The Community of Community Theatre

As I work through all of the emotions of the past few weeks of being involved in a show at the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre, I’ve begun thinking about what the Community part of Community Theatre really means. And I didn’t really get this feeling until I found myself unintentionally being a part of strike for the show until 1am yesterday morning.

For those of you unaware of the term, strike is what happens after a show is completed when you take down all the sets and props and costumes and put them away. Although this can happen a number of ways depending on the troupe or the venue, it often happens immediately following the completion of the last performance, and often involves a bit of a cast party either during or after you finish the clean up process.

And I’m going to go right out and admit that I had intended to skip this part of the process for this show. While I respect strike as the responsibility of cast members in community theatre to help wrap up everything that has been done over the previous weeks/months, I simply didn’t have the energy for it and had a busy day ahead which required me to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. However, as I started to leave the venue that night, I saw they were already loading sets and props into the U-haul to go back to where they belong, and so, I figured I’d help out for a bit. That bit of helping ended up meaning I stuck around for another 3+ hours, actually being one of the last people there to help clean up from the show. In many ways, it feels like I spent more time working on strike than I did on preparing for the show itself.

And this morning, I’m still exhausted, looking to see if I can try and fit a nap in during my lunch break at work. But, at the same time, I find myself thinking about being a part of strike and realizing how much community building happens in those few hours after a show when you’re all working quickly (and in this case in the heavily-falling snow) to wrap up all of the work that everyone has been putting in to get this production to the stage. And I’m incredibly happy I didn’t skip it.

While I enjoy performing, regardless of how insecure I am about my own abilities to do so, it was strike in which I finally felt as though I was again a part of this community I’ve loved so much over the years. Because of working with these dedicated cast and crew members long after the sun had set and not long before it was going to come back up over the horizon again, I keep thinking about how ready I am to be back to do another one again soon.

I don’t have time. I definitely don’t have time right now. Or energy. But although being on the stage and hearing the audience cheer as our not-so-merry band of fake Santas did a kick-line was amazing, it wasn’t what brought me back to my old days in the theatre. It was the backstage moments like strike where the community is actually built and where we all get to see how we’re all working together to try to do something special while hoping the audience gets to appreciate what we’ve done.

It’s the not-so-fun parts that really make you feel as though you’re a part of something truly special.

And I’ve missed that.

More than I had ever could have realized.

While there’s always going to be a lot of drama involved in being a part of something like this, there’s also an amazing community of people who are really just trying to do something spectacular. And it’s those people that I miss more than anything else.

So, thanks for the opportunity to be a part of that. Even if I really need to find a place for a nap now.

Published by Adam Oster, Adventure Novelist

Husband, Father, Creator/Destroyer of Worlds

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