Monday, 4 January 2016

Why I Love Amateur Theatre

In rehearsal for The King and I with Phoenix Theatre Company

I've been part of an amateur dramatics group since I was 12 years old. Trinity Musical Theatre Company (or Trinity Operatic Society as they were then known) welcomed me with open arms as their youngest member and being part of productions with that group made my confidence in singing grow and really helped me to understand more fully everything that went in to getting a production from rehearsal to stage. Although I am now unable to take part in their productions as I am living away from home, I cannot wait to see their latest offering coming next Autumn: a full scale production of The Witches of Eastwick which promises to be a lively and complex performance.

Performing is not my main career goal and it never was. I didn't join an am-dram society with the hope that it would help me become a professional actress. For me it was about having fun and gaining experiences that my other pastimes couldn't give me. One of my closest friends, Alastair, has been a member of amateur dramatic groups for almost his entire life and told me that "doing amateur theatre has been the most important, formative experiences of my life, as it allows you to build a sense of camaraderie with different groups of people". As amateur theatre has led me down one path (to writing), it has sent him towards a theatre-based profession where he hopes to become a theatre director. In fact last year he directed a production of the musical Rent on behalf of South Staffs Musical Theatre Company. It was amazing that such a large and well-respected group in my area gave a young person that prestigious opportunity, and he really showed that he knew what he was doing which I have no doubt is the result of having taken part in so many amateur productions over the years. 

I was lucky enough to be invited along to a (very Christmassy!) rehearsal for Phoenix Theatre Company's production of The King and I. It's a fairly new group as am-dram goes but put on some really high quality productions including the wonderful South Pacific that I had the pleasure of seeing last year. What struck me immediately upon entering the rehearsal hall was the huge age range involved in the production- obviously there have to be children in the show as it's in the script but it's great to see that theatre can bring such a diverse group of people together in a way in which they can all collaborate to reach the same goal. The rehearsal ran like a well oiled machine under the leadership of Jan Cole and Lindsey Grant (director and choreographer respectively) and I was lucky enough to see much of Act 1 of the show being run through as well as some new scenes being put together for the first time. It really gave me a flavour of what to look forward to when I see the show in the New Year (it runs from the 23-27th February). I guess the experience proved to me that amateur groups are often far from amateur. Although none of the cast are professional actors, they seemed to work so hard and so efficiently whilst still enjoying themselves and I really admire that. I can't wait to see the full show and if you're in the Midlands I urge you to get a ticket to support this fantastic organisation.

I could talk for hours about all the great amateur theatre groups in my local area as I've seen so many great productions put on by amateur groups- just scroll through the amateur tag on my blog and you can read reviews of some of the productions I've seen recently that have really impressed me. These groups are so important for multiple reasons, not least that they give members of local communities opportunities to work together to produce a show that can be enjoyed by so many. Often tickets for amateur shows are less expensive than those for professional ones so it makes theatre more accessible not only for performers but also for audiences who ordinarily may not be able to afford to visit the theatre. More than anything though I think it's fair for me to state that amateur theatre is a huge confidence booster for people involved. Over the years I've seen people I know blossom into confident performers and also grow as people thanks to the amateur dramatics and it really fills me with joy. So wherever you are based I ask you to get involved with amateur theatre, whether you get up on the stage for the first time or even just buying a ticket to a show as we cannot let this fantastic community die out. 

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