2018-09-06 / News

Adult volunteers needed for ‘Shrek’

Community theater will perform show this fall
BY TIM RIEL

When the curtains open for “Shrek the Musical” in November, it will mark the 50th show produced by the Jamestown Community Theatre.

At one bookend of this golden run, nearly 150 amateur actors auditioned for the debut show in 1990. It was so crammed during rehearsals for “Peter Pan,” children had “to be stored across the street,” according the group’s co-founder, Mary Wright. In comparison, “A Year with Frog and Toad” drew about one-fifth of that interest in January.

While the theater’s theme for this season is “Fractured Fairy Tales,” the reason for the decline in participation, according to both Wright and her successor, is fractured families.

“When I was younger, my mom’s theory was that if she had to take one kid somewhere, she might as well take the others,” director Iris Bohensky said. “And, because she was already there, she might as well do it herself.”

Although it’s not the apocalypse for community theater in Jamestown, Bohensky is concerned about the dwindling parental participation. As an actress or audience member, Bohensky, 33, has been part of 48 of the 49 productions. When she was younger, these shows were family affairs, including the 1991 portrayal of “Fiddler on the Roof” that featured — both on and off the stage — actual families depicting the Sabbath scene.

“It’s a great way to spend time with your children,” Wright said. “Community theater is so much fun when you’re doing it together.”

Lately, however, Wright and Bohensky have been noticing more and more parents dropping off their children opposed to joining them. While the community theater is not yet a babysitter’s club, the women want to reiterate the importance of parental participation before it gets worse.

“We rely on the adults so much,” Bohensky said.

In the beginning, only Jamestown residents were allowed to audition. It then was opened to people who worked in Jamestown, then to people who had family members living in Jamestown, and now it’s open to everyone.

Also, parents were required to volunteer if they wanted their children to participate. But just as the residency rule has evolved, the theater is relaxing its expectations. For example, parents can lend a hand from home instead of sewing costumers or building sets.

“If you’re a fantastic cookie baker, then I will take your cookies,” Bohensky said. “We’ll sell them at intermission.”

Because the theater also is competing against sports, especially soccer, Bohensky said she is willing to compromise. Theater directors aren’t as strict with rehearsals as coaches are with practices, she admitted.

“If people don’t have the time commitment for a larger role, I’ll do my best to accommodate them,” she said. “It would be great to build into the hundreds again, but at the same time, it’s OK because we’re still out there. We’re still providing this community service.”

“But we want more than just your children,” Wright added.

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