The spotlights are shining bright. Wooden structures are waiting to be transformed into a hotel room stage set. A crew shows up after work to put in another long night’s effort into the rehearsal. Welcome to community theatre.
Despite the hard work, the Scarborough Players, a non-profit community theatre company, attracts people from a wide range of professions.
“Everyone you see on stage, and everyone you see backstage is a volunteer, ” said Stefan Budansew, producer of the current production, The Innocent Eye Test.
Heather Peterson, stage manager and set designer, said unlike professional theatres, community theatres like the Scarborough Players are more about passion and fun.
Peterson has been involved in the Scarborough Players for about five years.
She graduated from theatre school and worked in the theatre business for a short time. She was later forced to take a break from theatre for professional reasons.
I didn’t want to do professional theatre anymore. I wanted to do community theatre because it is more fun.
However, her passion for theatre has not been taken away by her day job as a web designer.
“About five or six years ago, I decided that life had stabilized and I can go back into [theatre] again. I didn’t want to do professional theatre anymore. I wanted to do community theatre because it is more fun,” she said.
Peterson said there are several reasons for people to become part of community theatres groups like the Scarborough Players.
“You get people who perhaps wanted to get into professional theatre but decided eventually that community theatre was a better fit because it was more about the love,” Peterson said. “It is all about just playing and being somebody completely different from who you normally are.”
Community theatre is also a place where people can bring in their strengths and develop crucial skills though practice, Peterson said.
“We also get people who kind of fall into it by accident because they like to do stuff like painting or building or other volunteer work,” she said. “There are some people who get into it because they want to increase their confidence at work. Instead of taking speech art [courses] and toast masters, they want to do it on stage.”
Budansew said auditions are open to everyone regardless of whether or not they have a theatre background.
Besides the passion and the love, Scarborough Players face many challenges as well. The most dominant of which is the lack of funds.
“Right now we make enough [money] to just cover our costs,” Budansew said.
Unlike professional theatres, Scarborough Players does not have the budget for marketing and publicity, said Katherine Turner, the president of Scarborough Players.
“The need to reach new audiences is really critical. So publicity and marketing wasn’t an issue 10 years ago but it’s huge now,” Turner said, “We are all volunteers and we don’t have the budget for that [kind of marketing].”
Selling enough tickets to sustain the life of the Scarborough Players is crucial.
“We have huge expenses,” Turner said, “So our ticket sales have to cover the cost of our existence.”
Despite the challenges, the show must go on.
Scarborough Players’ current production The Innocent of Eye Test took the stage on March 8. Scarborough Players is also devoted to supporting local youth.
“Right now with the economy and the recession, we are not doing so great. But any money that we do get over and above, we give [it] back to the community. We have already helped the City of Toronto with some other youth arts programs,” he said. “We also offered a scholarship to a local high school.”
The spotlights hanging above the stage will keep on shining until late at night. Day jobs and long hours spent commuting cannot stop people from loving theatre. The crew certainly does not see the intense rehearsal as an extra burden on their shoulders. On the contrary, spending the night on the lightened stage and living in the moments of fantasy for a short period of time seems to be a perfect way to conclude their day.
“People haven’t done it since high school and wanted to do it again,” Turner said.