- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Newtowne Players rely on an army of behind-the-scenes volunteers to put on the community acting troupe’s productions
By KEAIRA BROOKS
Special to The Enterprise
The Newtowne Players started their season in September, when the community theater troupe presented “Steel Magnolias.” The group followed up with “A Christmas Story” around the holidays. Upcoming projects include “The Lion in Winter,” the musical “Godspell” and the whodunit, “Deathtrap.”
It takes so much more than the actors on stage to bring these productions to the community. And it takes a lot of work.
“We put on five main stage, two-hour-long productions a year,” said Emily Funderburk of Lexington Park, public relations and marketing representative for The Newtowne Players. The all-volunteer group also puts together a couple of shorter productions each season.
Even with 124 volunteers currently involved, The Newtowne Players are always looking for additional help, donations and support from the community.
“If you want to volunteer, show up to the theater or call,” said Jeremy Leissner of Great Mills, facilities chairman for The Newtowne Players. “We can always use volunteers.”
“Since my husband and I help out at the theater, my children basically grew up here,” said Wendy Heidrich of Mechanicsville, founder of The Newtowne Players. “We are lucky to be here 10 years later with the help of the community.”
To become a volunteer at the theater, acting is not required. There is a job for just about any skill set. There is also no experience required to join The Newtowne Players. A skills inventory worksheet on The Newtowne Players website allows potential volunteers to state what experience they already have (if any) and/or what they want to learn.
“We are always looking for new volunteers and members to help with arts and crafts, costumes, publicity, construction, fundraising, stage crew, ushering, acting and technical areas” like lighting and sound, Funderburk said. Volunteers can even work from home updating the theater’s website and doing marketing work.
If there is a certain department a volunteer wants to work in at the theatre but they have no experience, there is always a current volunteer that can help.
“There is one-on-one help to teach a new volunteer,” Leissner said. “If there are any questions or concerns, someone at the theater will have the answer or solution.”
There is almost always work to do.
“When you come to the theater, you’re getting down and dirty,” Leissner said. “Acting has a big part to do with the theater, but just because you act doesn’t mean you won’t do anything else. It’s the behind-the-scene work that really makes the show.”
Heidrich said the smaller things done at the theater are some of the most important. “Sweeping the floor, answering phone calls and working on our Facebook page are all very important things that keep the theater functioning,” she said.
The Newtowne Players do not require any long-term commitment to the group. A regular volunteer puts in as much time as they want.
“Volunteering can be considered as much as a full-time job,” Funderburk said. “It varies on how much time and effort you want to put in and if you hold a committee position.”
There’s a reason so many volunteers work so hard at the theater.
“Teamwork and a sense of family keeps me here,” Funderburk said. “I have made a lot of lifelong friends. Together we are making a difference in the community.”
Leissner said it’s the spectators’ gratification that keeps him coming back. “Seeing the patrons as they’re walking out the theater with a smile on their face and saying ‘What a great performance!’ keeps me coming back. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but a sense of accomplishment.”
Bill Scarafia, a longtime volunteer with The Newtowne Players, said the theater has many opportunities for anyone willing to help. “I enjoy theater,“ he said. “I am constantly amazed at the talent in the area, and I’ve gotten to meet and work with so many people that I probably never would have met otherwise. There is usually always some particular thing that you enjoy but don’t get a chance to do elsewhere. It’s a learning experience and it allows you to explore opportunities that you might not be able to find anywhere else.”
“The Newtowne Players are an all-volunteer-run community theater for the community, in the community and by the community,” Funderburk said.