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The ins and outs of developing community theatre

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players … unless, of course, they’re behind the scenes making sure the play gets on stage in the first place.

Even Shakespeare didn’t go it alone, after all.

With that in mind, Theatre Wellesley is next week offering for the first time to non-members a workshop on producing community theatre. 

Led by Elora Community Theatre directors and producers Deb Stanson and David Tanner, the sessions will run on May 17 and 24 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. The two-part workshop will educate participants on what a community theatre production team will encounter over the course of a show.

Dave McNorgan, chair for Theatre Wellesley executive and organizer of the workshop, hopes they will promote more Wellesley community members to take interest in joining the theatre.

“Our hope is that we will get new faces coming out and convert those who have helped in other ways backstage or, if they have been actors, who want to produce,” said McNorgan.

Each year the community theatre group puts on spring and fall productions, encouraging both new members and a wider audience. After implementing the second more intimate spring show, McNorgan says they are in need of more production support.

“Our rationale behind it is to get more people involved on the production side of putting on a show. We have done quite well with our directors, our actors, but on the production side we just need more help if we are going to do this well. So we thought a production workshop on how other people do it, how does somebody do it and contribute to producing without feeling overwhelmed,” said McNorgan.

The Theatre Wellesley Community Theatre Group, pictured here at curtain call for their November 2015 production of Cocktails with Mimi. [Submitted]

The workshop will review all of the elements that go into producing a stage play, from holding auditions to creating show timelines and promoting the show.

“(Deb and David) are wonderful to work with, so I thought they would have some great insights because they have a ton of experience putting on shows, not just as directors but also as producers,” said McNorgan.

Spread over two nights, the workshop days build on one another.

“It is not the same workshop over the two nights – one builds on the other,” said McNorgan. “My hope is to whet people’s appetites on the first night, so they say ‘yeah, I can do this; this is something I can be part of without feeling overwhelmed.’ And then the second evening, it’s my hope that people will be saying, ‘yeah, I can do this; how can we work together and move forward on this.’”

Just over a dozen people are already committed to the workshop, but McNorgan is hoping to see more participants get involved regardless of their theatre experience.

“Anyone with experience would be wonderful because we would like to hear their ideas, but most important we would like to get people within our own area for Theatre Wellesley who have been involved maybe in another role as a house manager or on stage as an actor but have never been involved producing a show. We want to eliminate the fear factor so that they can approach it and feel that they can be a part of a team.”

Although hoping to grow the production team is the main purpose of the workshops, McNorgan says they are also an introduction to the hospitality, camaraderie, and friendship that comes out of being a part of that team at Theatre Wellesley.

“Our motto is to have fun. We take great pride in producing great theatre, but we want to make sure that people are having fun, that they aren’t getting super stressed out. It is a mixture of the joy of creating great productions and great theatre, but it’s community theatre so becoming friends and having lots of fun doing it. For us hospitality, camaraderie, friendship, it matters as much as the show we put on and it really shows,” he explained.

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