What do you think of when someone says “Community Theatre”?
✨ A vibrant and inclusive space where talented individuals from all walks of life come together to express their passion for the arts?
✨ A place where people can feel a sense of community?
✨ A space that fosters creativity and personal growth to build strong social connections?
Community Theatre is all of the above and then some!
Community Theatre has proven throughout history to be an invaluable asset to society and traces its roots back to ancient times when performances were organised by local communities as part of religious, cultural, and social festivities. Over the centuries, theatre evolved into a professional art form, but the spirit of community involvement and participation never waned.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Community Theatre experienced a resurgence as people recognised the transformative benefits of the performing arts. Today, community theatre continues to thrive all around the world.
My roots are in theatre – I started out in the Community Theatre scene in the Manawatū as a teenager. Not only was this an EXCELLENT training ground for me as an actor, but I also gained lifelong friends, and mentors, and felt part of something really special. It allowed me to unleash the “real Meg” to the world – a slightly quirky, strange, and colourful person who never really felt like she fit into a “normal society”.
Even though I am now a professional actor, Community Theatre still holds a special place in my heart and is something I will never stop doing. Personally, I don’t think Community Theatre should be valued any less than Professional Theatre – while paid work is so important, some creatives WANT to do it for the love of it, and we should never discount that feeling of belonging to a community. In my case, theatre is both my profession AND my hobby.
The benefits of Community Theatre are ENDLESS:
- The creativity to be YOURSELF! Participating in community theatre nurtures personal growth. It helps individuals build self-confidence, develop public speaking skills, improve problem-solving abilities, and enhance their emotional intelligence.
- An incredible creative outlet. Drawing not your thing? Crafting not your vibe? Theatre may be the perfect way to fuel your creative needs.
- Cultural enrichment. Theatre has the power to transcend cultural barriers and promote understanding and empathy. Through storytelling, audiences get the chance to witness other perspectives, offering a chance to explore different cultures, historical eras, and societal issues.
- Bringing people together. Any thespian will tell you that the reason they get so addicted to being involved in theatre is the sense of belonging and camaraderie among participants. Theatre community members develop lasting friendships and in some cases, they become people’s chosen whānau.
- Education! Many theatre groups offer workshops and classes to help nurture and provide education to their community. This is also a fabulous way to ensure theatre has a future and continues to thrive.
As I said, the benefits are endless… it’s something I could yarn about all day! But don’t just take it from me – here are a few local community theatre creatives who generously gave me a few sentences about what community theatre means to them. They are all professionals who either got their start in Community Theatre or balance their time between paid work and community work.
EMMA BISHOP: Arts Practitioner, Broadcaster, Producer, Teacher
“I think there is a key word in the name, community theatre that being community! As humans, we aren’t meant to be solo, isolated people, we are social beings so being part of a community, and sharing a common passion gives us a stronger sense of person. My theatre community are my whānau – there for me through the good and the bad… we laugh, we cry, we create and celebrate!!!”
ROSHEEN LESLIE: Actor, Artist
“Community theatre is a multi-beneficial practice for an actor. It keeps your tools sharp, it allows you to play roles you otherwise would not have the opportunity to play, and it connects you to people who are just as excited by the theatre as you are. More than anything, community theatre is about the people, creative, magical, love-filled, joyous people! All coming to create and enjoy art together! What is more magical than that?”
KEITH MARR: Singer, Producer
“It all begins with community theatre. It is the lifeline of the theatre world and has been since day one. If it weren’t for community theatre, the Broadways and West Ends wouldn’t exist. It gives us creatives the outlet that we crave in our day-to-day lives and allows us to express sides of us that the world may never see and perhaps sides of ourselves that we thought may never have existed without that blank canvas that community theatre provides.
Pro theatre is a difficult industry to break into. For a lot of us, we do not wish to pursue the professional side of theatre and are happy performing with our local theatre companies and giving back to the communities through performing arts. For us, that is enough. It always comes back to the community. This is why we love doing it. I am a proud community thespian and I wish to see more join us in creating boundless art.”
LAUREN WILSON: Actor, Director, Producer, Multi-Disciplinary Artist
“Community Theatre is a place that brings together all those who wish to be creative onstage and behind the scenes. It teaches new skills, builds relationships, and leads to the most magical output by those who are just gifting their time to the production they are working on. It brings together actors, designers, creators, builders, technicians, wordsmiths and so many more. All people from all walks of life come together to create a spectacular production and create relationships that can last for years to come.”
ZANE FLEMING: Actor, Director, Producer
“It sounds extreme but community theatre saved my life, in school I was always a bigger lad, I was loud and wanted nothing more than to be liked by everyone, but I was different and didn’t fit into the box that people wanted me to so, unfortunately, life had other plans and I was bullied through my entire schooling life, primary to high school, these were very dark times for me, but community theatre was the place I felt safe, for once I wasn’t made to feel like I was garbage, and people encouraged me and told me I had talent. I’m where I am today because I had such an outlet and though I’m not able to do as much community theatre anymore I am grateful I had a place to go that allowed me to put my focus and passion into something positive.
In summary, Community Theatre helps keep places like The PumpHouse alive, it ensures the community can thrive and life can feel a little more colourful, it is a great starting point and training ground for actors wanting to make it their profession, but it is equally a wonderful and valid space to belong as an artist who wants to do it as a hobby. Our stories are so important. Let us celebrate and support this incredible art form that nourishes our spirits and brings communities together.”
JAMES BELL: Director, Producer, Shoreside Theatre Committee Member
“For me, community theatre is all about being part of something bigger. It’s about coming together with a group of friends and tackling ambitious projects as a team. You get to learn from others, pick up new skills, and share your own know-how. As someone more comfortable behind the scenes, there’s nothing quite like hearing the audience’s reaction to some blocking you created with the cast or a sound cue you carefully chose. It’s a reminder that every little contribution counts in creating an awesome and unforgettable theatrical experience for everyone – audience, performers, and behind-the-scenes creatives alike.”
CHRIS SMITH: Actor
“Community Theatre represents to me the opportunity of playing out lives of people I don’t even know, from a world I’ve never been to. Community acting encourages me to create realistic characters via a broadened imagination drawing upon the lives and idiosyncrasies of people one might meet in a normal lifespan. Community theatre provides so many wonderful chances to venture through time warps and periods by allowing the actor to safely transpose into an alter ego concurrently presenting the challenge of quite often becoming the antithesis of oneself. In doing so acting provides enjoyment and escapism to others whilst they are equally transported to the portrayed time period and circumstance.”
Thinking of getting involved in Community Theatre?
Maybe you want to shine on stage or be part of an integral crew, or perhaps you want to join a theatre committee. Tāmaki Makaurau has an abundance of community groups to join. Our local Community Theatre Group is Shoreside Theatre. They use all three of The PumpHouse’s performance spaces each year – the Outdoor Amphitheatre for their Summer Shakespeare performances, the Coal Bunker Studio for their One Act Play season in Autumn, and the main theatre (Genevieve Becroft Auditorium) for the mid-Winter Agatha Christie murder mystery.
Other Community Theatre groups on the North Shore include Centrestage Theatre Company, Company Theatre, Theatreworks/Mairangi Players, Torbay Theatre, i-Start Chinese Theatre, North Shore Music Theatre, and Foolish Wit