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Not Time to Combine Community and Professional Theater

If Third Avenue PlayWorks (TAP) is contemplating embracing community theater as well as professional theater, I am not on board with it. TAP has traveled so far from the time when many of us locals found comfort standing on that stage as community actors.

But that was long ago, and I have since changed my mind. I think TAP should keep the momentum of the “no-community” policy and continue for five more years with that focus, or until it makes good business sense to sincerely welcome community theater. Having worked in theater most of my life, I believe it would be almost impossible to find and retain an artistic director/producer who would be willing – let alone enthused – about combining the two platforms.

I fear that marrying community and professional theater is risky for community theater, which – in my mind – could blatantly serve as a financial placeholder. It would keep the house filled and draw some income for the enterprise, but it also stands to lose out in the end if the professional-theater component deems that it be set aside. 

Again, this could be agonizing for the artistic director/producer to choose one over the other. I am not familiar with any theater that successfully uses this dual model. In the meantime, community theater must take hold of its destiny and continue proactively seeking a viable site alternative.

I support TAP keeping professional theater as its focus until the business data proves that this is not a successful approach. If that were to happen, being a staunch supporter of community theater, I see TAP as a viable opportunity for changing focus back to community theater. 

I love the facility TAP has to offer. I love the fact that it is in the heart of a large community. I love that we have such a great pool of theater talent within the community. I believe in our potential, but that should happen only when it makes good business sense.

Chris Weidenbacher

Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin