By: Megan McCasland
Have you ever been to a show that you only liked because you had friends or family in it? Did the costumes and set seem to be haphazardly thrown together? Were the actors (with the exception of your friends/family, of course) not believable? Chances are, you were either at a school production or a community theatre. When compared to professional theatres, community theatres are often stereotyped to have a small troupe of actors who are cast in every mediocre show that comes out of the theatre’s lackluster performance space and tight budget.
“Waco Civic Theatre aims to defy those stereotypes by conducting classes and workshops and producing high-quality theatre to instruct and further the development, and—in some cases—careers, of our volunteer performers,” Eric Shephard said.
We strive to foster the talent of the people in our community, be they dentists, journalists, newscasters, teachers, or students. And those talents are not just limited to on-stage skills. “We always need extra hands who are good with tools, painting, organizing, greeting the public, you name it,” Shephard said.
However, utilizing volunteers’ time and talents doesn’t just benefit Waco Civic Theatre and the ease of our operation. The volunteers get a chance to be impacted, too, whether that’s by growing as a person or developing skills they didn’t know they had. We also try to teach accountability and problem-solving not only to the volunteers, but also in the classes and workshops that we host throughout the year.
Aside from the huge help our volunteers provide, the sponsorships that our generous patrons give help with financing the shows that we put up every season. While a professional theatre might be able to run off of ticket sales alone, most community theatres don’t have that luxury. A lot of show costs occur behind-the-scenes, in places that the average theatre-goer doesn’t think about when watching our final product. These include royalties (buying the rights to produce that show), costumes, props, orchestra, set pieces, etc. Any donations that we receive are used in specific places that the donors ask their money to go, unless they’re general donations (our favorite kind!), which get used wherever the demand is greatest.
Putting on a production is no small task, according to Shephard. “We choose a show, we set budgets, we find directors and designers, we design and begin to build and prepare for the show, we set auditions and then hold them, we rehearse the show for 4-6 weeks, we hold a preview, and then we open!” When we’re not working on our next show, we fill ticket requests, build sets and props, pay the bills, write grants or write to funders of grants, and research shows and grants to apply for. Throughout the average day, we answer phone calls, messages, and emails about the shows, while most evenings are spent rehearsing or performing.
Running a community theatre may be a lot of work, but we love it. Everything that we do ultimately circles back to our desire to put on high-quality shows. Waco Civic Theatre, like other well-run community theatres, goes beyond that to produce an environment that will foster a creative and inclusive environment for people in the community to go to.
Photo taken by: Megan McCasland