By Roxanne Thornton
The winter months are very busy in the community theatre world. This is the time of year when everyone is working hard to produce their showcase masterpiece to enter into the prestigious Western Ontario Drama League (WODL) festival with the hope of winning a coveted award. These community theatre awards recognize and honor excellence in the creation of outstanding work in amateur (community) theatre and are one of the industry’s highest honors. Although the venues vary from large professional stages to tiny stages in old town or community halls, it is the quality that they bring to the stage that makes the real difference. The magic of theatre can transport audiences from a tiny community hall to a villa in Tuscany, a park in New York, and to so many other fantastic places.
Guelph Little Theatre offers some of the best shows around. This January they are doing the world premiere of “The Perfect Murder” by local playwright Anthony Deciantis. They are also hosting the WODL festival during the March break. Many Guelphites who travel out-of-town to see big-ticket professional productions may not realize that quality amateur entertainment is available right here in our own backyard.
When one calls a production “amateur,” it is not a slight upon the show, but rather a compliment. “Amateur” is from the Latin word “to love” and we see it in every one of their performances. They love what they do, and willingly share their talents with others. These non-profit organizations even have charity performances for other community groups to help them raise funds. They promote skills and talents that otherwise would have no local outlet, and let people find self-esteem and friendship in a social setting where money is no barrier to belonging to the group or activity. So why are they struggling to find an audience?
The psychologists say that today’s society is unconnected, preferring electronic self-entertainment to making connections with others and having real experiences. We even download our books instead of going to the library. Is community theatre to go the way of the dodo bird also? How many of us have experienced the thrill of a live stage performance? There is nothing like the magic of an opening night, of watching a whole new world awaken in front of your very eyes. There is a sense of awe and wonderment found in the experience of a stage play that pulls you into an enchanting world. It’s an experience that video, Youtube, Facebook, or your iPhone just can’t provide.
So over the next few months, check out the season’s offerings by local groups. Get out and see the best professional productions that amateur theatre can give. I’ll guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised, and what’s more, you may even find that you like it and come out for more. Hope to see you there.