the journey to paid professional performing artist

Follies Girls with our choreographer, Judy Williams Henry

This is in praise of all the community theaters out there.  Here in Harrisburg we are blessed with having a lot of them.

There are many reasons why I love community theater, and why I think anyone who wants to get into show business needs to pay attention to them.

They are great experience.  Community theaters are often willing to give people a chance to participate in a new performance art.  For example, I always considered myself a dancer.  If it hadn’t been for Theatre Harrisburg, I would never have known that I loved musical theater, too.  Or that trying new things was so exciting.

They give new performers a chance to perform.  Or directors a chance to direct for that matter.  This provides valuable experience that you can put on your resume.  My resume looks like that of a bunhead, not very Rockette worthy.  But with the help of my local community theaters, it’s starting to look more like a theater resume.  It has also shown me that if I don’t ever make the Rockettes, it’s not the end of the world.  I do love musical theater, which you can continue to participate in your whole life.  A dancer career is very short in comparison.  That has taken the pressure off of me and made my Rockette journey more fun.  And it has pushed me to audition for professional theater too, not just the Rockettes.   But in any event, I always have community theater, so I will always be able to perform if I want to.

They audition through the year.  This may not seem important on the surface.  But many companies, at least in my area, have one audition to cast their entire season.  So if you don’t get in, your off for that year.  Community theater auditions right before the show.  So you can audition as you go.  If you find yourself with some time, look into your local community theaters so you can be doing something.

They may give you the opportunity to perform a variety of shows.  Each one seems to have the genre they like to produce, so there is lots of choice.  Some like to do the classics.  They will give you an opportunity to do some of the standards that maybe aren’t done professionally much.  Some like avant-garde works, new things that are shocking.  Keep your eye out, because you never know when the show you always wanted to do will come up.

They give people with busy personal lives a chance to perform.  For whatever reason, there are very talented people out there who never worked professionally in the performing arts. They discovered their love for the stage later in life.  They didn’t want to be a part of the craziness that is the professional performing world.  They found other interests in college.  An injury kept them out of the professional spotlight.  Whatever the reason, they can still enjoy their passion on the community theater stage.  Rehearsals are in the evening so work schedules can be accommodated.  They take into account your conflicts when casting and creating a rehearsal schedule.  It’s a great way to keep performing!

They provide networking opportunities.  Often directors, music directors and choreographers are local people who work for other local theaters.  Community theater gives you a chance to meet these people and work with them.  They can see how great a performer you are and how great you are to work with.  So when you get in front of them at an audition for a paying role, they already know you, and hopefully like you.  Haven’t you ever heard; it’s all about who you know.

It’s not just about getting paid in money.  Experiences are far more valuable in the long run.

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