The Stuff of Dreams: Life Behind the Curtain of American Community Theater
At the age of ten, Leah Hager Cohen entered a world of make-believe that would captivate her for years. Participating in a traveling theater company's production of Wolkenstein, she was fascinated by the pageantry of the play and the camaraderie she found within the acting troupe, and the experience sparked a lifelong love of community theater. Nearly twenty years later, Cohen found her way to a small community theater in Arlington, Massachusetts, one of many thousands like it in America, and set out to chronicle what would be an extraordinary year. Arlington Friends of Drama had just celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary, was embroiled in disputes over structural changes proposed to help it adapt to changing times, and was about to hold auditions for its most controversial play to date, M. Butterfly. As Cohen writes, "This time around, I had come to community theater not in order to insinuate myself into its culture but to try to understand what the culture comprised, and to answer what it is about amateur theater that makes people not just desire but need it". With the same graceful prose and startling insight that garnered such extraordinary reviews for her previous books, Train Go Sorry and Glass, Paper, Beans, Cohen has created a fascinating and poignant portrait of community theater in America-past, present, and future. The American Association of Community Theatres, founded in 1986, estimates that there are ten thousand community theaters nationwide, with more than a million active members. Arlington Friends of Drama is one of the ten oldest continually operating community theaters in the country.
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