What are you doing this summer? Your love of theatre doesn’t have to end with the school year (or even with high school graduation). Acting opportunities are all around you—if you know where to look.

If you want something more organized than a backyard performance but less professional than a regional theatre, community theatre troupes might be right for you. Though mostly made up of amateurs, community theatres perform shows for the general public and bring accessible theatre to your city.

Here are five reasons to audition for a local community theatre.

Get more acting experience

Quality may be better than quantity, but you’ll still want several roles on your acting resume. Your school likely has time to do only two or three shows in a year (and may be dormant over the summer). But community theatres can operate year-round, giving you additional chances to hone your craft.

Community theatres can also be a fresh start. You may regularly compete with other students for roles you want, but the pool of actors in your age group might be smaller at a community theatre. And you’ll work with a new director and a wider variety of castmates—including older actors who have valuable experience to share (more on this later).

Acting in community theatres can even open you up to a wider variety of roles. A local community theatre might be able to put on shows that your school can’t. For example, maybe you want to play a role from a show that’s too risque (say, Cabaret) or logistically difficult (say, Phantom of the Opera) for your school to put on, or a show for which the rights aren’t available.

Broaden your theatre knowledge

Many companies are volunteer-led, meaning everyone pitches in. In addition to your acting role, you could take on tech responsibilities that will help you round out your  resume.

The troupe I’ve been involved with as an adult performs in a public park’s amphitheater. As part of the agreement between the troupe and park, everything must come down after each rehearsal and performance: lights, sets, props and even backstage tents that the actors sit underneath.

By helping out, I’ve expanded my theatre skill set and developed a greater appreciation for the hard work that goes into a show. Though I’ve only been credited as an actor, I’ve also:

  • taken down and put up set pieces
  • hung lights and curtains
  • edited and formatted programs
  • worked concessions
  • set up stands and chairs for the orchestra

You might also have an opportunity to assist with costuming, makeup, or marketing the show, or even direct!

Network with local directors and actors

If you’d like to act professionally, community theatres help you meet key people in the local industry, such as directors and actors. They can give you important feedback and expose you to different styles and techniques, and keep you informed of other opportunities (both educational and professional).

Building these relationships can also “get your foot in the door” for future shows. In addition, directors make helpful references for jobs, and can write letters of recommendation for colleges or scholarship programs.

Don’t forget to ask veteran actors for their advice. Some of my favorite memories of community theatre are killing time backstage by tapping the brains of actors who have been in the business for years, even decades—the different roles they’ve played, how the companies have evolved, and even the “drama” behind the drama.

Give back to your community

Local arts need participants, in addition to patrons! Support the arts by showing up in your community. Your troupe might perform free shows at places like nursing homes and schools, bringing theatre to audiences who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. Or it might provide opportunities for actors who have disabilities or other life circumstances that prevent them from participating elsewhere.

You can also give back by being the mentor you always wanted. Take other new or young actors under your wing, and share what you’ve learned to help them grow.

Have fun!

Make lifelong friends and keep your love of theatre strong. Find a troupe that’s a good fit for you, and you’ll have a creative outlet that lasts—not just for summer vacation, but also after graduation and throughout your adult life.

For more, check out the American Association of Community Theatre and similar organizations for your region. 

Andrew Koch is a writer and editor from Cincinnati. He performed in his first community theatre show at age 24.re

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