Theatre Information

Survey Results: Should Community Theater Be Reviewed?

By • Jan 7th, 2009 • Category: ShowBizRadio

The second open-ended question to our survey was “Some people have argued that community theater should not be subject to public criticism by the press because community theater is comprised of unpaid volunteers. In your opinion, should community theater be reviewed?”

98% of responses said “Yes, community theater should be reviewed.” We had one response say “No,” but their comment makes me think they accidentally chose No instead of Yes:

  • Given the high level of talent in this area as well as the great number of theaterical options, audiences attending community theater productions expect a higher quaiklty level than is normally expected from community theater.

One response included this statement: “If a theater company doesn’t want to be reviewed, they shouldn’t invite the press.” Very few community theaters maintain a true press list. This is mostly a result of the volunteer system, where each production has an entirely new set of designers and volunteers working to pull the show together. Of the 50+ community theaters in the region that we cover, fewer than five regularly send us press releases or invite us to review their productions. If one of the purposes of a review is to serve as a publicity function, community theaters must do a better job at keeping press aware of what is happening in their theaters. Feel free to send press releases to us.

A collection of the responses is below. Note how some of the opinions given directly contradict one another:

  • Those attending have a right to know what a professional critic likes or dislikes about a performance.
  • Adds legitimacy to the effort. Provides stimulus for quality in production efforts. Brings needed attention to the public.
  • It provides a good source of free advertising for the community theatres working under constrained budgets.
  • Criticism is fine, but, if the reviewer has a problem with the play itself, then that should be directed at the author and not the community theater director or actors
  • To help guide the theatre lover as he or she decides which production to attend — one cannot attend them all!! I think it also helps not only the public but the performers gauge their performances.
  • To celebrate the creation of quality theatre in the not-for-profit sector.
  • community theater, like professional theater, exists to be seen, enjoyed and reacted to by an audience. Reviews are an important part of that for the theater creators (who will get an idea of how they did and where they can improve) and for the audience (who will get an idea of whether or not a particular show is suited to them).
  • Actors and techs use reviews as constructive criticism of their work to improve. Positive reviews build audiences and thus substitute for paid advertising which most community theaters cannot afford.
  • Many of these actors are aspiring pros. Besides, all acrors have the same responsibility toward the audience.
  • Just because we are unpaid volunteers does not mean we should be allowed to put on crap! Review standards for community theatre should not be as stringent as those for professional productions but should still have standards to adhere to. Reviews let people know if a production is up to community theatre standards. Some community is as good and sometimes better than professional productions; reviews should let the public know that as well!
  • Public criticism is not the same as a review. Reviews can be positive or not positive. If there is an axe to grind, however, do it in private.
  • Absolutely. As a performer, I think reviews are essential to the ego. Both to encourage and to keep in check. Also, there is nothing more gratifying than putting 4 months of your life into a production and seeing your effort praised in a review. Bad reviews can suck, but it’s all part of the game. There are good shows and there are bad shows and that’s just the way it is – we all think it, reviews just put it in black and white. If we leave it up to our friends and family to “review” our shows, all we’ll ever hear is “you were great” when sometimes, that’s not necessarily the case. Also, while the volunteers may be unpaid, the patrons are still shelling out money to see the production and they have the right to know beforehand if it’s going to be a gem or a lemon.
  • Despite the fact that community theater is volunteer (and community-based), all of us community theater actors enjoy reviews, good or bad, because it’s how the public views the show and us.
  • Volunteers want feedback too.
  • Yes – however, perhaps the reviewers should be cognizant of the unpaid/volunteer status of the participants. Not that negative or constructive comments should be disallowed or censored, but should be included in as fair and non-derogatory a manner as possible. Many times, weaker performers are those with minimal, and sometimes no, experience who are “testing the waters” or have been asked to fill in a hole where no other performers are available. Reviewers should be focused on identifying the strongest elements of amateur productions and should rightly call out those elements that deserve attention from amateur and professional producers. Silence or reticence on weaker elements can be readily interpreted by a knowledgeable reader.
  • I like reading (hearing in your case) others reaction to a production.
  • It’s an unbiased critique of the performance. Any performing artist must seek criticism to improve and grow. On top of which the critic is providing expert feedback on behalf of the target audience.
  • Deep down, the people who spend so much time on a project that consumes their life, want some kind of feedback on their project.
  • Yes — but please keep in mind that these individuals are NOT professional actors.
  • Yes, but consider all aspects of venue and history of theatre
  • Because though they are not being paid, it is a show non the less.
  • Community theater is a huge presence in this particular area of the country, and people spend almost as much on tickets to community as professional theater. Everyone has a right to know if a show is put together well.
  • While I am not greatly in favor of community theatre being reviewed in general, I feel it is okay to review community theatre as long as the reviewer does not treat it as if it were a professional production. Keeping in mind that all are volunteers, reviewers’ comments should be given in a kinder way, and always readers should be reminded that this is only ONE PERSON’S opinion. Unkind remarks made to a sensitive young person, for example, who has to go on and do several more performances, just shouid not be permitted. Also, community theatre reviewers should refrain from such comments as “I would skip this show if I were you.” If they do not care for the show, that will be reflected in the comments.
  • We in community theatre as in all theatre rely on an audience. A good review is the best publicity available. People that don’t like reviews are usually involved in a bad production.
  • There is GREAT community theatre, and there is HORRIBLE community theatre…just like professional theatre. If people are going to see a show because they know someone, they will see it anyway. If someone is trying to decide whether they should see a show, a review helps.
  • Community theaters strive to be considered legit. Only few theaters will put on shows they think are less then best. They work just as hard as a lot of professional theaters.
  • I disagree with anyone who falls into the line of thinking that community theatre should not be reviewed. If you don’t want to be reviewed then just don’t read it.
  • We’re all being reviewed- whether or not those reviews are public is the only question. Most of the shows we’re talking about are already subject to review of some sort (e.g. WATCH, Ruby Griffith, etc.) If a performance is halfhearted, or a production has serious deficiencies, pointing that out might help educate and create better performances.
  • Why not. The caliber of a lot of theaters is as high as that of “paid” professionals. If a theater company doesn’t want to be reviewed, they shouldn’t invite the press.
  • People are still paying money to see these shows, right? Then they should be able to get an idea of the quality of the show before they shell out their money.
  • I see nothing wrong with it and think giving audiences a forum to discuss is great, but do think some responses need to be screened. Some people just get plain rude.
  • How else will we improve if we do not hear what others think about our productions? Criticism can discuss both strengths and weaknesses of productions
  • To bring in audiences and bring notice to performers worthy of mention.

Please share your thoughts about reviewing community theater as a comment, or contact us directly.

Next: Should ShowBizRadio include schedule, audition information, and reviews for the professional theaters in the DC region?

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College.