Community theatre refers to theatrical performance made in relation to particular communities—its usage includes theatre made by, with, and for a community. It may refer to theatre that is made entirely by a community with no outside help, or to a collaboration between community members and professional theatre artists, or to performance made entirely by professionals that is addressed to a particular community. Community theatres range in size from small groups led by single individuals that perform in borrowed spaces to large permanent companies with well-equipped facilities of their own. Many community theatres are successful, non-profit businesses with a large active membership and, often, a full-time professional staff. Community theatre is often devised and may draw on popular theatrical forms, such as carnival, circus, and parades, as well as performance modes from commercial theatre. Community theatre is understood to contribute to the social capital of a community, insofar as it develops the skills, community spirit, and artistic sensibilities of those who participate, whether as producers or audience-members.
Community theatre in Latin America
Partly inspired by Antonio Gramsci’s interpretation of culture, the seminal theatre practitioner Augusto Boal developed a series of techniques known as the Theatre of the Oppressed from his work developing community theatre in Latin America.
Community theatre in the UK
In Britain the term “community theatre” is sometimes used to distinguish theatre made by professional theatre artists with or for particular communities from that made entirely by non-professionals, which is usually known as “amateur theatre” or “amateur dramatics.” Notable practitioners include Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop, John McGrath and Elizabeth MacLennan and their 7:84 company, Welfare State International. and Ann Jellicoe founder of the Colway Theatre Trust, now known as the Claque Theatre and run by UK practitioner Jon Oram.
Community theatre in the Netherlands
Community theatre in the Netherlands came about after the ending of the “theater-in-education” movement. This “theatre-in-education” movement lasted from 1970-1985. The big theatre in the Netherlands which was created originally for “theatre-in-educaton” and subsequently community theatre is the Stut Theatre. This theatre idea was started in 1977 by Jos Bours and Marlies Hautvast, who when they first starting creating plays at the Stut Theatre, realized this kind of community-theatre had a complete different approach from “theatre-in-education.”
Community theatre in the US
Community theatre in the United States was an outgrowth of the Little Theatre Movement, a reform movement which began in 1912 in reaction to massive Victorian melodramatic theatre spectacles. However, the country’s oldest extant community theatre group, The Footlight Club, has existed since the 19th century and performed every year since 1877.
Community theatre in Canada
Theatre Passe Muraille sent ensemble casts into rural communities to record local stories, songs, accents and lifestyle. Their employment of collective creation was thus taken to an unheard of scale and spread across Canada. Passe Muraille facilitated the first production of Codco, which employed personal experiences of Newfoundland culture in their shows.