I have worked with a Small Community Theater (SCT) several times, but left because of the overbearing nature of the director. Director has out of rehearsal crying in frustration, worked himself into scene-stealing moments of plays where he had no place, and yelled at cast and crew during the run of the play with audience members in their seats and watching. After two productions in a row of these shenanigans, I parted ways with Director and SCT.
Because I still support many members of SCT as friends, I went to their most recent production last week. Director, again, cast himself in a lead role, which was not surprising, and neither was his overacting in that role. What was surprising was his speech after the final bows. He thanked the audience for coming, mentioned another production would be casting shortly, and then asked the audience to stay behind to help break down and remove the set, costumes, and props.
I was at the play with three other performers in local theater, and our jaws dropped in unison. None of us could remember seeing or participating in a production that requested its patrons roll up their sleeves and become instant back stage crew. All members of the audience paid money for two hours of entertainment, and many (including myself, were dressed in clothes that were not meant to be soiled with sawdust and other dirt from the theater. As much as I would have loved to have spent some time congratulating my friends in the cast, my friends and I made a beeline for the exit. I will extend my congratulations individually when I’m not being asked for free labor. 0729-12
My family has been involved for years in small community theater productions (yes, even me, who played Nurse Bedwin in “OLIVER!”) and I’ve never seen this request made either. It is understood that everyone involved in the play needs to roll up their sleeves and break down the set after the last show. There are always people in the audience who pitch in to help but they are the ones who are usually involved in some periphery way with the play.
Plays should probably be like any organized event where you do not plan and build more than your money and labor budget can afford. Small budget? Minimal props and scenes.