Amateur theatre


Amateur theatre

Amateur theatre is theatre which is not staged chiefly for financial benefit. Normally, previously published plays are staged, rather than new, unpublished work. This does depend on the progressiveness of the group to take on the challenge of new works

Amateur Theatre is common in most urban centres; notably, it is staged in summer schools (usually organised by a professional practitioner, such as a director) and in formal amateur companies. Amateur theatre is a convenient way for its practitioners to gain acting and stage experience. Other examples of amateur theatre are school Christmas plays, low-budget plays, and musicals staged in local venues in much of the Western World.

Amateur Theatre in the United Kingdom

Millions of people throughout Great Britain support the arts by participating in amateur theatre either as personnel or as audience members and many children first experience live theatre during local amateur performances of the annual Christmas pantomime. Amateur theatre is often a springboard for the development of new performing talent with a number of prefessional actors having their first stage experiences in amateur theatre such as Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt. A survey carried in 2002 by the major UK umbrella organisation for amateur thetare, National Operatic and Dramatic Association ("NODA"), revealed the value of value of amateur theatre to the UK economy and the sheer number of people involved in this community activity::

:*The total annual turnover of NODA-affiliated amateur theatre groups is £34 million.:*The total number of performances given per year is 25,760.:*The total number of people attending performances per year is 7,315,840.:*The total number of people actively involved is 437,800. 29% of these are under 21.

Further, in England alone a sample investigation of activities in five English cities and districts revealed that only 19% of amateur drama groups active there were affiliated to a national "umbrella" organisation [Hutchinson, R and Feist, A (1991): Amateur Arts in the UK, London: Policy Studies Institute.] suggesting that the figures above could be underestimating the impact of amateur theatre.

Umbrella Organistions and Associations

*United Kingdom - There are three major bodies representing amateur theatre with a UK-wide remit all of which are self-financing:
**National Operatic and Dramatic Association ("NODA");
**Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain ("LTG"); and
**National Drama Festivals Association ("NDFA"):NODA is the major infrastructure body for amateur and community theatre in the UK. It was founded in 1899, and in 2005 reported a membership of over 2,400 amateur theatre companies and 3,000 individuals throughout the United Kingdom, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country's leading professional theatres to village halls. [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmcumeds/254/5012508.htm Memorandum submitted by the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, 6 January 2005] ]

:The Little Theatre Guild (LTG), which represents amateur companies which control their own premises, has 95 members located in England.

:The National Drama Festival Association caters for amateur theatre groups which participate in local drama festivals, and is concerned with around 100 festivals of one-act and full length plays, involving some 500 or more theatre companies. Please see "Major Festivals" below.

*England - There is no dedicated and publicly funded infrastructure body in England. Amateur theatre in England is represented to an extent by:
**All-England Theatre Festival ("AETF").

:Like the National Drama Festival Association, the AETF caters for amateur theatre groups which participate in local drama festivals, and is also concerned with a similar number of festivals of one-act and full length plays, involving a similar amount of theatre companies. The AETF hold All-England Finals, the winners of which go forward to represent England at the National Festival of Community Theatre along with representatives from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Please see "Major Festivals" below. English amateur theatre is of course eligible to be represented by the UK-wide organisations. As at January 2005, the Arts Council England was not providing any funding towards infrastructure organisations for amateur and community theatre, other than youth theatre through its support for the National Association of Youth Theatre. However, despite there being national umbrella organisations, a sample investigation of activities in five English cities and districts revealed that only 19% of amateur drama groups active there were affiliated to a national "umbrella" organisation. [Hutchinson, R and Feist, A (1991): Amateur Arts in the UK, London: Policy Studies Institute.] In addition, England has a number of major regional associations such as:::*The Avon Association of Drama::*The Woking Drama Association

*Scotland - The situation is very different in Scotland from that in England. It has its own long-standing representative body, the Scottish Community Drama Association ("SCDA") which was founded in 1926 and works to promote all aspects of community drama in Scotland. SCDA received funding of £50,000 from the Scottish Arts Council in 2004-05.

*Wales - Like Scotland it has its own long-standing representative body, the Drama Association of Wales/ Cymdeithas Ddrama Cymru ("DAW") which was founded in 1934 and has been core funded by the Arts Council of Wales since 1974. The function of the Drama Association of Wales is to increase opportunities for people in the community to be creatively involved in drama. DAW received funding of £123,400 in 2003-04 from the Arts Council of Wales.

*Northern Ireland - The situation in Northern Ireland is similar to that of England, with the only major umbrella organisation being one concerned with the major festival of the region. The association is the Association of Ulster Drama Festivals ("AUDF") and is made up of three representatives from each member Festival - Ballymoney, Bangor, City of Derry, Theatre Upstairs (Downpatrick), Castlereagh,Enniskillen, Larne, Mid-Ulster (Carrickmore), Moneyglass, Newry, Newtownabbey, Portadown, Strabane and Newtownstewart. The Churches Drama League enjoys full membership, while the Young Farmer Clubs of Ulster are Associate Members. It does agree matters of general policy but ancourages member Festivals to develop their own unique "personalities"). Its leading role is to organise this annual Ulster Drama Festival, bringing together winners from provincial festivals and companies from both North and South of Ireland in friendly rivalry. The AUDF Constitution, drawn up in 1949, includes the following aims: "to foster and encourage amateur drama through the holding of Festivals of Drama, the fostering of relations and co-operation between Ulster Drama Festivals, and the fostering of relations with similar organisations in Northern Ireland and other regions…" [ [http://www.audf.org.uk/history1.html Association of Ulster Drama Festivals History] ]

Major Festivals in the UK

There are many local festivals of amateur theatre within the United Kingdom with two major national festivals:
*National Festival of Community Theatre - run by four partners, the All-England Theatre Festival (AETF), the Association of Ulster Drama Festivals (AUDF), the Drama Association of Wales (DAW), and the Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA).
*British ‘All Winners’ Festival run by the National Drama Festivals Association

Competitions in the UK

There a number of UK wide competitions that are organised by different bodies:
*The Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain (LTG) - Playwriting competition.:These are run every two to three years.

*The National Drama Festivals Association (NDFA) - playwriting competitions::There are two competitions, both of which aim to promote new writing for the theatre. Adjudication is carried out by a panel of judges and the winners receive a certificate and a cash prize. :*George Taylor Memorial Award:The George Taylor Memorial Award was initiated in 1979, dedicated to the memory of the founder of Amateur Stage, the major magazine for Amateur and Community Theatre. The award is funded jointly by Amateur Stage and NDFA. [ [www.feats.eu/2008/publicdocs/ndfaannounce.rtf Information for all Participating Groups for 35th BRITISH ALL WINNERS FESTIVAL] ] :*Nan Nuttall Memorial Award - specifically for Youth Theatre:This was introduced in 1994 to stimulate new writing for Youth Groups and to encourage their participation in Drama Festivals. Itis dedicated to the memory of Nan Nuttall, a long-standing Secretary of Manchester & District Drama Federation. [ [http://www.feats.eu/2007/2007datapackage.pdf FEATS 2007 Technical Data Package] ]

*The Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA) - Play on Words:The "Play on Words" competition is Britain’s largest competition for new short plays. The top three entrants to Play on Words win professional support from professional writers.

*Drama Association of Wales/Cymdeithas Ddrama Cymru (DAW) - Playwriting (sponsored by Barclays Bank:This is a competition for for one-act plays written either in Welsh or English and with a running time of 20 to 50 minutes. It is an annual event and attracts 250 entries from all over the world. In some years, entries are invited under a specific theme. [http://www.writernet.co.uk/images/424.pdf Commissioning new work – A good practice guide for amateur theatre companies and playwrights - The Arts Council England] ]

*National Festival of Community Theatre - The Geoffrey Whitworth Trophy:This is organised by the same committee which run the National Festival of Community Theatre. The award is for "the best original unpublished play receiving its première in the first round of the National Festival of Community Theatre anywhere in the UK". The award is named for Geoffrey Whitworth (1883–1951) the founder of the British Drama League.

Notable Amateur/Community Theatre Groups

Most amateur theatre companies take names related to the locality or building in which they present their productions, although this is not universal practice. Some notable groups include:
*Beeston Musical Theatre Group
*Tideswell Community Players
*South London Theatre
*Hampstead Players [http://www.www.theatresouthproductions.co.uk Theatre South Productions]

Examples of Amateur Theatre in Australia

Australia has many amateur companies, including the Adelaide Repertory Theatre, which claims to be the oldest in the country.

Relationship with Professional Theatre

The relationship between amateurs and professionals in a theatrical context is the subject of debate in many countries. Professionals argue that the amateur community devalues the artform and damages the industry, through the promotion of unskilled performers, directors and crew. By drawing an audience that would otherwise pay for high-quality, professional theatre it has been argued that amateurs hurt the industry as a whole. Their inability to attract new writers and new work highlights this. On the other hand, amateurs argue that they perform a community service. [Cochrane, 'The Pervasiveness of the Commonplace: The Historian and Amateur Theatre, "Theatre Research International" Vol. 26]

Parody

* A satirical view of amateur performers appears in the movie Hot Fuzz, where Simon Pegg and Nick Frost sit through a tedius amateur version of Romeo and Juliet closely modelled on the Baz Luhrmann film version. Later the leads are murdered for being what the killer calls "appalling actors."

* In the movie Along Came Polly, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an egotistical actor who wants to play "every" role in an amateur version of Jesus Christ Superstar. When the others refuse, he calles them "a bunch of amateurs" to which Ben Stiller replies "isn't that the point of community theatre?"

References

ee also

* Beeston Musical Theatre Group
* Kingswood Players
* National Operatic and Dramatic Association
* Community theatre
* The Naples Players
* [http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/artsdebate/2007/05/what_can_amateur_dramatics_do_for_the_arts_.php Arts Council England - Debate between Amateur and Professional Theatre]
*


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