First, let me say that I loved my days in community theater. It’s where I learned how to do a time-step and workshop different accents — including “British” and “unplaceable European” — and do mic check exclusively with Whitney Houston songs. I loved every production I was in, no matter how stressful or awful, because the biggest truth about community theater is that misery loves company. If I’m miserable in a cat costume during the sixth straight hour of tech, I have to believe everyone else is miserable, too.
If you’ve been involved in less-than-professional theater, you know these harsh truths: productions can be, for lack of a better term, comedically schlocky. That’s where these five amazing Tumblrs come in — each of which truly reflects the worst elements of community theater. (And before you cry afoul, know that What I Did for Love is assemble this post for you.)
You’ve likely seen this one making the rounds this week, and that’s because it’s absolutely hilarious. Disney’s licensed production of Beauty and the Beast contains plenty of wardrobe challenges — ones Herculean enough to launch costume designers into hellish, gold lamé-lined fever dreams, making them live on the perpetual brink of ripping out their hair and shrieking, “We need more spoons! More SPOONS!” — but designing the titular creature is an even greater feat. I mean, he’s in the title. You have to deliver on the Beast, because that’s what makes the show. (Unless your Lumiere is literally holding two Zippo lighters, which I may or may not have seen in an early 2006 production.) When 25 percent of your marquee draw is a humanoid lion-buffalo-gorilla-boar-bear thing, it’s no wonder that some designers got…creative. Furry costume, anyone?
A quick glance shows that this Tumblr was created only recently, and probably in response to Low Budget Beasts. Still, it hits on another challenge posed by a common high school production: Little Shop of Horrors. Why is this show ill-fated? Because its main villain is a giant singing plant that must be large enough to accommodate victims both skinny and portly, and there are only so many high schools with FULLY-FUNCTIONING PUPPET WORKSHOPS up to such a task. And if your school didn’t have a puppet workshop, maybe you just didn’t want to spend the drama department’s entire $100 budget on renting another school’s sloppy Audrey seconds. We didn’t all get to go to a great theater school, Taran Killam.
We’ve dropped the kindly “low-budget” label and gone full insult with this one, dedicated strictly to making fun of wiggery in productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biblical musical. Now, in Joseph‘s defense, not all of these wigs are bad, and not all of the actors look completely hopeless. In fact, some of these Josephs could technicolor my dreamcoat, if you catch my drift. But the ones that are horrible are HORRIBLE. (Aside: Is there any reason Joseph actually needs to have long hair?) The failures range from Edna Mode to Ringo Starr to Sara Gilbert to just not even trying. Proof that any dream will do, but the same cannot be said for any hombre or crimp.
Again with the puppets! In fairness, Avenue Q hasn’t been licensed long enough for low-budget theater companies to know exactly how to approach it. Here, the hilarity largely hinges on the puppets’ ability to appear seamlessly (no pun intended) human. My sympathy goes out to the folks on this Tumblr, who did their damned best — and were kind enough to let us feel schadenfreude for their efforts.
We end with the genre’s true gem, and the Tumblr that likely started this whole trend (in 2014, at least). This goldmine compiles terrible PR photos from community theater across the country, doing basically every show you can think of. I feel bad…but then, I really don’t.