Monday, July 13, 2009

Staycation idea: Community theater

In college, I took a class called “theater appreciation.”

Was I interested in a career in theater? Not really. Did I think I could be an actor? No way. I was pretty sure that the only role I would ever play in Hollywood would be that of a tourist on the Walk of Fame asking aloud, “Are you kidding? Wink Martindale has a star on the Walk of Fame?”

The real reason I took theater appreciation was because I heard that it was an easy class to ace. That’s also why I took a class in paranormal anthropology, which included guest speakers such as a palm reader and a person who told me I had a green aura.

Well, the people who told me theater appreciation was an easy class were right. But I did learn a lot, and the highlight of the class was an assignment that I wasn't thrilled about: I had to work for a week as a stagehand during a community theater production.

It turned out to be really exciting, and a lot of fun, as I helped move sets between scenes and place props where they needed to be. That’s also when I first realized just how talented people involved in community theater can be.

Fifteen years later, I’m a huge fan of community theater. It's also great for staycations because community theater is inexpensive, it’s nearby, and it’s something that’s often overlooked.

I feel the same way after watching productions at smaller theaters. They certainly provide more bang for the buck. At a smaller theater, I can actually see the actors and singers instead of thirty rows of heads between me and the stage.

But don’t get me wrong. Broadway productions are fantastic. Touring Broadway-like productions are also terrific, so if you can make those part of a staycation, go for it. But don’t brush off community theaters, or other small stages, because they’re not as polished. It’s not like the actors are going to forget their lines or start laughing in the middle of the play. It’s not like a third-grader Christmas play with shepherds dressed in bed sheets and carrying hockey sticks.

You can find a community theater near you, and its production schedule, in the database at, which is the Internet home of the American Association of Community Theatre (yes, they spell it theatre.)

If you live in a large metro area, there are probably several community theaters presenting shows. Smaller stages, some with professional actors, some with amateurs, are also great destinations. See four shows in four nights, even if it’s a dinner theater, and you’ll still spend less than on a typical Broadway show.

Many community theaters also offer acting classes during the summer, which can be fun. Theaters are also searching for volunteers to help with productions, and it can be a lot of fun.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.

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