What is community Theatre?

Founder, Susan Lynch, explains how community theatre became such an important part of her life and her future.
I came from Community Theatre in Northern Ireland.
I remember in the early eighties being crammed into my drama teacher’s tiny house with about fifteen other people; all doubled up on his settee reading obscure plays that he had sought out. I remember his passion and love of each individual person in his ever changing troop, and his absolute fearsome respect for the plays from Neil Simon to Brendan Behan.
I was lucky. Sean saved me. He made me feel like I belonged in a country which was torn by the “troubles” and what was left in its wake, was an absolute fear of not belonging. A place where Community was important, but also segregated.
Drama was universal. It didn’t matter if you were black, white, Irish, British, young, old, a drama student or just wanting a fantasy beyond the till in Tesco. Drama had no prejudices. Being human was the only qualification needed. It broke barriers, it made everyone feel that they were entitled to tell.
The power of theatre has – in my 20 years of now being a professional actor – proved to me that the affect of human beings watching human beings being other human beings can be profound, at times hilarious, challenging and can give an audience an exhilarating sense of freedom. Why? Because there will always be a character in a play who is us. There will always be a situation that is like ours and if there isn’t, that can provoke another, and as valid reaction. Why am I not like them? Why have I been excluded? This play says nothing about my life. Even in our exclusion of kinds of theatre we are still striving for belonging. Community is a complicated thing.
So why am I doing Community Theatre? The same reason we all do theatre; to share ideas, share stories, give ourselves the idealism of all believing together. People who know each other in small towns, villages, forgetting their relationship to each other and in one glorious night being transported together as actors and audience to another world united. That’s what theatre should do. Unite us. In whatever we feel. Make us forget where we are. Thats the goal. And ultimately I believe that when a group of people come together with the right play,  the right spirit, at the right time magic happens.
Magic?……….. Now that I can’t explain.

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