Everybody Wants a “Company”
by Ethan Norman
It won’t work. New community theatre companies seemingly pop up every day. None of them have the funding they hope for, or a place to call home, and nobody showed up at auditions for the show that was going to put them on the map; if only … if only all their friends weren’t also starting theatre companies and holding auditions. “Community” can mean as many different things as “love” nowadays, and non-profits aren’t profitable. Give up the dream, it won’t work. Unless …
Statistics are showing that the traditional model for non-profit community theatres, or in our case, professional-non-profit-community-theatre (let me catch my breath), is not working. A decline in patrons of the arts, a decline in non-profit growth opportunity, and maybe an excess of ambitious theatre majors (not a bad thing): stir it up and you get a recipe for FORGET IT. It seems everybody wants a company, but like any competitive market, the pickins are slim and the patrons are picky. But what if there was just something about it? What if the mission wasn’t about ambition, or success, or regional acclaim? What if it was measured by strange words like fruit, presence, or reach? What if it wasn’t homeless without a building, but unlimited because there are no walls? We may not be all these things on purpose, but twenty years is a long time under the current odds.
The WordPlayers is a company of Christian theatre artists: the stuff of which we are made. We are also a professional, non-profit, community theatre organization. As for professional and non-profit at the same time: that means we don’t exist to get rich, or famous, or see bills paid on time regularly, but most of our artists are paid. They work hard, for a much longer period of time than their checks look like, but they know we believe they are worth it, and so is their time. As for a company of Christians: that means that while much of the world comes together in common bondage, we come together with a common bond in Christ. So how do you start something like that and make it last? I have no idea; apparently it’s not up to us.
Perhaps, just maybe, the existence of The WordPlayers is proof that God is real. The grass withers, the flowers fade, and so do most theatre companies, so it must be Him. He must be using us, and have plans to keep doing so. We are okay if it’s huge, and we are okay if it’s tiny. A lot of tiny can be better than a little bit of huge, and we’ve seen both. So how did The WordPlayers begin? I’ll tell you in two weeks.