Community Theater One Giant Family

By Chelsea A. Murray

    Since I was a little girl I have been bewitched by the incredible world of acting. The second I set foot on a stage and step into the blinding lights, I feel at home. It’s my calling. Last year, I decided that I wanted to be an actress as a career and I have been doing everything I can to beef up my resume before I apply to colleges. I have always been involved in theater in elementary school and in high school, but this summer I had to branch out and expand my horizons. I jumped into the magical world of Community Theater. Right off the bat it was an eye opening experience. The actors are trained, talented, and professional, which is a splash of cold water in the face compared to the handful of semi-talent on the high school stage.

    Stephen Petrovich is from Newtown, CT, and recently played Doody in these past summers’s production of Grease at the Thomaston Opera House. “Community Theater is great because, for me, it was my first chance to really work one-on-one with adults in a way that most teenagers don’t get to do,” Petrovich said, “so in a way it’s a maturity booster.”

    I was lucky enough to have participated in this amazing production with Stephen and many other talented actors. Once you step foot on a stage in community theater your age seems to fly out the window and you mature a lot. The actors in Grease ranged from 13-50 years old and the whole cast got along like one big family. As Stephen said, it really is a maturity booster for young actors, because they get to work closely with trained, older actors from around their area and learn how to better their craft as an actor. During Grease, we all made so many close connections within the cast. It was the closest and most talent filled cast I have ever worked with and it was my first major step into community theater. Other actors on stage with me, like Stephen, have appeared in over 20 community theater performances within the last 5 years. You would think he would be all conceded and all knowing, but he’s the same age as me (17), and is willing to help and ask for advice just like any other actor on stage.

    Our Grease Director, Rob Bongialotti, always said that “Community theater is like one big family” and for the few intense months of the show, we really were like a family. We all came together and worked hard for the appreciation of the show, and theater. and to meet new people – not for money or fame. The Grease cast was an amazing cluster of uber talented actors and I appreciated getting the chance to work with them, especially at this point in my life. I have always loved acting, but I really needed a push to help me decide if this was the right career choice for me, and spending the summer with this flabbergasting cast of characters has aided me in making my decision. They have really given me pointers about life in theater and helped me learn how to hone my craft as an actor. In high school, my high school in particular, there is a small handful of people interested and good at theater. It was mind blowing to spend an immense amount of time with fun, cool and interesting people that were also completely into theater. In a lot of high schools the people in theater are considered nerds and theater geeks. Many of the people involved in Grease defy the stereotype. All of the Greasers defied the stereotype. They are cool, gorgeous and popular people and are completely into theater. Community theater gives actors a chance to immerse themselves in acting and meet a group of people that enjoy the same thing, but still have a life outside of the theater as well.
    There are a bunch of community theater opportunities around our area and if anyone is interested in acting at all, they should try it.

    The Thomaston Opera House offers a lot to an actor interested in theater. Anyone involved in a production there is basically forced to be close and become a big family because they choose smaller scale shows which don’t require boat loads of people. The Opera House offers over 20 diverse performances every year like Oklahoma! Chess, Fiddler on the Roof, and Grease. The programs can be geared towards adults, children, and also educational programs. The two shows that close out this season are Chess and Scrooge the Musical. The shows at the Opera House are never disappointing because of the intimate and warm nature of the theater itself.

    Another theater in the Waterbury area is the Seven Angels Theater. It’s the only professional equity theater in the Greater Waterbury region. I have never personally done any shows within the walls of the theater, but I have heard nothing but good things about it, and look forward to experiencing it for myself within the next few years. Seven Angels is a grass roots organization founded in 1990 by Waterbury native, Semina DeLaurentis. The theater just wrapped up the run of legendary musical ‘Gypsy, September 9-18. WATR’s Tom Chute directed the production along with choreography by Nikki Sanders and Music Direction by Richard DeRosa. The proceeds from the performance went to WATR’s Sunshine Fund for needy families and the community and youth outreach programs for Seven Angels Theater. Seven Angels can be found in Hamilton Park Pavilion in Waterbury. It is a great community theater and Connecticut Magazine backs that up with given it an award for best Community Theater in the state 4 years in a row. The theater and the wonderful events that take place inside of it is an absolute asset to the Greater Waterbury community.

    The Warner Theater provides a great actor friendly atmosphere for people in the Litchfield County/Torrington area. The theater holds more than 100 performances annually and there are over 60,000 participants of any age prancing around the stage all year round. This is the community theater that a lot of my friends around Litchfield pour themselves into. It gives off a very friendly and close vibe once you walk in the doors. This past summer I went to watch one of my friends in the production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. It was amazing. I couldn’t beleive that I was watching this play in Torrington, CT. All the shows put on at the Warner are of the best caliber and anyone is lucky to have participated in a show within the walls of the theater. Upcoming events at the Warner include Man of La Mancha November 5, 6, 11, & 12. Call the Warner box office for more information about ticket sales and specific times.

    Last but not least, our newly renovated Palace Theater provides a grand stage for Waterbury residents to view theater and participate in community theater events. It’s one of the most awe-inspiring theaters around and to even step foot inside is amazing and to be able to be on stage would give some people a heart attack. It’s a great venue for an actor in community theater. Athens & Knossos- Ancient American Visions is the new community theater event going on at the Palace. The cast is riddled with talent and students from the Waterbury Arts Magnet School. A New York director, Michael MacDonald, directs the show. Mythology and the rise of Democracy and ‘American Visions’ is the center of the show and it might sound a little bit like a history class, but there is enough dancing and singing and brilliant acting to keep the viewer wanting more. MacDonald wrote the play as a musical drama that will entertain and educate the people who watch it. The play will take place at the Palace Theater on November 4, 5 & 6.

   All in all, community theater is a wonderful experience for an actor. There are a few actors that I worked with in Grease that would have rather had a paying job, because honestly that’s what puts food on the table, but they had a good experience honing their craft and preparing them for the big world of professional acting. I’m a 17-year-old actor on the verge of going into college and the experience I had this summer with community theater helped me realize that acting was my true calling. I enjoy it more than anything else. I worked closely with a talented and fun-filled cast. That’s what community theater can offer to an actor instead of a paycheck.