The Hamilton Players mission is "to provide high quality live community theater to the Bitterroot Valley audiences, to develop local talent, and to provide opportunities for the public to participate in the performing arts. Opportunities…will be provided by producing a varied theatrical season... and performing a variety of plays and musicals throughout the year.”
That doesn't sound like it should be very difficult, does it? Well, surprise! It is much more difficult than it sounds. In preparing to announce the programming for the next season, we have been struggling with a multitude of questions, not the least of which is, "How do we choose a season that appeals to a diverse community, fulfills our mission statement, and still manages to keep us financially sound enough to keep the doors open?" The Bitterroot Valley is populated by a wide range of demographically different populations - all of whom have varied likes and dislikes, political views, religious views, social views, ethical mores, prejudices, opinions, and sensibilities. Oh, and don't forget the differences in social circles, financial backgrounds, environmental views, maturity, education, and good old nature vs. nurture. Now, pick one show that appeals to a large portion of this diverse community; both in audience and performance values. Now pick a second show...one that appeals do a different large portion of this diverse community...without gravely offending the first group. Possible, yes. NOW, pick a third show, that appeals to another portion of this community - without offending - well, you get the picture. Now pick a total of 5 shows that offer opportunities to everyone who wants to act or sing or see a show, that cover topics and styles that have broad enough appeal to fully cast and create a show as well as put enough butts in the seats to keep the theater financially solvent. Not so easy anymore, is it? Now, add to that the need to find a competent, passionate director AND enough actors to physically make the show happen: just because it appeals to actors and audience doesn't mean that the actors will be available for the 8 - 10 week commitment it take to put on a show. Add to this the competition for the acting, directing, and audience pool as well as a very full community calendar with competing events AND the need to duplicate this process (with different results) year after year after year...it can be be far more difficult than you maybe ever imagined.
Topping off this surprisingly difficult endeavor of choosing a season is the need to expand our audience pool. Now we have to try to step outside of the safe zones to try to bring in a few new audience members for each show, without losing the already existing ones by moving too far too fast. The same goes for the audition/acting pool. How do we entice new actors into the fold? If we cannot continue to expand our patron, volunteer and actor pools, then we fail, because without a slow and steady infusion of new blood, the theater will cease to exist. Most of the amazing group of people who founded this theater have, in the last 30 years, moved on. Some of them can be found in the audience and still, occasionally, on stage. A new generation of artists have inherited their passion and are carrying their torch: I am one of them. but who will this generation bequeath the theater to? If we cannot grow our only other option, in the end, is to turn out the lights and lock the door. But I don't think that's going to happen. At least I hope it won't, because if it does, the Valley will have lost something precious and irreplaceable.
So, when you see our upcoming season and are disposed to grumble or criticize, please remember how difficult the task was, and know that we are trying to serve our community - our whole community - in the best way we know how. Take a risk, step outside of your comfort zone and go on the journey with us...you just might like it!