By Christopher Nagy
It’s not their job and it’s more than just their hobby.
It’s their passion.
Sure, professional actors and actresses get the fame, the glory and their faces splashed across tabloid magazines in the supermarket checkout aisle; but, for community theater members, the drive is something purer. They aren’t in pursuit of a paycheck. It’s more of a hunger that needs to be fed; a desire that needs to be satisfied. Being on the stage is like being called home.
“If you love the performing arts, it can be hard to find places beyond school and college where you can come together with fellow artists who are passionate about the magic of live storytelling,” said Dexter Brigham, director of theater programs for the Midland Center for the Arts Center Stage Theatre. “Community theater is a place where performing artists can grow and learn and enjoy the process and product of bringing a story to the stage.”
The Great Lakes Bay Region is no stranger to quality community theater. Over the fall, three local troupes – Pit & Balcony Theatre, Bay City Players and Center Stage Theatre – collaborated to present numerous well-received performances of “Mama Mia!” in a unique, first-of-its-kind production.
“It was an amazing learning experience,” said Kathy Pawloski, operations manager for the Bay City Players. “I learned how the other theaters operate, which of their systems could be adjusted and utilized in my organization, and I learned that for a theater of my size, we’re doing a great job. I also now have resources and new friends I didn’t have before.”
Amy Spadafore, managing director of Pit & Balcony Theatre, said local theater benefits the community from both the perspective of the performers as well as members of the audience. For those either on the stage or behind the scenes, it offers a sense of camaraderie and the avenue to create something out of nothing.
“It offers opportunities to learn and grow, hone skills, realize dreams,” she said. “To be able to share all of that, not only with the people on stage with you but with your community … is an experience like none other.”
From an audience member’s perspective, community theater offers affordable and accessible live entertainment audiences would otherwise have to travel miles and pay high prices to experience, Spadafore noted.
“Getting to see your co-worker, neighbor, classmate or friend on stage is a unique experience that community theater audiences relish in,” she said. “Live theater is a fun addition to a night out – and in a place like Saginaw, where the community theater is within walking distance of many favorite bars and restaurants in Old Town, it is an excellent stimulator of the local economy.”
Brigham, Pawloski and Spadafore each said the greatest personal experience from community theater can be found in the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes when production wraps.
“My favorite part of a production is when you can sit back and admire all the work the cast and the team put into creating this beautiful piece of storytelling and say to yourself, ‘That’s it. We have a show!’” Spadafore said.