One of the biggest reasons to go to college is to explore, fundamentally, what it means to be human. Science majors learn how the world works and our place in it, communication majors learn strategies for connecting with others and keeping people informed and business majors learn marketing tactics and how to appeal to different audiences.
Theatre is unique from these disciplines, because ultimately, thespians have to learn all of these things. As a theatre major, my job is to build a toolkit of skills and knowledge that will help me tell stories of people from many different situations, and each new show is a different learning curve.
At the Ent Center for the Arts, I’m able to learn these skills and develop them. Guided by instructors with wells of knowledge about the theatre world, I am taught to work with my peers and learn alongside them. Outside of school, however, I’ve spent the last year and a half building connections with community theatre companies around Colorado Springs, and those experiences have been just as important to me.
Since January of last year, I’ve performed in four musicals with companies from around town, including “Newsies” at the Ent Center last summer, produced by Village Arts of Colorado Springs. I’ve worked with people who all come from varying theatre backgrounds. Some are actors by trade, some are taking time out of their work lives to be a part of the show and some are just getting their feet wet.
Some are also parents rekindling a love for performance after years of focusing on their kids, or show veterans who have been acting around the country for years and who tell their castmates anecdotes in-between scenes. Some are teachers taking a break from directing other people to create their own art for a change, and some are students like me that aren’t sure where theatre is taking them yet but know that it’s taking them somewhere.
No matter where we all come from or how long we’ve been doing theatre, we all take one thing very seriously: the success of our performances.
We collectively put blood, sweat and tears into the creation of a show, often for no payment. Our motivation is love — love of the art form, love of stories, love of the spotlight (it must be admitted) and love of our community.
I’ve had directors around town that have studied theatre for years. They own studios, venues and foundations teaching and presenting music, theatre and dance. When they collaborate on shows, the different expertise comes together, with the trust that everyone present knows what they’re talking about and has something to offer. I’ve met some extremely talented artists around town who each have their own backgrounds and viewpoints to bring to the table.
The people I work with are extremely committed to quality. They want to do the absolute best they can with the resources available to them. For “Newsies,” that looked like a giant set of moving trusses taking over the Shockley-Zalabak Theater. That looked like an extended synchronized tap routine with precisely timed cups flying into the air. That looked like my friend nailing the notoriously difficult high A note in the Act I closing song, “Santa Fe.” When we say “Newsies,” we mean “Newsies.”
Community theatre means doing theatre just because it matters. It matters to us, to our audiences and to the stories themselves. We all bring different skills and talents to a show, and learn from each other because of them. As a young artist stepping into the theatre world and trying to carve out a career for myself, community theatre is a reminder of the reasons I’m studying this discipline in the first place. Community theatre is home.