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Those theatre volunteers of will and desire

On the eve of National Volunteer Week Douglas Kennedy, who is a patron of the Gold Coast Theatre Alliance, examines the work of the hundreds of volunteers who make the region’s community theatre possible.

Fang in Annie with Courtney Monsma 2009

The word amateur has from time to time been considered a derogatory one, which has given some cause to sneer. After all, the amateur does not have the benefit of the training, which elevates the professional to a higher degree of learning.

However, a cursory glance at the word’s origin reveals a much more noble standing for those who follow this well-worn path. The term amateur comes from the French and means someone who, ‘admires or is devoted to something.’

Taking a further step back we learn that the French interpretation is originally from the Latin ‘amare’, which simply means ‘to love’. So, viewed in context, the amateur is someone with quite uplifting aspirations, who embraces much more worthy values.

Another feature of the amateur is that he or she not only gives us something special but gives it without consideration for material gain. Therefore, the amateur is also a volunteer which again comes from the Latin verb ‘voluntorius’ and the noun ‘voluntas’, which means ‘will or desire.’

In the world of amateur theatre – often referred to as community theatre – the folk who give their time and talent for the entertainment of one and all are more than simply the backbone of this world. They are the whole damn body and soul, complete with a caring heart. Without these people there would be only bricks and mortar, costumes and props, and sad and lonely empty stages.

So, as the annual National Volunteer Week celebrations approach, the Gold Coast Theatre Alliance, in conjunction with the Drama Merchant, salutes the hundreds who give and give and give for the community they love.

We are referring to the alliance’s catchment area, which showcases 16 mainly Gold Coast companies from the Ballina Players in northern New South Wales to the Tamborine Mountain Little Theatre in the Hinterland.

In between, there are community companies, two choirs and two orchestras, and even a couple of independent groups. They are all fueled by individual men, women, and children, ranging in age from nine to 90, and even the occasional animal.

We haven’t forgotten Jim Fury’s late lamented dog Fang (pictured) who featured in several productions including Annie , Joesph and the Technicolored Dreamcoat and her final outing in Tugun Theatre’s It’s All in the Mind.

They all deserve a voice in National Volunteer Week, which runs from May 15-21 with the theme of The Change Makers, and includes all those who serve across this great land of ours.

It is estimated that more than three million throughout Queensland volunteer while nationally one third (29 percent) contribute an estimated 596.2 million hours to the community.

Back on the home front it is worth noting that the work done by those in community theatre, orchestras and choirs has produced some remarkable performances.

There’s a wonderful depth of talent on the Gold Coast and within the region.

Time and time again audiences are moved to raise to their feet and applaud the on-stage talent, but this is the time of the year when our thoughts should turn to the behind-the-scenes contributors.

Those individuals who work tirelessly – and often anonymously – to make productions and performances run smoothly.

The set builders, costume makers, the lighting and sound staff as well as the often taken for granted folk who manage the bar, run the box office, and show patrons to their seats.

They are the people who make it all happen and create an environment in which a handful can shine and take a bow.

The reality is, that in the community theatre and performance world, they are often the same people as one day someone can be taking a bow for a triumphant performance and the next selling tickets in the box office or striking a set.

After all production and performance are simply illusion and the magic is in the ability of a team to conjure up a world of make believe.

If you would like to volunteer for any of the members of the Gold Coast Theatre Alliance you can visit the website or their Facebook page Gold Coast Theatre Alliance to find out who is seeking your help.


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