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Community Theater Volunteer

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Wanted: A person who loves the arts and has some free time and a little sensitivity. A person committed to the community and the theater.

The American Association of Community Theatre represents the interests of more than 7,000 theater groups across the United States. Julie Angelo, former executive director of AACT, estimates there are a million volunteers with those theater groups. Volunteers do everything from handing out programs, to set design and fund-raising.

Ron Dodson is the past president of a theater company. He says a love of and commitment to the arts are typical qualities of theater volunteers. "Theater tends to be something that you feel you want to do, and should do for your community," he says.

"What makes a good volunteer varies a lot," says Angelo. "Some like to do short-term things, others like long-term things. Some wield a paintbrush, and there are those who have some stage ability."

"All our people -- board, actors and technicians -- are volunteers," says Billie Williams with Fontana Community Players in Fontana, California. She says it takes about 100 volunteers, each putting in four to 40 hours a week, to do a production.

Volunteering provides people young and old with opportunities to develop talents, learn new skills and find self-confidence. "Kids come back and say they learned to speak in public," says Williams. "It makes them able to meet people and not be afraid, and stand up in front of people and speak."

"I started out helping with costumes when [my] children were small and I couldn't be away for long," says Dottie Griffith. She's a volunteer with the Twin City Players in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Her work with costumes led to several stage appearances. "I shook my first time on stage. I was so frightened," she says. What sort of person makes a good theater volunteer, according to Griffith? "I think you know within yourself if you want to be among those people," she says.

When Billie Williams was young, her mother took her to see a play for her birthday. The experience changed her life.

"I thought it was fascinating," remembers Williams. "I'd seen movies, but thought there was something really interesting to see people up there on stage."

Theater has been her passion ever since. She pursued theater in school and community theater groups right through college. She then taught theater at the high school level for 20 years. After retiring, she volunteered for the Fontana Community Players theater, and served as the group's chairman. She's now a member emeritus on the board of directors.

There's little time for acting, but Williams says it is still a thrill to get up on stage. "When you hear people laugh and applaud at what you're doing, it's exciting," she says.

How to Get Involved

Look for community theater groups in the phone book. However, since many theater groups are too small to have a separate listing, you should also call your local chamber of commerce or arts council.

If there isn't a theater group in your area, Dodson suggests starting your own. "Find a person in the community who is interested in reading plays, then find someone at church that likes to do lighting and sound, and follow those lines," he says.


American Association of Community Theatre (AACT)


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