Why Theatres should Join Community Organizations

Theatres are integral parts of the communities they serve. The better they get along with that community, the more successful they will be. All too often theatres wind up at odds with municipal governments, area businesses and ordinary citizens. Often this is through no one’s particular fault, simply an inability of one party to effectively communicate with the other. Much of the challenges theatre companies encounter when seeking the acceptance and endorsement of their community could be greatly reduced if theatres were more actively involved in the rest of the community.

All theatres that are financially able to do so should join their local chamber of commerce or other business association. They should sponsor a local minor sports team, engage in promotional partnerships with restaurants, b & b’s and other businesses, and participate in parades, festivals and other civic events.

If the city is holding a clean-up litter day, the theatre should be there. If there’s a New Year’s Eve party, Classic car rally or Craft Sale being held on the street in front of the building, the theatre should have its doors open. The local team is playing for the championship? The theatre should be cheering them on.

The theatre’s board, staff and volunteers should be just as involved with their community at the personal level as the theatre is as the institutional level. They should seek out and join service clubs like Lions, Kinsmen, Rotary, Masonic Lodges, IODE, IOOF, Knights of Columbus, Order of the Eastern Star, Legions, or whatever organizations in their particular community that are dedicated to helping those in need and improving the lives of those at home and around the world. All members of the theatre should actively volunteer wherever they can in the community, be it at the hospital, in schools or with the horticultural society.

It doesn’t have to be very much. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time, or cost a lot of money (in many cases it doesn’t cost anyone anything). It doesn’t even have to be an “official” organization, with a recognized membership and procedures. It can be as simple as the Friday afternoon “pie club” at a local coffee house (a community organization I have personally seen to have some weighty benefits).

In essence, it boils down to this: if a theatre is a part of the community, then the community is more likely to become a part of the theatre. They are more apt to be interested in its shows, give more generously to its fundraising and be more forgiving of its creative mistakes. If nothing else, by playing a greater role in the community the theatre will have made that community a better place: safer, healthier and more prosperous for all, and thus the theatre will in the end wind up helping itself.