Community & Theatre@First: A Perfect Match
By Jan Bennett
State of the Re:Union understands how necessary it is to have community involvement in the formula for success. When people come together for a common purpose, there are so many possibilities that become less intimidating and more achievable. Theatre@First, a community theater in Boston, is living proof that the coming together of community can make great things happen. (To read the original article in its entirety, click here.)
Two sisters, Beckie and Elizabeth Hunter, first formed the Theatre@First performing arts organization in 2003. They were inspired after they found themselves attending many community plays that Elizabeth’s husband was in. At first, the group started out as a cluster of friends and family, but the success of Theatre@First spread far and grew quickly. Today, it is a non-profit organization that has sustainable support by more than 700 people, 300 of whom are directly involved with putting on productions.
The sisters will tell you that the community is what has made their venture work. The group went from involving just friends and family to friends of friends, and before they knew it, they had people showing up off of the street to audition for their first production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Thanks to the support of community members, their first show was a hit, and people were soon asking when the next production was going to be.
The article “Theatre@First Puts the ‘Community’ in Community Theater” in Boston.com says that “… for all its success, Theatre@First remains focused on community over everything else.” According to the article, “Part of what makes Theatre@First different from other theater groups is its commitment to inclusivity. The mission statement says participants are welcome ‘at all levels of experience, without regard to race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, national origin, body type, age or disability.’”
For anyone who has wanted to try a hand at theater but is not really sure what they might have to offer, this is the ideal place to find out. People of all skill levels are welcome to participate, and often do. About half of the staff for each production put on are new. One member whose been working there for five years agrees. She says, “You meet so many people from different backgrounds and with different skill sets, especially, and you learn from everybody. And not just the theatre people – even the newbies have experiences to bring in.”
The dedication and longevity of the staff presence speaks volumes. Of the 38 people who helped with the first show, 12 are still working for Theatre@First. Hundreds more have joined since then. They have become a family. Literally. There are many people who have met, married and grown their families, all thanks to Theatre@First. Here, community and family are one in the same.
Theatre@First knows that it takes all kinds to make the “stage” go round, and have used that sentiment as stepping stones to great achievement. “We’re a community theater,” she added. “This is what we look like. These are the people in our neighborhood.”
Theatre@First is a shining example of how a community coming together can make a positive difference in the lives of many. Friendships are formed, bonds are forged, and neighbors begin to help turn the dreams of a few into the ambitions of many. Theater involvement is a wonderful way to create true camaraderie. Perhaps you know of a different approach involving community that has produced great results like Theatre@First. What are some other effective ways to get people of all levels, creeds and backgrounds involved in bringing community together? Let us know, fill in the box below with your favorite story of community.