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21 Problems Only Community Theatre Actors Understand

 
 

Actors, singers, dancers, stagehands all have to start somewhere. Many an aspiring thespian has joined a local community theatre group in hopes of refining their skills and someday rubbing shoulders with Julie Andrews. For others, community theatre is an excellent way to keep doing something they love while still having money and a day job.

Those who have done community theatre can attest to the fact that it’s not as glamorous as it seems, and many of the pitfalls are things that make you want to laugh and cry simultaneously.

Here are 21 problems only community theatre actors can understand:

1. When you go out in public looking like a hooker because you’re still wearing show makeup.

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2. Getting out of rehearsal so late and still having to work or go to school the next morning.

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3. There are never enough guys to fill the required male roles.

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4. When you are only one-third of the way through the show, and there is only an hour of scheduled rehearsal time left.

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5. Makeup is running low and most of your bobby pins are missing, but there is still another show to go.

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6. Being cast as the romantic lead opposite someone half or twice your age.

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7. Mic tape that doesn’t stick — until you have to take it off.

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8. You’ve had the most exhausting work week, and you have to spend your entire weekend building or striking the set.

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9. Your friends and family who aren’t in theatre don’t understand when you talk about show problems or tell them you can’t come to things because you have rehearsal.

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10. When your friends and family think you are dead or have joined a cult because they never see you anymore.

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11. You get covered in glitter while helping with costumes and sets.

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12. When all of your costumes come from your closet.

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13. There is always one girl who gets the best role in every show, and while she is undeniably talented, she is an insufferable diva.

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14. When you are halfway through a number, and you feel your mic slipping.

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15. Your dressing room is a broom closet or a church basement.

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16. There is only one mirror and 20 girls are trying to use it at the same time.

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17. When the show budget is $100.

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18. When you are trying to take a prop offstage with you, but people are loitering in the wings.

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19. Trying to practice choreography on your lunch hour during your day job.

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20. When you are also part of the crew and have more job titles than time.

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21. Being in community theatre is your second job that you love, that takes up all of your time, but makes you no money.

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In spite of it all, we keep coming back, season after season, show after show, because deep down, we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thought of one that we missed? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Katelynn Johnston

Katelynn is a writer and elementary arts teacher from Toronto. From acting to choreographing to directing, she has been fortunate enough to take part in a variety of shows.

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    • I worked with a rather well-known opera director who changed the blocking every single rehearsal. Final dress was the first time we ever did the finale. Long story short: intermission before the last act of the final performance she comes into the men’s chorus dressing room with a laundry list of “very important” changes she wants to make in the last scene.

    • One must remember that Hell Week is primarily for the the tech people. They have at most, five chances to learn the entire show and have it down before Opening Night, where as the cast has been in rehearsal for eight to ten weeks.. It is still a rehearsal period time for the cast and the choreographer or director can make necessary changes and usually the tech people will adapt quickly to those changes or those changes don’t affect the tech aspect of the show, but it is advised that the person making the changes run that section with the tech people and cast several times before the actual rehearsal for the day starts so everybody is on the same page. As always, Dress Rehearsal is a rehearsal under actual Performance Conditions. IE. When dress rehearsal day arrives, the show should be and is set in stone and no other changes should be made during the run of the show unless truly necessary to resolve a problem, and then they should be made during a rehearsal set specifically for those changes.

  1. Trying to convince yourself each and every new show that there won’t be politics involved in casting, and being wrong once again.

  2. You want to sit down to scarf a quick-heat dinner but you can’t because all your chairs/side tables and lamps are part of the set.

  3. The cast comes to the musical director asking for someone else to teach harmony after the show has completed its opening weekend. The local newspaper that did the review rips the show to shreds because no musical harmony was sung even though the show was previously in rehearsal for 3 months. I’ve taught show harmony over 400 times (for 2, 3, & 4 part harmony) children’s as well as main stage theatre.

    • In that vein, when you’re a baritone but the director sticks you with the tenor part because every other guy is a bass and there are no other tenors…and it’s not even a low tenor…fml.

      • And even farther into that vein, when you’re the only guy who reads music, so the MD asks you to “help the other guys learn their parts” by singing with each part as they go over the notes. After two weeks of doing this in music rehearsals, all of the men will invariably sing whatever you are singing regardless of their music says.

  4. There’s always that one person that feels like there’s not enough drama on stage, so they stir it up and create it back stage 🙄

  5. When you drive through a raging storm to get to the theatre and find out the performance has been cancelled and then you have to turn around and somehow make it back home.
    Larry G

  6. When there aren’t enough costume accessories and you’re running off stage, stripping off gloves or hats and while your cast mate grabs them and shoves them on for the next scene.

  7. Oh god, the glitter…NOT THE GLITTER!

    Also, telling yourself for the entire rehearsal stretch that you are not going to do another show after, that you’re gonna take a break and enjoy some down time, that you’re gonna actually do all the things you’ve been missing out on because of the show…only to find yourself at an audition two days after close.

  8. When the Diva playing the lead insists on wearing the real family diamonds and the diamonds steal the scene.

  9. When your blocking is changed every other night and you’re expected to remember which is the latest one. Or when you’re moving a piano to the stage and it runs over three of your toes!

    • In my limited experience as a professional stage hand 18 years, after working on countless amateur productions, there are three words I live by and my toes are grateful. “Steel toed shoes”, friend. “Steel toed shoes”. I never enjoyed the value of them till, during one load-in the toe of my shoe was run over by and extremely overweight set cart and just missing my toes.

  10. When you are both tech AND chorus for a period show with no time to change so you have to keep your black tech clothes on under a full length dress when you need to be on stage. You may actually start melting from the heat.

  11. When you find out in tech week that the place you are to perform is only half the size of the place where you rehearsed.

  12. How about taking your son Mark to the hospital in my Ascot Gavotte costume. And then hurrying back for curtain call- Wilton Playshop 🤗🤗

  13. you’re the only one who owns a trailer so you get to take all the furniture back to where it all came from

  14. When you’re only allowed to use the performance space for 4 or 5 days and the rehearsal space is less than half the size.
    Or you have a different rehearsal space every other week.
    And the past 2 1/2 months spent on rehearsal was just for 4 freaking performances.

  15. When you are rehearsing in the alley behind the theater because the musical that has the stage is using the rehearsal room for a dressing room (or orchestra) and the lobby is for dance practice.

  16. When the director decides that the stage manager can run the backstage, give cues, follow script, change sets, help costume changes AND run lights too! For a 30 person cast musical!! Aghh!

  17. Was once running late getting to rehearsal & failed to put my car in park. Forgot something in the car & ran back out to get it & car was gone! Looked around & there it was down the hill smashed into one of my college professor’s car! Was so embarrassed to go back in & tell him the bad news.

  18. Stepping on stage before its time to deliver your part and realizes it only to play it off by gracefully finding the nearest exit.

  19. Your friends ask you why you didn’t get the lead because you were SOOOO good. They don’t realize that you’re too old, too young, too short, too tall, too skinny, etc. for another role or that maybe the director just isn’t crazy about your work.

  20. When there is a support post down centre stage in your basement rehearsal space and the ceilings are so low people gesture and crack their knuckles on the cross beams.

  21. When you have 30 seconds of dialog for a one-minute costume change…and the director wants the dialog even faster.

  22. You have several wig and costume changes in the show and the only person available to help you change quickly is the male (albeit gay) Stage Manager with the perpetually greasy, dandruffy hair who thinks it’s funny to be wearing your next wig when you come running offstage to change and he pulls the now-greasy Scene 2 wig off of his head and crams it onto yours, while yanking your Scene 1 wig off you and onto his head. GAAAAAGGGGG!!

  23. When your musical accompaniment is a lone piano player who accidentally flips too many pages at once and ends a big showstopping number too soon leaving the entire cast stranded on stage. And then it’s IMPROV TIME!!

    • Been there. Done that – for an unfortunately dismal show opening. Fired on the spot. And then sheepishly asked to return the following day because no one in the area knows the show.

  24. When you are the director… but also the choreographer, set designer, costume designer, set builder, scenic painter, sound designer, light designer, seamstress, prop master…

    • And cast complains you don’t have some small item done for them yet. Smile, smile, smile though your heart feels like murdering someone!

  25. When you are performing your big musical solo and a wailing ambulance goes by. Also, if you are fortunate enough to have a bathroom backstage but you can only flush the toilet during intermission.

  26. When you offer to help a new set designer with set dressing because you know where everything is, and after 3 hours, she says she is leaving immediately for a week and won’t be back till the night before opening. Leaving you with a half dressed set and a complicated ‘water’ feature she has designed but isn’t quite sure how to make it work.

  27. There’s time to rehearse everything except scenes. Music, blocking, music, choreography, music, set changes, music, more choreography – – soon it’s Wednesday before tech week and you haven’t run any dialogue, nor ever strung two scenes together. Good luck remembering those words, pal.

  28. When the costumer makes a costume for each of the women (and the leading lady gets a different one for each scene) and the men are directed to a large box and told to “find something that fits.”

  29. When you have to kiss your love interest (who you REALLY don’t want to kiss) on stage and your soon to be ex-boyfriend in the audience just can’t handle it.

  30. When you have to arrange food props for the kids in “Grease” and they all want a different beverage, they all eat the food every night, and the guy playing Roger insists on potato chip and mustard to stand in for his hamburger, but you have to make two of them because he eats one offstage before the scene because he’s hungry.

  31. It’s been a hard tech week and nobody understands why you go home and get hammered and stoned so you can relax before eating and then get up and do it all over again !

  32. When your co-star thinks he’s cleverer than the playwright and delivers his own improvised lines – so you have to know the entire scene to keep the scene on track.

  33. When the leading (titular role) lady gets her knickers in a twist because the review did not mention her and decides to take the next night off due to “cramps.” Then the replacement does such a good job (and is a much nicer person) than the original actress that all the cast loves her and gives her a closing night gift, while the original sulks in a corner … true story.

  34. I practiced the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” spelling choreography at work when nobody was watching, and I fell into the candy machine.

  35. When you’re the Special effects makeup artist or costumer for the entire cast of Wizard of Oz or Into the woods, and NONE of your cast has the extra time to show up for castings of fittings, bust you still have to deliver BROADWAY QUALITY.

  36. When you are the ONLY sound or light tech and nobody wants to learn how you keep everything under your control going smoothly so that they might someday fill in your job.

  37. When you end up with only a month’s worth of rehearsals (not consecutive) because the theatre is also an art gallery that insists on having art shows during the time you’re supposed to rehearse — and you’re putting on a musical.

  38. When the director casts his/her husband/son/daughter in a lead or supporting role. That and so many other reasons are why I stopped doing community theatre.

  39. When your choreographer/ main female lead misses 2 weeks of full-run rehearsal without giving anybody notice and then misses load-in and the first full orchestra rehearsal.

    When you go to start setting up in the performance space and you realize that all your cables and power tools are in the rehearsal space twenty minutes away so instead you start stealing…I mean borrowing…from cast/crew who live nearby.

  40. You forgot the one where there are only two dressing rooms that the main characters get and everybody gets undressed in front of each other and don’t even care because you have 30 seconds to change. You know I am right. No shame.

  41. Oh, and when the theater doesn’t have a staff, so all the actors become set movers, painters and builders.

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