Most people have felt the impact a theatrical production can have on an audience. It can transport viewers to distant lands, warm hearts or break them. But how do community theatre actors benefit from being part of a production? Thanks to a recent survey, Owensboro Times now knows the impact made by Theatre Workshop of Owensboro.
TWO Executive Director Todd Reynolds commissioned a questionnaire for participant feedback after each youth show.
“I wanted to make sure that everyone involved was having a good time, that we were meeting their needs and living up to expectations….and that they were finding a benefit in what we do,” Reynolds said.
He asked Ray Roth, a board member with a background in education, to develop the survey.
“We are a community theatre after all…and I figured Ray was the perfect person to take on the assignment with his background and the fact that he has had two children in our program and knows just how much it has meant to them.”
Fifty-one of the 55 Shrek Jr. cast members responded to the first-ever questionnaire. For 20 percent of them, Shrek, Jr. was their first time in a TWO production.
The overall theatre experience got high marks across the board. On a scale of 1-10, shows and staff ranked at 9.5 and 9.0, respectively. Auditions scored an 8.3 for experience and rehearsals at 8.1.
Perhaps the most interesting feedback came in the social development section, where 90 percent of participants said that because of their involvement with the theatre, it’s easier for them to work in groups. Eighty-eight percent said it’s easier to make friends and 82 percent said it’s easier to talk to someone they don’t know well.
Participants also rank themselves as having better self-competence after being part of a production, saying they have more self-discipline (80 percent), are better able to handle many things at the same time (82 percent) and are more comfortable doing things on their own when they have to (78 percent).
Self-confidence is also on the rise with participants with 84 percent saying they have more respect for themselves because of their involvement. Eighty percent have a more positive attitude toward themselves and 78 percent reported being more satisfied with themselves.
Schools should also see the benefits of community theatre, as 84 percent of actors say they like their teachers more and try harder to get good grades since their participation. Seventy-seven percent said they’re more interested in what their teachers have to say.
The question with the highest percentage of positive answers bodes well for everyone, with 92 percent of the youth involved reporting they feel more like a part of the community because of their involvement with the theatre.
“We are now developing another set of questions for our adult volunteers because, as you know, children aren’t the only ones who find a benefit in the arts. Ray is working on this one as well,” Reynolds said.
Looking beyond the numbers, Reynolds has a collection of anecdotes from those involved with TWO. When he became executive director in 2014, he reached out to former youth performers to ask how they’d been impacted. The replies are nothing less than heartwarming.
Todd Phillips said he auditioned for his first show as a 15-year-old in 2001.
“I did not grow up to be a performer — I’m not on Broadway,” Phillips said. “You won’t see me on the big screen, but every single day I benefit because of my time spent at Theatre Workshop of Owensboro. I regularly make presentations to business and community leaders, and without a doubt, I am better at my job because of my time spent with T.W.O.”
Some participants do go on to pursue theatre as a career. Ross DeWitt reflected on starting at TWO as an eight-year-old and falling in love with theatre. He continued his involvement through high school and directed his own production in college.
“These youth productions were not only the most fun I had growing up, but they taught me many of the values that I hold dear today, the importance of hard work, focus, and working as a team.”
At the time of writing his note to Reynolds, he was working for a production company in New York City and pursuing a living in theatre.
For many, the theatre was where they made lasting friendships. Chad Whistle recalled being in a summer performance with TWO.
“That summer, just before my senior year of high school, I met many of my greatest friends that I’ve held onto for more than a decade. We’ve been in each other’s weddings, celebrated births of children, and grown up together,” Whistle wrote. “TWO taught me a great deal about confidence, resiliency, and working in teams.”
Others remember it as a place of acceptance.
“I still refer to the time I spent at TWO as some of the best times in my life. It was a place I could go and immediately be accepted and welcomed for who I was. There, it didn’t matter if you were tall/short, big/small, geek/jock, gay/straight, actor/stagehand. Heck, sometimes it didn’t even matter if you had anything to do with the show at all, “ Vicki Boals wrote. “It became more than an after-school activity or something my parents encouraged me to do; it was a second home. I can never fully explain the effect TWO has had on my life. My confidence, social skills, and lifelong friendships are just a few examples.”
There are pages and pages of responses that echo the same sentiments.
To learn more about being involved with the Theatre Workshop of Owensboro, visit http://www.theatreworkshop.org or visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/theatreworkshop.