents; to spread their wings and their horizons; and, often, find a home.
- Dane Winters, Roadside Theater, US Army Entertainment, Heidelberg, Germany

The vitality and creativity within the Army Community Theatre Program is extraordinary. Our diverse and dedicated group of theatre volunteers boosts the morale of our military communities year round.
- Bonnie Daniels, U.S. Army Community Theatre Program

Community theatre has the special power to bring us together, to help our towns become communities. I have always been grateful for the opportunity to participate in our community theatre's desire--and efforts--to meet these goals.
- Robert G. Anderson, Starkville [MS] Community Theatre

As a shy young child I did not feel a part of my group of peers. When I joined community theatre, I suddenly became a part of a group of people who accepted me and used my talents. I was able to grow and find my own way in the world. I am sensitive to this need in young people coming along, as well as talented adults. An active community theatre should be a part of any community which hopes to grow and prosper--in business as well as culture.
- John Kollock, Habersham [GA] Community Theatre

Community theater offers the best of every world. There are the creative aspects, the artistic aspects, the business aspects, the social and social services aspects, just a myriad of outlets for every soul who chooses to pursue this activity. It's been fun, challenging, frustrating, interesting, rewarding!
- Rae Cohen, Newport Theatre Arts Center, Newport Beach, CA

Community theatre enriched my life by providing me opportunities to work with a diverse group of creative people who share a vision of putting on quality plays that not only
entertain the audience but also broaden their understanding of the world in which we live.
- Max Polley, Davidson (NC) Community Players

Community theatre has enriched my life enormously. I have had wonderful opportunities to learn and grow through the many roles that I have been fortunate enough to play, and the many fine actors with whom I've been privileged to share the stage. I am always happiest when I am either rehearsing or performing.
- Jo Pruden, Honolulu, HI

From my first involvement in community theatre, I have been awestruck by the power of our endeavor to transform lives. Literally, all who participate, from the backstage crew to the chorus, to the ticket taker, to the leading performer come away from the experience with fond memories that will last a lifetime. I often hear someone say, 'It ain’t brain surgery, it’s just community theatre' to people who are perhaps taking their involvement in community theatre too seriously, trying too hard to make it 'just right.' I generally react by saying, 'You’re right, but it’s as close as we’re going to get, and probably just as important.'
- John Viars, Executive Director, Des Moines Playhouse/Kate Goldman Theatre, Des Moines, IA

The thousands of community theatres through out the country can be a tremendous force for good. An excellent play, comedy or drama, can cause us to pay more attention to how we treat our fellow man - how we act and think. This can result in uncovering wrongs and correcting them and result in much progress for all mankind.
- Pat White, Amherst, MA

I have worked in community theatre, and the so-called 'non-professionals' are anything but. The work there is so real and so good that I was stimulated to do more.
- Patty Duke, Actress

My community theatre journey has been a continuing gift of knowledge, creativity, growth, affirmation, friendship, and love. I have had the pleasure of being taught, mentored and challenged by those who expected nothing less than the best that I had to offer at that moment. Through them I learned that the joy comes not only in the applause, but also in the reaching, risking and growing.
-  Shirley Cockrell, Oneida, NY

Each time I give my time and energy to a community theatre, I get back more friends, more memories, more fun experiences. As far as I can tell, I will never be able to repay all that I owe. As I try, my debt will just keep growing and growing. But then, I’ve always been lucky.
- Thomas G. Cowley, Ponca City, OK

The most important aspect of over 60 years in community theatre has been the gift of friendship. I am so grateful to have the memories of a lifetime of joy and laughter with my theatre friends.
- Charlotte Hall, Fort Thomas, KY

A friend who used to move a lot told me that every time he moved, he would find a community theatre in which to participate. He knew it was a place he would always feel welcome. It was also a comfortable atmosphere, with the diverse personalities and backgrounds; a person could always find someone with whom to relate. This has been true for me as well--in Michigan, the United States, around the world.
- Shirley Harbin, Detroit. MI

Community theatre has provided me with special opportunities to meet wonderful people, to learn many new, exciting things, to share ideas, and to provide a very special means of expressing creativity. Theatre has always been a part of my life whether in my classroom teaching or in the theater itself. I have worked, slaved, and participated, as community theatre people do, with love and affection. I look forward to many more years of hard work, fun, excitement, and satisfaction through my involvement in theatre, especially community theatre.
- Frank Peot, Sun Prairie, WI

Community theatre is like one big family outside your own. You gain longtime friendships and develop mental calisthenics, not to keep you from growing old, but to grow older gracefully.
- Paul Sturner, Tonawanda, NY

Community theatres provide tremendous opportunities, following formal or informal training in K-12 schools and colleges, by bridging those experiences to a lifetime of continuous support as an audience member, understanding donor and advocate, active participant, or professional employee.
- Harv Thompson, University of Wisconsin, Madison (retired)

I started out with an intense desire for a theatrical career. Thanks to community theatre I have, indeed, had a long, happy and very successful career in theatre. I’ve acted, produced, swept floors, cleaned johns, run lights, sold tickets, served on the board, gathered props, designed sets. I played roles I would not have been able to touch on Broadway. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
-  Isabella Ward, Dover, DE

There are many things I love about community theatre, but mostly it’s working with people from all areas of the community. My favorite experience was when, as a stage manager, I had a radiologist and an unemployed pipe fitter working backstage next to each other every night. Community theatre truly is an outlet for creative folks who don't want to do it professionally but want to be a part of it all.
- Ginny Winsor, Omaha, NE

What I love about community theatre is that it gives all of us a chance to explore and develop our particular interests and talents. I began as a performer, but over the years I moved into producing and directing, plus occasional forays into lighting design, playwriting, and management. In all cases, community theatre was my classroom, where I learned by watching, listening, and doing. It was in community theatre that I found myself truly fulfilled. I often hear people say, 'I am blessed' about something or other. When it comes to my life in community theatre, I understand exactly what they mean.

- Stephen Peithman, Founding Editor, Stage Directions Magazine

Community theater is part of the social fabric of most communities, and in small venues may be the only local live, performing arts possibility that exists. It is also the first introduction to theater for many students (or perhaps the second if performing arts exist in the school system.) Community theater is usually affordable even if other entertainment exists.
- Jon Kerkhoff, Principal, Lund Company, Omaha, NE

Community theatre builds community pride. Audiences are proud to identify talented performers as “my student,” “my teacher,” “my minister.” Attending community theater performances builds our sense of membership in our community.
- Harvey Tucker, Professor Texas A&M University

Community theatre is a team effort opportunity for people of all talents, skills and energy . It enriches the community -- financially and artistically. Theatre is a wonderful leveler of people -- background becomes a moot issue. Plumbers work with and act next to bank presidents,
children and occasionally dogs.
- JoAnne Nissen,  Retired Vice President, MRA-The Management Association, Racine, WI

Community theatre is a comprehensive program that involves the “viewer” (audience member) and the “doer” (participant). It is a program in which participants can be involved at any age, and once participants get involved, they often remain involved for their entire lives. The complexity and diversity of the skills required to produce a performance offer opportunities for anyone who has the time to give. Participation in community theatre brings with it an immediate social circle, and all the networking benefits that such group endeavors can provide.
- James Sohre, Director of U.S. Army Europe Entertainment

There was a time in my youth when I toyed with acting as a profession. If I’d tried, maybe it would have happened and maybe not. What is true, however, is that I would never have had an opportunity to play Stanley and Lennie and Big Daddy, let alone the other roles I’ve enjoyed so much. Community theatre gave me that chance and I’ll be forever grateful. For the person who wrote these words, community theatre is about building confidence, mentoring, service to his community, another way to achieve a dream. Organizations that provide these results are never at a surplus in our communities.
- Rod McCullough, Managing Director/Director of Development, Des Moines (IA) Playhouse


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