By Laura Fontana
I was 7 years old when my dad took me to my first community theater performance of Annie. As a young girl who loved to sing and dance already, this was a dream come true. There were actors dancing and singing and the audience would applaud. There were ballads that brought to tears and dance numbers that made you want to get up and dance with the performers. I had to be on that stage! I was always a bit awkward as a child. Athletics didn’t come naturally to me. While I was very creative, I had trouble focusing my ideas into a positive outlet. Theater was my way to shine!
As a theater educator, I’ve found that theater can be an outlet for many different types of people, as well. First, theater sparks creativity. We’re story tellers, by nature. The theater offers a different way to tell our stories with the help of others. Unlike some forms of art which are very solitary practices, theater is about sharing with others. You share while making your art and when presenting it to the public. Whether through an intense scene, a song and dance, or a session of improvisation, we are bringing real experience to the stage for people to expand their world view.
With two young children of my own, I worry how they will be able to navigate the world and be caring people who relate to their peers and are kind to one another. By playing characters who are different from ourselves on stage, we can empathize in our daily lives. We can look at our neighbor’s struggles and find a way to reach out and help them because we can imagine what they must be going through.
Community theater also promotes a sense of unity that is difficult to replicate. I often discuss this with my students. Theater is just like a puzzle, with any one piece missing the puzzle isn’t complete. When we put on a show, every person is vital. Without the cast AND crew, the show can’t work. We have to work as a team to solve problems constantly. If you can’t trust each other, you won’t be successful. We’re a family, and we have to work together as one and be held accountable for each others’ successes and failures.
Most importantly, every person who engages in community theater finds a sense of confidence in themselves that they didn’t have before. We are forced to achieve things we never thought possible. We didn’t think we could memorize that much text or perform that dance step or sing that high note. Still, with help and encouragement of the rest of the ensemble, we can succeed. When the curtain falls for the last time, each performer finds they have strength within them that carries forward in everything that they do.
I encourage everyone to try getting involved in community theater somehow. You might find within you a strength that you never thought possible and a family you didn’t know existed.
Laura Fontana is the Spotlight Productions Director and a Drama/Speech teacher in the Rockwood School District
Interested in being in the Spotlight?
Learn more about Spotlight Productions. This summer's production is Newsies. Newsies will be July 12-14 and July 19-21 at Marquette High.
Auditions are April 5-6.
Click here to schedule your audition.