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Community theater - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Community theater
I got some ads from a local children's theater group, announcing auditions, and I was about to post them when I noticed something called a "cast fee."

HEH????

Where the hell is community theater? Where I grew up, there was a group called the Bicentennial Singers. They were 99.9% wretched, but that wasn't the point--they had open auditions, the production was put together by people donating their time, and the rights were paid by minimally priced tickets. I believe they had to pay for stages, though another community theater group I was in just built a stage in the producers' church. (It wasn't a religious play, just Oliver!, and the point is that you can use buildings that are part of your community.) It was mostly adults in the Bicentennial Singers, but the Oliver! troop was half and half.

A cast fee of $200 would have made it impossible to participate in anything other than school plays... and next thing you know, they're going to think of a way to start charging for that as well. I mean, doing a play is hard work--since when do you pay for the privilege of doing work? (Resists repeating rant about vanity presses, though it strikes me as quite a similar concept.) You audition and earn a role, you go to all the rehearsals, likely as not you end up doing publicity and helping with costumes and sets, and you spend all your time trying to memorize lines. Then you're supposed to pay them $200?

And that's only for children, so you know the target is parents who want to see little Jenny on stage. When it comes to adults, there is no community theater. It's all these semi-pros trying to impress agents who might be in the audience. No one's just up there having fun for the hell of it in semi-pro productions and everyone's expected to show up with resumes and headshots. And as far as acting classes go, again, with the money. Why does everything cost severe coinage?

Sigh. I miss community.
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wm_law2003 From: wm_law2003 Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Our local summer stage charged too. I think it's due to the increased costs of production, costuming, and don't forget about the rights to music etc.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. I think it's time to turn to the public domain.
glishara From: glishara Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I *did* have to pay for middle and high school drama. Not directly, but the same way some schools have equipment fees for sports teams. We each had to shell out something like $8-$12 for costuming costs (depending on our role), except the dozen or so lead actors, whose costumes were rented and paid for by the department.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I think I probably ended up paying here and there for things, but wasn't charged. All of this charging for school activities just serves as a reminder that things are getting way too money-focused.
likeafox From: likeafox Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, our theatre productions are now pay to participate along with sports. I think it's something like $50 for one production and $25 for any beyond that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
So, basically, extracurriculars are now reserved for people who can afford them. Nice.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
And I'm tempted to rant, myself, about things people think should be free, without thought about how the people providing those things are supposed to make a living.

Er... generally, in community theater, the people providing the play have regular jobs that they go to. And the rights for the material are paid, as I mentioned--that's why they charge the audience to enter the show. The audience is what properly plays for a play, after all, not the actors.
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sophonax From: sophonax Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
It astounds me that places like that remain in business--but they do. As do vanity presses. I just DON'T GET why anyone would want to pay for their own work.

I miss the community theater near my parents' house--I haven't acted since middle school, but I played in the pit orchestra pretty frequently.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't acted since the first semester at college (Yeats' Cuchulain cycle--I was in the chorus--was my grand finale, after a very active high school drama career).

Vanity presses... aargh. Like I said to sjepstein above, it's this thought that it's somehow a privilege to see your work in print--that the publisher is doing the writer a favor, rather than the writer providing material for the publisher to make a profit on. It's the same thing with a "cast fee."
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suppose that for public domain works, there's always G&S... although if you're doing it in period costuming, that can start to run up the bill.

Come to think of it, I have no idea where the Trinity Knaves got their costuming budget from. All I wound up paying for was my score.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always figured there'd be incidental costs, but of course a local theater production isn't going to go into huge costuming budgets. Cull clothes from cast members that might be in attics, live off of rummage sales, and so on. And you're still going to get some pretty tacky costumes, of course.
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: September 23rd, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
My hometown still has a community theatre, and although they do their best to keep costs down, it still gets expensive. It's the costumes that cost the most for us, especially during the summer musical which was the year's biggest production. When I was in the Sound of Music, all the cast members had a costume fee of *thinks* either $45 or $75, except for us von Trapp kids. But our parents had to buy the material and make/hire a seamstress two of our costumes, which probably cost even more than that.

But $200 is ridiculous. That's absolutely insane. A community theatre does not need crazy-glamourous costumes and sets that would cost that. And at GCT at least, the summer musical cost more so that it could be grand. But cast members didn't pay that much more than usual.
akilika From: akilika Date: September 23rd, 2005 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Apropos of nothing, but this kind of reminds me of the time my mom outfitted my little sister's entire middle school production. "Robin Hood of the Next Generation" or something like that . . . and it didn't cost her much because she'd been hoarding fabric for years by that point. ^^; (The theater also lent her their box of odds and ends--a sequinned dress ended up becoming chainmail.) The school was really grateful for that. She got tons of compliments . . .

But you don't luck into someone who's not only a fabric fiend, a good hand with a sewing machine, *and* with enough free time to do all the work necessary (she was unemployed at the time). And, plus, the fact that no one was being a stickler for accuracy . . .

Heh. I can see how it could get real dang expensive otherwise. ^^;
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: September 23rd, 2005 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I go to private (Catholic) school, and there's a fee for both the cast and the crew. It covers promotional t-shirts, meals for tech weekend, basic makeup kits, scripts, and helps with the costumes. I think that's pretty reasonable, especially since it's a lot less than all of those things individually. The department just doesn't have enough money to give all of that away.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: September 23rd, 2005 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dude. WHAT??

I grew up doing community theatre. Loved it so much that I majored in theatre in college and did it professionally for a few years. Got out of it after a while, and am now a secretary. Whee.

But recently I got involved in community theatre again. So I was amazed to read your post. So you're saying if they're cast in the show, they have to pay to be in it? Holy badword. That makes no sense to me. Our local community theatre is no Globe, but it gets by. And you know how it gets by? Fundraisers. Every performance has a "half and half" raffle, where half the money from the raffle tickets goes to the winner and half to the theatre. (I won one night, a whole 42 bucks! But it basically meant our tickets were free...)

I'm not as coherent as I'd like to be in this comment, but I'm just amazed as I've never heard of charging someone to be in a play.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think this is a theater school trying to masquerade as community theater--staffed by people who are supposed to be teaching the kids to act or something, and for whom this is the "real" job. It wouldn't bother me if that's what it advertised itself as--"The Children's Theater Workshop" or some such thing. But it's not community theater!

(Although of course, in community theater, you do wind up paying for hair spray or make-up or whatever. That's expected. That's not the same thing.)
story645 From: story645 Date: September 23rd, 2005 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I seem to be the lucky one. School clubs were only $5's in dues, but that's cause my club was associated with a national organization that paid for food and everything. We used to money to cover the cost of fees. Though actually, the board of ed banned clubs from charging fees this year cause they didn't want kids to not come cause of the fee. Though when it comes to clubs, or arista, or debate (which cost a small fortune) or senior dues (again scary) or student orginizations if you can't pay, you work something out with the school. (The worst was the prom, I think around a 165 a ticket, and no discount for being poor far as I know.) The place I went to this summer was the best, there policy was if you can't pay then, pay whenever you have the money as a donation, and you can woork of some of the fee through working on campus.
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: September 23rd, 2005 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, when my daughters did community theatre it was community theatre...I didn't pay the theatre anything up front. Of course, it was outside the city where we live, so it cost me gas money and a lot of time. (I can't imagine subjecting them to urban childhood acting groups, as we're honestly doing it for fun.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 23rd, 2005 09:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

from Violet Azure

Me, my sister and my dad are all veterns of school and community theater. I suppose it always depends on the theater troupe. You live in the Boston area, right? Have you heard of the Mystic Players? They're based in Medford I believe. They're "community" theater in the sense of everyone can join (kids and adults), there's no fee (I'm 99% sure or if there is one it's no where near $200) but everyone pitches in to raise money for expenses through ticket sales, cast book advertising sales, and bake sales during intermission. The plays are usually quite nice, but not overly elaborate. They usually do a musical/variety show in the winter and a more traditional play in the spring.

My sister and dad were also involved in a more traditional theater group in the Boston area where there was a fee to join, but it was more intensive than just putting on a play. They children got singing, dancing and acting lessons from various local professionals and the productions looked really spectacular. Several of the older children we got to know through the years even went on to acting careers.

I suppose being close to the Boston area, there might be more of a push for more "profession" versions of community theater because Boston has a real theater district as well as some great theater and performing arts schools like Emmerson and the Conservatory. I live in upstate NY (you're from upstate, right?) and the local community theater, the Cider Mill Playhouse, is nothing like the community theaters around Boston.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: September 23rd, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

But WAS it a Community Theater?

In you post you said a local children's theater -- but you didn't specify it it called itself a community theater. I suspect there are plenty -- even in Boston and the greater area. It seems to me my best friend (a lawyer in your parts) had a friend highly involved in a community theater. However -- a children's theater that helps budding young actors hone their skills is a slightly different story. How much do you know about it beyond what you read in the ad?

My niece belongs to a Children's Theater in Portland (Oregon). To even audition for roles, all the kids have to take a class in acting first (which cost money). I don't know if there is a cast fee (but there might be to cover meals during rehearsals etc.) -- but I do know that she gets paid. The members are also sought out by an affiliated adult professional theater whenever they are doing a play that requires a children's role. This sort of arrangement provided a very talented young man to play Moth in a professional production of Love's Labor's Lost my husband and I saw in Seattle before we moved.

Now, I agree that if you want to act for fun and stress relief after your day job, that you shouldn't have to pay for it -- and I'm betting that community theater like that is out there for those who care to look for it. I haven't done anything like that since I lived in Hawaii (about 10 years ago) -- but I've seen it advertised in the different places I've lived since. I also understand why you wouldn't want to advertise something so pricey at the library. But I think what you were looking at may be something beyond the classic definition of community theater and more along the lines of theater to develop really talented children.

Just the thoughts of a proud aunt.
stephantom From: stephantom Date: September 23rd, 2005 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
At my school, being in plays is free (although tuition is not).

But I go to a community theatre outside of school that charges money. But then, he does say that it's a children's workshop, and you said before that if it's a workshop it's ok to charge, because it's like a class. I didn't realize there was a difference actually. A director in any show should be coaching you.

The place I go to do plays is just run by this one guy and he has to pay rent for the stage and the lights - he's just been breaking even most of the time, so I can't blame him for charging. It's $120. He'd never be able to do it just going on what the audience brought in. He's... not too good at getting publicity. Audiences are almost always made up solely of family members and friends, and now the kids signing up to be in a play seems to be diminishing. And it's sad because he's really good.
From: nothing_gold Date: September 23rd, 2005 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm on stage crew at my high school, and our plays run up scarily high prices, especially when we do productions with expensive rights, like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Yet we still don't have to pay a fee to participate. We are expected to bring in ticket or ads and patrons money, but for the latter we get commission. But for us to pay the school for the work we do and the sleep and sanity we lose? Never going to happen.
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