If you had a choice between a chance for brilliant fame or guaranteed impactful and lasting – though fairly anonymous – service to your community, which would you choose?
Well, gee, no one put it to me that way years ago when I pursued a professional acting career, but I rather wish someone had. Yes, celebrities often deposit dollars into their old hometowns, but that isn’t quite the same service to the community I’m talking about. I’m talking about community theatre, an endeavor that produces art for the community, using community members who themselves, are an ever evolving community of artists. It’s really a stunning troika when you think about it.
I imagine the promising young baseball player, dreaming of being signed by a major league team someday. Is it even possible for that young man to dream of the healthy local impact of folks from neighboring towns socializing and soft-networking at the regional softball game in which he plays? Probably not…
Maybe it’s the mellowing that comes with age, or perhaps just the realization that we all seem to strive for a bourgeois definition of success, that makes me ask such questions. Indeed, last fall my man and I spent a small fortune to be among the attendees of opening night of The Addams Family musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago. We also visit The Art Institute several times a year, but those experiences simply do not compare to visiting local community theatres and area art shows (were I a sports fan in even the smallest way possible, I’d throw mention of a local sporting event here… but I’m completely ignorant of such things).
You may conclude that they don’t compare because of caliber of art, but I would argue that point both knowledgeably and tenaciously. I mean to say that a place in our community, dedicated to hosting local artists, involved in the experience of assembling art as a community, for the benefit of all community residents to witness, is in a completely different realm than watching The Addams Family or seeing George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte as it hangs in The Art Institute.
And so, back to the question: would I rather have fame and wealth, or benefit your community by supporting and participating in an artistic gathering spot? Don’t be foolish – I’d give my right foot and a portion of yours to star on Broadway in any number of productions. But while I was in the big apple, I’d hope to find a community theatre and art gallery, where I could invest, hang out and otherwise make wonderful things happen with the rest of the real people in my neighborhood.