It’s happens. People come out of the woodwork. Stride out to the dance floor from the corners. They surprise. They delight. They risk their comfort zones. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s beautiful.
That’s one of the great joys of community theater. Hidden talents emerge in surprising ways, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been caught off guard by someone’s performance. To have a friend cry or intimidate believably onstage is impressive. To have another friend provoke laughter with an interesting, dynamic voice and bring a character to life is delightful. The bonds that form after, rewarding.
For me, these surprises create the dynamism of community theater, improve a casts’ strength, and, really, make the whole thing fun. When these surprises happen, barriers are broken down, and let’s be honest here, we all have some sort of barrier. Whether it is a slight bias, or a judgment, an ego, or even lack of familiarity, when authentic surprise happens, these things are challenged. In the worst cases, there is begrudging respect. In the best cases, we see the performer in a new light, reconsider our initial barriers, see them as more human, and draw closer together.
I do not think this experience is unique to Little Falls, though I wish it were. Rather, this is a trait of theater, and community theater in particular. These small challenges, these surprise moments, could be used as a model for community building. I’ll try not to sound too idealistic here, because much of this is that, and lean towards a more pragmatic tone.
People have skill sets, and oftentimes they don’t utilize them fully, or only use them in narrow ways (like strictly for a job). Though, when people get involved in community activities, they increase the likelihood that their skills will be drawn upon in various ways. It’s a bit of a risk, getting involved and throwing yourself out there, but this challenge is useful, and often helps us grow. For a community it is crucial to draw on this, and for community theater it is absolutely necessary. Without people taking risks, growing, failing, and sharing their skills – community theater doesn’t happen.
None of us get paid to do this. Our compensation? Gratification, friendship, growth, and love.