Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Supporting The Arts

I grew up a child of the theater. I’ve written before about my deep love and appreciation of musical theater, but have never really written about the importance of the theater in my life.

I wasn’t into sports. While I was a good student, I had no desire to join academic clubs like MATH counts or spend my time doing science experiments. Learning to play an instrument was pretty low on my priority list too. Where I felt most comfortable and most “at home” was on the stage. According to my mother I was dramatic child (I have no idea where she would ever get such an idea), so a theatrical outlet for me was a natural fit.

I spent many Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons on the campus of a local community college participating in acting, dancing, and singing workshops. I was part of a children’s theater troupe that traveled locally in the tri-state area and all over the state of West Virginia performing year round in different venues for various events. I went on from there to participate in community theater plays in many nearby towns until I was in high school and sadly, I stopped. Most of the little theater groups fizzled out due to lack of interest and funding, I became involved in many other activities in high school, and I became quite content in just sitting in the audience experience a play from the other side of the curtain.

Being a part of a theater group no matter how small, gave me a sense of belonging and a belief in myself that I doubt any other experience would have given me. By my very nature I am a loner, so to find a group of people who were interested in the same sorts of things I was, gave me the confidence to just be myself. Through the theater community I was exposed to people and social situations that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. I opened my arms wide open and completely embraced the full experience, hanging on tightly with both hands. Not only did I learn the ins and the outs of the theater, the hard work and extreme talent that goes into a two hour show but I also learned the deep level of dedication people have to this craft. Directors, chorographers, musicians, actors, family members of those involved in the play – they work tireless for months, spending literally hours in rehearsals learning lines, practicing music, sewing costumes, doing hair and makeup, cleaning up afterwards. People in the arts, all arts, not just theater, pour their whole being and souls into doing what they love and more importantly, they believe in what they do.

In any economic environment, the arts often go underfunded, especially in local communities. In today’s unstable economic times that is even more so. Arts programs are getting cut from schools. Local companies and galleries are shutting their doors because they can’t afford to continue. Like everyone else in the country, I’ve curbed my spending and am a lot more careful with my money than I used to be. One area that I do choose to spend my money is the arts. Paying $10 to go see a local high school play or $25 to spend a few hours being entertained at a local community theater is very important to me. My mom and I also subscribed to a theater series in Pittsburgh to see several shows in the city this summer. For me, these causes are worth the cost and it’s a small cost compared to the work that goes in to it.

Please think about how you can support the arts in these next few months. Grab a friend and check out a local high school play. If you live near a college campus, call the drama department to see if they have any shows coming up that you can take your children to. If you live near a bigger city, hit the independent theaters to see a show. Usually when the weather warms up may communities do a show in the park or a musical group will perform outside, usually these are free or at a very low cost. If a local theater is having a pancake dinner or other fundraiser to keep their doors open, go support them. Just become involved somehow. While it sounds cliché, its very true—the performing arts helped me become the person I am today. You never know how many lives you affect by doing something so very simple.

My blogger friend Nilsa is heading up a blog drive for a local theater close to her heart. The About Face Theatre provides important contributions to the Chicago LBGTQ community and community at large by delving into issues that affect humans everywhere. They are in a dire financial situation. Please, join me if you can, in making a monetary donation to this organization to help Nilsa surpass her goal of raising $75 $125. If you can only give $1 it will help greatly. Together we can all make a difference for this one theater, as an incentive, she’s also doing a giveaway in conjunction with the blog drive.

Tell me, how do you support the arts? Are you involved in your local communities theater group?


Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I love learning about your personal connection to the arts. And thank you greatly for your shout out for my fundraiser. As you well know, I'm trying to help a theater stay alive and not shut down forever. Other ways I support the arts - we subscribe to another local theater. We buy art from local artists and small art stores. We donate money to a local organization focused on teaching arts to underserved youths. We are most definitely committed to the arts in our community.

Maxie said...

i donated! woo!

amanda said...

I always go see the local shows at my old high school. Because well, they rock! My high school has an AWESOME theater the shows are always really amazing. Umm. And I just love shows! I'm such a nerd. But musicals make me happy. I'd go see all the shows on Broadway if I had the money to. Hollla.

Andy said...

I'm actually an (amateur) actress, so I have to go and visit plenty of plays. I've gone to like 6 in the past year. :D

Little Fish said...

Love, love, love this post. One of the best things about growing up in the suburbs of NYC is being surrounded by so many great opportunitues to have the arts in your life. Not only did I grow up in a family that loved the theater and museums, but, when you grow up in NJ, school trips are often to Broadway shows or Art exhibits in the city.

There are so many reasons why it's tragic that school art programs are being cut, but one the the most disturbing consequences is that it makes the arts seem totally inexcessible to kids whose families don't have money. The beauty of the arts is that anyone no matter how rich or poor, no matter how educated can be moved by them!

PS- when you come to NYC, we will definitely have to catch a show. Right, Sis? ;)

PPS- I'm a Stephen Sondheim freak. One of my favorite lyrics of his comes from Sunday In The Park With George and sums all of this up nicely, "There are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart this world, children and art."

Auburn Kat said...

My big thing to support is animals and animal shelters.

KelliSue Kolz said...

My son was the lead of the high school production of Oliver last year, when he was 10. It converted me from a community theatre supporter to a supporter of my local high school's productions. With five children, 11 and under, I'll be supporting the school district in numerous tangible and intangible ways for many years yet. Thanks for the reminder about supporting the arts.