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Profit or Passion:
The Drama of Small Theater

by Carmin Wong

Across the country there are a myriad of actors, actresses, producers, and directors that are unheard of on a mainstream level. Many devoting their lives to what some may refer to as the authenticity of small productions. Not everyone can be the next Tyler Perry or Woody Allen, both renowned producers and directors of all time on a global scale. If this were possible, where would that leave room for small theater? For many dramatics, the struggle of obtaining an illustrious production is very real, especially for those of color. However, the size of neither the audience, nor the salary seems to measure success for those underground talents that are able to pursue their own happiness and do what they love every day without the fame.

The issue in the forefront of small production is that it is presented as inferior to mogul productions because these small productions do not have the financial support to be as publicized. Moreover, in today's society making it to "the top," and rising to fame, seems to be more important than upholding the initial passion and sincerity for the theater. This leads to the question of are there even still artists out there that are content with their community–based small productions, or is hunger far too common?

For many like, Jacqueline Akins, a drama producer and owner of Shadows Dinner Theatre, hunger is what keeps the drive, and passion is what keeps her going. Though she may not be a household name yet, her dinner proves the competitiveness and strategic inclinations needed in the industry. In contrast to other dinners and producers, Akins uses her "Art-ragious" show to encourage others to come out and showcase their passion in acting, writing and performing.

Mr. Kenthedo Robinson, a drama teacher at Boys and Girls High school in Brooklyn New York, director, and founder of his own drama association, agrees that there is no better feeling than being able to give back to the community to help support students who started with a dream just as small as his was once. For him it is being able to watch his students venture off to institutions of higher learning with the impact he has made in their lives. Though, it may not be noted by many, the measurement in their passion is the best reward to audiences both large and small.

Many today agree that success is directly aligned with finance and titles. But why? The truth is, profit is tangible and physical. If a person's ventures are highly profitable their success is oftentimes gauged by their appearance. Thus, making them popular, or making this an idealistic account. But passion is the steering wheel behind this triumph.

Shawn Durham

Though already an author of his own novel, The Broke Brothers Revolution, and producer of his one-man show "Four Broke Guys," Shawn Durham claims his success by saying, "I haven’t made it to anything big yet." Durham admits this when speaking about the ups and downs of show-biz for small productions. He believes these benefits include being your own boss, having room to make your own corrections, and personally being able to raise money through the support of fans.

However, challenges also include delegating, finding directors, and wearing many hats as actor, producer, and stagehand. Nevertheless Durham finds it worthwhile because he is able to pursue that in which he is passionate about every day. He concludes by saying, "success is in the eye of the beholder."

Although these entertainers may not consider themselves among the crème de le crème in theater and production, the reality is there are still so many more small theater productions attempting to make it big. Rodney Davis, of Cashmere Productions in Atlanta adds, "Just as any small business depends on the support of the community, so does small theater. No matter how well the production, advertising and word of mouth play a vital role in getting that show to audiences. It's simply not that easy to sell the idea of a show with unknown talent. There is an art to garnering attention, but also a need for the public support and funds."

In the theater business not everyone will receive a Tony Award, however, true veracity and authenticity lie in the priceless feelings of not just pursuing, but dedicating one's life to doing what they love. In fact, there is no guarantee that a person will make it anywhere past the drawing board, as Robinson states, "If you have the opportunity to do what you love, no matter where, do it," because it is important always to remind oneself that passion is more invigorating and fulfilling than any amount of money rewarded.



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Gwenette Westbrooks
Jacqueline Akins