Community Profile: 'No other team-building exercise rivals Community Theater'
June 25, 2008
<b>YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea</b> - Since he can remember, performing arts was in John Wood's blood.
It started as a young boy when his mother read poetry to him. As soon as he learned to read, he stayed with poetry. He attended a high school active in theater and continued on with his passion in college at Southern Illinois University.
With a degree in theater, he joined the Army and was stationed at Yongsan Garrison from 1974-1977. As a Soldier then, he worked in the same program he now manages. His Military Occupational Specialty was Performing Arts Specialist, and he helped stage several community theater plays each year in a Quonset hut where the multipurpose training facility is now. He left the Army and performed in a touring theater with some friends in southern Kentucky for a couple of years before ending up with the Fort Knox community theater.
He stayed there for 17 years, served one year in Bosnia from 1996-1997, then took an assignment back to Yongsan to run the U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Music and Theatre Branch. "I replaced the very man I worked for when I was here as a Soldier," he said.
<b>How does the theater season work here'</b>
Typically, it's four shows a year. The season starts in October and runs through May. We instituted a subscription season, like a season pass. Anyone can buy four shows for $10. It's not only that it's an incredible bargain, but it helps the customer plan ahead and develop a theatre habit. We want to get people out to see the shows. Theater here is pretty much cheaper than throughout the Army entertainment world. I'm more interested in getting people, particularly young enlisted and young officers, out to see the shows. If we manage to get an extra show in the season, subscribers will get to see it free. We will also partner with the Main Post Club. On the evening of the show, subscribers will get 10 percent off dinner at the club. It's just something nice to do for subscribers.
<b>What makes community theater work'</b>
Volunteers. They are the actors, the lighting specialists, the set designers, stage hands, all of that. Community theater lives because of volunteers. Because of the transient nature at Yongsan, we're always looking for volunteers. We've been fortunate that we've always managed to get great volunteers. When you've been in this business as long as I have, when you pick the right show, cast the right people, you put the trust in them, and give them good guidance ... they will take the show where it has to go. They have been very few times in the last 30 some years where I have been seriously worried about a show getting there. Why would you give up such a significant portion of your life to be mediocre' The production of community theater is first and foremost fun. But the fun is derived from putting the best quality product before an audience that we possibly can. It's not derived from goofing off during rehearsals, playing jokes on one another on stage. It's derived from pleasing an audience.
<b>What's coming up this next season'</b>
This season we've chosen what we expect to be big sellers. In October, we have "Arsenic and Old Lace." The holiday show will be "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." We'll then do "Wizard of Oz" in March. And we're still determining the last show in May. At the moment I am pretty sure that it will be a stage adaptation of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." I'm relying on play name recognition to interest volunteers and the audience. I've been very happy, though, with the reception that we've gotten here. I am also very interested in finding people that would like to form a Private Organization that is a "theater support group." It gives people something to belong to and helps to make members of the community feel that they are part of the process and are invested in the productions as well.
<b>What makes the program unique'</b>
I think what's important about this, as so many audiences have heard me say, is that there is no other team-building exercise that rivals community theater. It brings so many people together from various artistic disciplines, walks of life, ages, social status, and so forth, all for one common purpose. Community Theater has survived a great many things through the centuries and continues to demonstrate the benefit for the average person to come in and see the show and enjoy themselves. Or, better, to see the show and take a little something away, to learn a little something about life. Theater is at its best when it holds the mirror up to nature.