In June, we will literally be in another London. Another parallel is that we will be seeing two shows in the real London that I am currently working on in this London. I am in the process of rehearsals for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Palace Theatre, which we will be seeing at Shakespeare’s Globe. Also, I am working on an in class presentation of Edward Albee’s The Goat, which we will see at Theatre Royal Haymarket. I am excited to see these professional productions, but my favourite aspect of amateur theatre is that it is working for feeling, not for money. The people I know who are involved in amateur theatre are volunteering their time because theatre is their passion. This is not to say that professionals are not passionate, as I am certain they are, but I am going to speak from my experience about the “emotional pay-off” of amateur theatre (Hurley 1).
In Theatre & Feeling Hurley writes that “three-quarters of the arts events people attend are amateur productions…they are events put on by those whose artistic practice is founded, by definition, in love (the French amateur literally means ‘lover’)” (2). It is true most of the theatre I see is amateur. In the past month, I have seen three amateur shows, all in which I know some, or most, of the people involved in the production. Being involved in amateur theatre has introduced me to a community of people that share my passion. Community theatre is commonly perceived as a hobby and as a tier far below professional quality, but I have seen amateur productions with great acting. Some recent examples that have stood out in London include Calithumpian Theatre Company’s The History Boys and Theatre Western’s Twelve Angry Men.
There are varying levels of amateur, though. My in-class presentation of The Goat was not born from passion or love, but from a syllabus. Although I have a great group, we are passionate about putting together a good adaptation in the hopes of a high grade in return. Everyone in the class is interested in drama, but not everyone considers themselves an actor.
On the other hand, most of the production team for Twelfth Night and some of the actors have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre. Theatre is not their job yet it is far from a hobby. There are ten hours of rehearsals each week for our upcoming production, and those hours are beginning to increase as we get closer to the run of the show. Although we are all working tirelessly, no one involved is paid. The theatre and the theatre company make a profit off of amateur shows but the “feeling-labour” of the actors is not for monetary compensation (Hurley 9). Hurley writes that, “people attend the theatre for its emotional pay-off” and I believe that is what actors in amateur productions gain as well (Hurley 1).
Hurley, Erin. Theatre & Feeling. Palgrave, 2010.
Rachel Flear is a fourth year English and Theatre Studies Student from London, Ontario.