What makes a community?

Some would argue that a community is merely a function of where you happen to live, but we at BlackBox Foundation think it’s a little more than that.

An alternate definition for community is “A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” When viewed through this lens, it becomes clear that we can each make our own community. And one important self-selected community for many of us is the theatre.

The benefits incurred through involvement in the theatre last far beyond when the last light has dimmed, and the last echo of applause has left the auditorium. Through involvement with this activity, people of all ages learn self-confidence, teamwork, and commitment. Involvement in a theatre program can bring people together from all walks of life, focus them on a common goal, and help them form bonds of friendship that can last a lifetime.

Those of us involved in the theatre are storytellers. We tell stories that both challenge and comfort; usurp and uplift; enrage and entertain. When they see their stories told onstage, entire communities can be brought together and healed. The theatre is a place where actors can hold up a mirror and an audience can see reflected back their humanity.

Theatre is also a vocation. Thousands of men and women in our country each year get training and education in theatre and film and go on to earn a partial or full living through it. And, like other arts and cultural events, theatre generates money for communities. In a recent study, the Arizona Commission on the Arts determined that for every dollar spent on an artistic or cultural event in the state of Arizona, over seven dollars was returned back to the community.

Given that involvement in theatre is personally fulfilling, a vocation, and a community builder, it is bewildering to contemplate why Central Arizona College recently made the decision to cut their theatre program. As a locally owned theatre company, this decision directly impacts the BlackBox Foundation. Along with the many high school drama programs in ours and surrounding communities, we routinely send our high school theatre students to CAC when they have finished their training with us. In addition, since college aged students stay in the area to study theatre, we utilize many CAC theatre students as volunteers, interns, and paid instructors for our programs. Without these trained theatre students to draw from, we will be at a loss in the future. Due to these reasons and more, it is our respectful request that the powers that be at CAC reconsider this decision.

Regardless of the final outcome of this situation, however, we at BlackBox are committed to continuing to focus on creating powerful and engaging theater by and for all ages; educating members of our community in theater education; and advocating for all art forms.

We are humbled and grateful for all of you who have mentioned us via social media for our role in your personal narrative of what theatre means to you. We encourage everyone to continue to share their story in the hope that the camaraderie of our shared theatre community can reach beyond us and knock down the walls of those who continue to not see the value of the arts.

In closing, we urge everyone to remember the words of author Marianne Williamson: “In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”

Keep your hearts focused, friends. During trying times, it is more important than ever for us to remember that we are a community-and there is work to be done.

Yours, Ken and Stacey

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