I spent some time in my hometown this weekend; a rural, tourist destination in Northern Michigan. The high school had just produced its spring musical, Grease, and all the town was a buzz with praise for the show. They had rented the costumes and gotten a few extra boys to come our to play the T-Birds. The whole thing was a smashing success. There is even talk of remounting it as the summer play for all the tourists.
The remount will never happen. There has been talk of doing this in the past, but inevitably one boy's summer job will get in the way or a girl will be away on a trip with her family. While it may seem like a lazy, little town, there is a lot going on and because of the smaller population, more people have to do more things.
The same goes for the adults. There is a very strong community theatre that performs during the summer. They are lucky to have a core group of individuals who are not only very talented, but are willing to give up much of the their time (and even some of their finances) to make sure that a high quality production happens. They start rehearsals as early as March or April and often work all the way until mid-July.
I'm grateful for these hardworking people. They not only instilled in me a love of the theatre, but the work ethic that goes along with it as well. So many times I run into the child of rich parents who went to the arts high school in New York or L.A. - the kid who spent all of his or her time going to see Cats, Les Mis, or Phantom on Broadway. They definitely have a better sense of what that final product should be in a professional setting. They know more about those cut throat auditions, but sometimes I think they loose perspective. Everything is compared to Broadway and the reviews and prestige that goes with it. Chicago storefront is not that. It is what it is - just like community theatre in Northern Michigan will never tour, travel, or be extended. But that's not to say that you can't put on a good show. Nor is that ignoring the fact that you can always be better. The accents in My Fair Lady or The Importance of Being Ernest would never pass the ear of a Chicago critic, but in the end, is that what matters? As long as the audience has a good time the only thing beyond that that matters is the effort.