Freeport Players’ by-laws state that our mission, in part, is “to encourage and promote the theater arts by the development of skills, education, and appreciation in all phases of theater arts for the community.” Education is an important aspect of what we do, but it might not be immediately obvious how we do that.
Other organizations — such as our friends at Acorn Productions — have committed to theater education by offering classes in acting for learners of all ages. Instead, we’ve got a “learn by doing” approach that has served us and our volunteers well over the years. Sometimes by design and sometimes by accident, we bring experienced theater people together with people just getting started. By working together to bring work to the stage, both parties learn more about the craft.
Like all our volunteers, I’ve had the chance to work with and observe directors, designers, technicians, and actors who have taught me a lot about theater. When I was in Crimes of the Heart, director Barbara Buck taught me the importance of character development and basic tools to analyze a script, lessons that I have built on by observing and working with other directors since. Technical director Adam Klein has taught me a substantial amount of what I know about lighting design and installation. David and Dorothy Glendinning are beginning to teach me about set design. Each of them has taught me much more than what I’ve said here, and they are but four of the many people from whom I have learned.
Sometimes I learn by doing. I didn’t know how to select and process sound effects for theater or play them through an old stereo on cue when we needed thunder and rain for Deathtrap. But I knew it was possible and I figured it out because Freeport Players let me try.
It is one of the significant roles community theater plays to provide these opportunities to experience theater from the inside and to learn and grow in the process. Kat Sirico, who designed the lighting for our most recent show Cabin Fiver and is now working on the design for I Hate Hamlet, has made it her mission to pass basic knowledge along to young people to keep the fire burning. She takes the time during loadin to provide instruction about how to hang instruments properly and safely, how to maintain the equipment, and how to speak the language of lighting technicians so they will be able to step into any theater’s tech crew with confidence.
The Glendinnings and Sam Hunneman have been working with Beth Paterson, Tim Ryan and the high school drama program for years. They have devoted countless hours to supporting and mentoring students, helping them envision critical aspects of a production and teaching them how to execute that vision.
One of the most satisfying byproducts of my new role as Managing/Artistic Director of the Players is I get to carry on that tradition. I have a front-row seat in watching the learning happen.
So next time you come see a show at Freeport Players, remember you are seeing the final results of a process that started with people of all skill levels coming together to learn from each other and entertain you.