Not everybody is “into” theatre from the moment they are born. Theatre became an interest for me around four and a half years ago – now, I’m listening to the Rent soundtrack and writing a blog about amateur dramatics. Last week, I was crewing for a local amateur production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and, next week, I am seeing two shows in the West End. You don’t have to have been “into” theatre for all of your life; it can become a passion at any time.
But, if theatre for you is an interest that developed later on (if you didn’t become a triple threat by the time you’d turned four) then where do you start? You want to be involved in theatre, but you have no experience. For me, amateur dramatics was the perfect solution. I got to be around loads of people who had the same interest, who were welcoming and (above all) fun. I got to immerse myself in theatre, experience it from on stage, backstage – and, more recently, tried my hand at writing and directing.
So it follows that I think amateur dramatics is great. But starting out on a new venture can be a little scary, so here are my top tips for how to get started in amateur dramatics.
Be open to the idea of taking on different roles
I don’t just mean on stage roles. When I first dipped my toe into amateur dramatics, it was to help run props for a production of Grease. I had no idea what to expect, but it was spectacularly good fun. I went on to do props and crewing for quite a few different amateur societies – it’s great! I love being on stage too, and taking on different performing roles is also a must. Whether you’re in the chorus or playing the role of a clown who dresses up as a male farmer and then impersonates a pig… we’ve all been there, right? Trying out different roles on stage will give you a wide appreciation of performing and, trust me, it’s usually the most quirky roles that end up being the most fun.
This is the most important tip I can give you. When you relax into the mad, chaotic, wonderful world of amateur dramatics, you start to realise just how much fun it is. Even those inevitable crew members who spend their whole time criticising the show are only there because being involved in a theatrical production is fundamentally good fun. Performing can be stressful, but don’t forget to let your worries slip every now and again and just enjoy it.
You get out what you put in
Enthusiasm is underrated. If you’re the sort of person who actually checks the rehearsal schedule and knows your scenes and songs when you are supposed to, you will get so much more out of a show than somebody who doesn’t. You won’t be as stressed about forgetting lines or lyrics, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of being on stage or backstage, engrossed in the show and not in the panic of trying to remember what happens next.
Do loads of it
Why stop at one society? You don’t have to become members of every society in your area, but letting people know that you are happy to help out off stage where you can means that you will be able to experience a far wider range of theatre than if you stick doggedly to the shows that one society puts on. Even within one society, though, there are always more ways that you can get involved if you are still itching to do more theatre. You could even think about joining the committee, or organising a social/fundraising event… the list really is endless.
Learn from others
Amateur dramatics societies are saturated with talent. If there’s a new theatre-centred skill that you want to learn, the chances are that somebody in your society will have some experience to share. So learn from them. Why not ask to shadow a director, or producer, or stage manager, or lighting director, or choreographer?
I can tell you have fun, be enthusiastic, and learn from others – but the fact remains that walking into a group of people you have never met before can be an intimidating prospect. I cannot urge you strongly enough to be brave and go for it. After all, as the soundtrack to Rent would tell you, there is no day but today.
Harriet has been immersed in the theatre life from a multitude of angles: from writing, to working backstage, to performing, to directing. She spends most of her spare time in the West End or regional theatres and fills the rest with talking about the wonderful world of theatre through regular blogs.