community theatre

Definition

Theater

  • A theatrical organization or type of drama designed to caterto audiences alienated by or disenfranchised from the conventionaland commercial theater. Community theater emerged in the 1960s inan attempt to attract a wider and more disparate audience and to createa forum in which subjects ignored by mainstream drama could be debated.Some organizations, such as the London based Inter-Action, concentratedupon taking the theater to schools, factories, and remote areas ofthe country. Other organizations, such as Gay Sweatshop and BlackTheatre Co-Operative, concentrated on addressing issues affectingparticular groups, such as homosexuals or racial minorities.

    In the late 1970s another form of community theater arosebased on the idea of the community play. Pioneered in theDorset area by the dramatist Ann Jellicoe, a founder of the ColwayTheatre Trust, the community play involves the creation of a dramaticwork based on some aspect of a community's local history. These worksare usually produced using local people as performers and technicalassistants, though often under the guidance of a professional directorand playwright. Notable community plays commissioned by Jellicoe includeHoward barker's The Poor Man's Friend (1981), and David Edgar'sEntertaining Friends (1985), set in Dorchester.

    In America the term community theater is virtually synonymouswith the Little Theatres.

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