Local theaters depend on the support of the community, not only through financial donations but also to run the organization. Of course, there's always a spot for talented actors, but there's plenty of non-performance opportunities to get involved with as well, whether it's selling tickets at the box office, building sets, sewing costumes, doing publicity or working stage crew. All it takes is a commitment to putting on a great show.
See Shows and Read Reviews
You might have just one choice for a community theater to support in a small town or rural area but in larger cities, there's likely myriad theatrical opportunities. It's difficult to become involved in each of them, so learn more about each organization to determine which you'd like to support. Attend every show the theater produces; if you can't make it to a show, read the reviews in a newspaper or online. Certain theaters are dedicated to children, others focus on musicals and some produce original or experimental productions. When you see a show that intrigues you, stay after and talk to the actors, volunteers and staff, as they can tell you more about their experiences with the theater and where the organization's needs are the greatest.
Volunteer Behind the Scenes
Community theaters need more than actors and actresses to produce performances. Even if your goal is to star on stage, volunteering in other roles may help get your foot in the door. Volunteering for a show or two on the stage crew or selling tickets shows the powers-that-be you're dedicated to the arts and reliable enough to show up regularly and on time -- a major plus when being cast in a show. If you don't have the money to buy tickets to a performance, ushering often allows you to catch a viewing for free.
If your last experience onstage was in a high-school production and worrying about your acting chops is holding you back from getting involved, look into classes or workshops offered at local community theaters. Some theaters offer production-specific classes before auditions, such as tap-dance classes before a choreography-heavy musical or a monologue workshop before auditions for a drama. Look into private acting, dance and voice classes to hone your skills and boost your confidence.
Audition to Act
It's time for your moment to shine, but for the best chance of being cast, prepare for your audition. Find audition notices on community theater websites, on social media, in the newspaper and on electronic mailing lists. Musical auditions typically require 16 to 32 bars of both a ballad and an uptempo song, while play auditions call for a one-minute monologue and cold readings with other actors. You also might be asked to learn a short dance routine for a musical. Before you audition for a production, double-check the rehearsal and performance schedule to ensure it doesn't conflict with your work, school or vacation schedules. Once cast, the other actors and artistic staff rely on you to show up for all scheduled rehearsals and shows.
Apply as Artistic Staff
In community theater, actors typically are unpaid. Artistic staff -- directors, music directors and choreographers -- sometimes are paid a stipend for their efforts. If you have experience and formal education in directing, music or dance, get involved in the local theater by serving as a member of artistic staff for a production. These positions require helping to cast the show, attending rehearsals and at least one or more of the performances.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.