What is community? By definition, it is a group of people coming together over shared values and ideas. Lately, in our society that seems to be harder and harder to find. In an effort to be our true selves and explore our own beliefs, it can sometimes be lonely. Feeling like we don’t really have a community anymore.
That’s definitely what I was feeling a few years ago. Amongst the global pandemic, not only was I social distancing, but I was losing touch with my community. Having to use technology as a way to connect because I couldn’t be with people in person. It really struck me at how I lost that sense of community. I lost a group to call my own. My friends. My family. My support system. As the world shifted, I began to search for more community in my life and I found my way back to community theater. The idea that a group of humans within a certain geographical area would come together to share stories and share space was absolutely enthralling to me.
Community theater has long been an integral part of local cultures, providing an avenue for artistic expression and fostering a sense of belonging among individuals. At its heart, community theater thrives on the power of the community itself. The people involved create the rules, the values, the norms, the stories and it shifts from show to show and cast to cast. Over the last two years, I have been blessed to re-discover what community means through our efforts at The Fleetwood Project.
Community means diversity. One of the fundamental aspects of community theater is its ability to bring people from diverse backgrounds together. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, community theater welcomes all individuals who share a passion for the performing arts. One of my theater friends once told me that, “community theater is color blind and age defiant”. Where else will you find people who look so different all having the same fun? Where can you find a space where a 25 year old and a 72 year old are sharing a meal and an adventure? A community thrives on diversity and it something we should continue to seek out.
Community means connection. One of the most interesting parts of community theater for me has been the deep connections and meaningful relationships that have been developed. The bonds formed during rehearsals, set construction, and backstage experiences often extend beyond the production itself, resulting in lifelong friendships. These connections create a sense of belonging and provide a support system that extends far beyond the theater walls. I have been blessed to find not only friends, but true family as a part of my community theater experience.
Community is human. Building a community is an innate part of the human experience. We crave a tribe. A group to be a part of. A place where we are seen, heard, welcomed, and loved. As humans we need to belong to something. For many people, community can happen aat work or trough a strong family. But some don’t have those options. Community theater can give people a place where they can bring their entire human experience to the table. Where someone can feel seen and appreciated. In this way, community theater builds the fab ric of it’s local community. Being a home and a gathering place to those that don’t feel they fit with others.
Community theater serves as a testament to the power of collaboration, inclusivity, and creativity. By nurturing relationships, fostering personal growth, and strengthening the local community, community theater brings people together and contributes to the overall well-being of individuals and society. As we recognize the importance of community in community theater, it becomes evident that this art form is not just about the performances on stage but also about the bonds and connections. Community theater has changed my life and I am so proud to have found a place where I feel at home.
I encourage you to think about your community, your group, your family. Where do you belong? And if you are looking for a community, why not try some local community theater? There are a lot of options in the Kennedale/Mansfield area and I know you will find the love and support and connection we all desire. On with the show!