Monday, April 27, 2009

Looking For An Inexpensive Night Out? Try Community Theatre

With the economy in the toilet even those of us still working are feeling the pinch. Who knows when the next shoe will drop, and where. Concern about money and expenses is forcing many of us to scrutinize our expenses and cut back, its only natural. But as the old saw goes, 'all work and no play makes Gordie lose what's left of his hair'...or something like that. Actually I don't worry about my hair any more, I shave the bastids off before they have a chance to fall out.

But rather than thinking about my ever shrinking hair line, I prefer to think of ways to entertain myself (and others) without digging too deep into the old wallet. One idea that might appeal to those who enjoy live theatre is to look at Community productions. A professional show can run $50 or more a ticket...and if you're into big ticket numbers like Phantom you'll be lucky to spend less than $200 for a pair. Community groups on the other hand charge significantly less, often in the $10 to $35 range depending on the show.

I've been in a number of plays with Community Theatre groups, but its been over a year since I did Agatha Christie's "Mousetrap" with Oshawa Little Theatre. I've also been on stage with Markham Little Theatre, Whitby Courthouse Theatre and another group in Pickering.

The great thing about Community Theatre is that the people involved are doing it because they have a passion for it...not because of a pay cheque. And while you might come across the occasional bomb, on the whole most who attend regularly find it highly entertaining. I think a lot of it has to do with expectations. If you're dropping $250 for a decent pair of orchestra seats to a major show, you're expecting to be blown away. But when you're only putting out $75 or $50, I think the bar is set lower.

A lot of the actors you see on stage with Community Theatre groups are people who work professionally when they can find the work. But when paid work isn't available they're happy to commit, hone their craft...and to entertain. At the end of the day being on stage is a rush, hearing the reaction of the audience and knowing when you've nailed a scene or a line just perfectly.

And if you've never attended a Community production you'll likely be blown away by the work done on things like costumes and set design. There's more to a play than actors memorizing lines and treading the boards. The stage has to be set and decorated, costumes have to be decided on and fitted...ushers are needed on top of people to work the bar at intermission. Then there's ticket selling and promotion, stage managers to make sure brain dead actors don't miss their cues. Community theatre has everything a professional show does, in a slightly dressed down fashion and without the same cost.

I decided to blog about this when I received notification that Oshawa's group is putting on a show in a few short weeks, ABBA Gold. Its a musical recreation of an ABBA concert from the 1970s, perfect for the boomer set...and those of us a bit younger who still remember Dancing Queen. And don't worry, I'm not in this production. The tickets are $30 per, which nobody who's ever heard me sing would ever consider paying. I actually have to fork money out to get people to listen to me warble. Usually tickets for a Community production are less, but I suspect there are increased rights fees for a show like this.

If Abba isn't your thing or if you're not close to Oshawa don't worry...there are groups in just about every part of the country big and small. Its a great night out that doesn't have to entail a big outlay. For those in Central Ontario you can check out 'The Association of Community Theatres of Central Ontario' or ACTCO for short. Who knows, maybe you'll get the acting bug and want to audition...or help with setting building, painting, costumes, front of house or any number of countless jobs.

Its a lot of fun.

(The picture is of the OLT's production of Mousetrap, I played Detective Sergeant Trotter)

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