If you’re reading this column, I wonder if you’ve ever been moved to do more than simply enjoy theatrical performances. A good place to give it a try is with a community theater, where volunteers put on shows because they enjoy the art and the camaraderie surrounding their efforts. In Greater Cincinnati, the Association of Community Theatres (ACT-Cincinnati) has been around since 1955. It encompasses 20 groups, a lot for a city our size.
Most groups put up two or three shows annually; a few have their own theaters, but most work in school auditoriums, community centers or church basements. Every year in late June, some of them head to Miami University’s Hamilton campus to present 30-minute excerpts from their season’s best productions. Their work is observed by judges who offer critiques and select a handful that will move on to a statewide competition organized by the Ohio Community Theatre Association.
This Friday evening and Saturday morning and afternoon, 13 ACT-Cincinnati member groups will offer excerpts from musicals including Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance (Beechmont Players) to the very contemporary tick, tick … BOOM! (Showbiz Players) and from plays such as the dramatic God’s Man in Texas (Mariemont Players) and the classic To Kill a Mockingbird (Stagecrafters).
You can buy a $20 pass for access to nearly seven hours of live theater, a good deal in tight economic times. (For further information including specific times of various excerpts: cinstages.com/ACT/ACTconference.asp). It’s also a chance to meet people who love this kind of activity and who are always seeking new recruits.
If you think you lack the necessary experience, you’re wrong. I’d like to shine a spotlight on a group that goes above and beyond by engaging everyone, regardless of age, talent or training. East Side Players (www.esptheater.org) typically presents two musicals every summer at the Blue Ash Amphitheatre (4433 Cooper Rd.); it recently produced Beauty and the Beast, and it’s rehearsing now for Bye Bye Birdie (Aug. 6-13). East Side Players doesn’t belong to ACT-Cincinnati because the group’s primary goal is to get people involved and to have fun. If you audition, you will be cast. Lots of folks at ACT-Cincinnati groups gained their first theater experience in Blue Ash.
The cast for Beauty and the Beast was made up of almost 100 people. Many roles were doubled, with performers splitting time onstage during the show’s eight-performance run. What’s more, those involved don’t merely perform — many of them also sell tickets, make costumes, build sets and paint scenery. Tickets, by the way are just $8 ($7 if purchased in advance), and lots of them get sold since all those people have aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors and co-workers. That means they have the money to invest in costumes, props and the necessary technical equipment.
I used to live within walking distance of the Blue Ash Amphitheatre, and I remember watching 13-year-old stagehands move scenery and some kids even younger running lights and sound, side by side with adults. I also recall big crowds of people being entertained.
Community theater is truly about building “community.” If you have the itch, the folks who constitute East Side Players and other community theaters are ready to help you scratch it.
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