The Nativity Variations: Community Theater in Popular Culture

Scene from Waiting for Guffman. Photo Credit: Everett Collection.

The Nativity Variations tells the story of a group of people that sign up for their local community theater to participate in the telling of the Nativity. Of course they have no idea what they are in for when the director puts her own spin on the traditional Nativity play. Explore how community theater has played a large part of pop culture throughout the years.

Waiting for Guffman (1996)

From the experts in mockumentaries who created classics such as This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show, this movie follows the creation of a community theater production celebrating the small town of Blaine. Eccentric director Corky St. Clair has dreams of Broadway and all the ensemble’s hopes hang on a review from the mysterious Mr. Guffman.

Schitt’s Creek (2019)

In beloved Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek, former soap star Moira Rose co-directs a community theater production of Cabaret starring some of the show’s most prominent characters. Much to everyone’s surprise, the performances are brilliant and the musical is a rousing success.

Scene from “Life is a Cabaret” episode of Schitt’s Creek. Photo Credit: IMDb.

Parkway Players (2019-2020)

This mockumentary Youtube series follows a summer community theater production of Grease 2. From meeting the hopefuls to auditions, this series leans into musical and community theater stereotypes to produce viewing that will make anyone familiar with the world of little theaters chuckle

Still from Parkway Players. Photo Credit: Youtube.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)

In perhaps the most famous representation of what we would now call “community theater,” Shakespeare presents a play-withina-play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A group of tradespeople, known to us as “the mechanicals,” rehearse and put on a production of The Most Lamentable Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe. As is often the case with artistic skewering of amateur theatrical productions, the performers and the play itself are a comedy of errors and hijinks.

The Mechanicals rehearse in the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2007. Photo Credit: Andrew Murad, The New York Times.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

In this film, a community theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream gives hope to a teenage boy who longs for more than his rigid home life and boarding school life bring him. As he explores his talents as the spritely Puck, he finds himself, but his artistic dreams are dashed by his father, leading to dire consequences.

Robert Sean Leonard as Neal/Puck in Dead Poets Society. Photo Credit: Youtube

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