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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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

You might enjoy: A Beginners Guide To Community Theatre

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

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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.

      • Yeah, I’m the student manager for makeup crew for my school theatre department and I have maybe 5 rehearsals to figure out what makeup should look like based on the photos I’m given by the director for inspiration, get the ok from the director, help the younger makeup “artists” get their crap together, and figure out what order the actor’s need to go in to get their makeup done so they can get on stage in time. Not to mention dealing with our insane director who knows I’m kidding when I say this (love you, Lynden) and who added confetti cannons 3 days before opening night.

    • Did a concert type production as a fundraiser once, a very small group of people. Only had a few body mics, so we were told to shut them off as we left the stage area so there’d be no noise from the switching from person to person. There were 2 duos who’d jokingly argued which of their numbers would be gayer (two girls doing Take Me or Leave Me from RENT, versus a performance of Popular from Wicked featuring a male Glinda.) At the end of Popular, which came earlier in the performance schedule, the guy came back stage, very please with how the performance had gone, looked at the RENT gals and exclaimed “Out-gay *THAT*, b*tches!” A fellow performer who was also one of the group running the fundraiser looked over at him and says, “Jimmy, did you turn your microphone off?” He blanched, checks the battery pack…nope, still on. The audience heard his exclamation.
      …did I mention, the performance was in a church?

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!!

  14. 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.

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.”

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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 !

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. When you stop asking people you know to come to the shows your working on, because you finally realize …….”they could care less” but they don’t want to appear rude or not cultured ( whatever that is). You even offer to buy a ticket or give them your comps! just to get them in a seat,……..”Sorry, too busy”.

  32. You know you’re in community theatre when you get two rounds of applause – the first onstage at curtain call, and the second outside the theatre when the patrons see you emptying the garbage after the show.

  33. SO TRUE!! This totally made my day! But, I mean the bobby pins are understood by every girl. Like “I USED to have one million pins and hair ties, but they disappeared. There must have been some magnetic ghost in this theatre last night!” XD Thank you for this!

  34. You have learned to take vacation from work during tech week of the show you are directing so you can get 4 hours of sleep at night and have a finished set, sound cues, light cues, costumes…

  35. When you have to dig out a mic cord from a sweaty guy’s posterior and tape it to yourself… without gagging… in 30 seconds… you might be a community theatre actor. (Five years later, I’m still gagging!)

  36. When you have to call a show to four people with only two fully functional headsets. Or when you have to whisper-yell at the actors during the show right behind the curtain. You’d do it in the green room… but there isn’t one.

  37. You have every intention of eating well for tech week, and shows so you don’t get sick, or poofy for costumes. But for some reason time is never on your side and you are at that Del Taco drive thru daily that is on the way to the theater.

  38. 1. They add two extra orphans in Annie
    2. They double cast the Von Trapp kids in The Sound of Music
    3. There’s a 50 year old playing a 19 year old
    4. The “time period” outfits are reused in Seussical, The Music Man, Oliver, and Annie get your Gun
    5. An all-white cast of The Wiz, The King & I, and West Side Story.
    6. There’s algo/mezzo females in male roles
    7. Cutting inappropriate lines
    8. Buying stuff from Goodwill or renting scripts and costumes
    9. Sharing mics
    10. Using southern accents in Oliver and My Fair Lady

  39. When 3 weend before opening night your main character tells you he is pulling out of the show. He cannot do the role because he’s moving house and going to live with his boyfriend that night. You then spend 24 hrs bribing the only other guy whom you know can carry it off, to make his own rehearsal hours with you. You then move your office to your home. You rehearse his part in your living room until you are both bleary eyed and three weeks later he gets a standing ovation and Best Actor award. That’s show business and I love it.

    • We costumed our stage crew for Legally Blonde by having getting them black t-shirts with hot pink Delta Nu Greek letters on them. That was an easy fix, but we felt we needed to have them “in character” as so many of the scene changes were taking place on a lit stage during song transitions.

  40. When as you are walking to the stage because it’s showtime, you stop in a puddle in the hall because a toilet is backing up so the show has to be delayed because your two main actors also handle the building maintenance!?

  41. When you have to explain to some people why you are saying Break a Leg to some of the stars in the show. I mean, why would you wish a broken leg on someone right now, right here? I get so tired of explaining it. NO!! I DON’T REALLY WANT THE LEAD CAST MEMBER TO FALL OFF THE STAGE AND HAVE TO CANCEL THE SHOW!!!

  42. When it’s the second performance and a toilet explodes due to plumbing issues meaning the show has to be canceled.

    Also, when you’re in charge of blocking a really important scene with someone else and the other person and some other girl change the entire thing while you’re one of the most important characters in the scene. So you sit down ona bench and think, “Why?!”. Meanwhile, you’re watching the entire thing and it’s your turn to run it. Only to realize, that they changed the blocking without you knowing right. in. front. of. you.

  43. I was the stage manager for Pride and Prejudice and the director changed the blocking of a scene on opening night in order to remove darcy from it entirely (bc he didn’t know the lines) so my lead actress bless her soul was going to read her lines and darcys lines off this letter – and so i had to hand write like four full pages out of the script onto a prop letter and i barely finished it before we opened the house that was a Time

  44. Raise your hand if you nearly died during tech week. Or raise your hand when you totally knew that one actor would get the role you wanted cause she impressed your director during the info night when she sang. *shoots her hand into the sky*

  45. Or when you stand on the stage for half an hour during tech week cause your director can’t decide whether she wants the light purple or the dark purple for that scene.

  46. When you are directing a show for a new production company that has no idea what they are doing, and, at load-in you find that you are expected to design the set on the spot, as it has to be up in 4 hours. You’ve already brought in the kitchen unit, the sofa bed, and the dead plants. You have been rehearsing in the lead actor’s apartment. So you rent a bunch of flats from the venue you’re using and throw it together off the top of your head.

    As a side note, one reviewer said it was the best set he’d seen on that stage, and he lamented that there was no set design credit in the program. I lamented it, too, as it was me.

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