On the other end of the scale, the person with training and professional experience can have difficulty in the community theatre setting, for very different reasons.

For many reasons, community theatres are almost always "cliques" of relatively small size, which often jealously guard their organization, making it difficult or at least awkward for new people to become involved.

Ironically, it's the people with the most training and experience, and who have the most to offer an amateur group, who can be met with the most resistance by an organization's core group.

Ego-battles easily develop and theatres far too easily end up not benefiting from the help of professionals, all for the sake of protecting the clique.

My own experience has been that some theatres have welcomed me with open arms, and I had wonderful experiences helping those groups to have successful productions which raised their status in the community.

But at other theatres, my experience has been decidedly less positive, and I'm sure that's been the experience of other people with training and experience.

There have been instances when I was not being accepted as a part of the core group previously established, even though I was still being given directing projects since I was clearly helping to raise the artistic standards of the theatre and providing them with audience-building publicity and high quality shows.

But in the ultra-cliqueish groups like this, one is usually allowed to go up a ladder only a certain distance before the temptation to topple that ladder gets to be too hard a temptation for some people to resist.

The un-easy mix of an entrenched clique, misguided neophytes, and well experiened new blood---it can become volatile.

I offer these questions as food for thought, which everyone serious about community theatre needs to think about:

--How are inexperienced neophytes educated sufficiently during the relatively short period of a show's rehearsal schedule, so that they do themselves and a show justice?

--How are the negative effects of a theatre's clique counter-acted for the sake of an organization's forward moving growth?

--How are the inevitable resentments towards the highly experienced newcomer overcome so that a theatre con continue to benefit from the needed new input such an individual can offer?

I have stepped down as a director at Pentacle. While continuing to help out on shows from time to time in smaller less spotlighted ways, it unfortunately became too unpleasant an experience, struggling with many difficulties at the theatre every time I started a directing project there. Resentment over my success ended up far out-weighing friendly gratitude for my efforts. Neophytes complained loudly and bitterly about the professional standards I was attempting to have them be guided by ended up making more of an impression on the theatre's governing board than the successes I had given the group.

Putting on a show like "Metropolis" was a gigantic challenge. I worked steadily with the show's composer, Joe Brooks, for 1 1/2 years before the auditions. The leading lady turned out to be an amateur performer in the worst sense of the word---2 weeks before opening, she announced that she wouldn't be there for all performances. Totally unacceptable, much to her amazement, so she was replaced by a highly competent performer who was able to get up to speed with minimal rehearsal. A small contingent of newbies were of the complaining sort, so shocked at the heavy rehearsal schedule and work load--despite all my prepatory warnings at auditions---that they successfully poisoned the governing board's opinion of my work as a director. Clique members went out of their way to snub me at opening night, one made a very public point of shaming me in the lobby after the show over a rule infraction I commited during the excited high of opening night. The last straw came after the show closed, when the plan for selling a cast album of the show as a fund raiser became hotly contested at board meetings, and was eventually rejected for unstated reasons except for one illogical "reason" that the board was offended by things I'd written on one of my websites about their decision making process.

Clique power and neophyte power---they wore me down. No longer directing shows there, the decided impression is that the board and the clique are relieved---when, I humbly submit, they should be mortified that they have lost one of their best directors for completely inane and decidedly amateurish reasons.

How other retired pros comfortably get along with community theatre groups is something I would like to know about. With a different mix of personalities, I would hope it can be a workable situation. I can only speak from my own experience.

Community theatre remains a theoretically rewarding venue for people of many different levels of experience. Perhaps before my days of directing and acting are over, I will find another group more like the ones I encountered before Pentacle---a group with a genuiniely mutually supportive atmosphere where newcomers, pros, boards of directors, all mutually co-exist in a happy experience where it can truly be said The Play's The Thing---not Our Ego's The Thing.

Randy Bowser