Bringing community back to community theater

Jessica Fuller • Aug 4, 2018 at 7:32 PM

As the longest-running community theater in the state, Johnson City Community Theatre’s focused has shifted in recent years to bring the community back to the theater. 

Current theater president Jonathan Marin joined JCCT about seven years ago, having been involved with theater from age 12. Within the past few years, he said, theater leaders have shifted focus from a lot of classic plays to more audience-demanded shows, trying to find a balance between putting on popular shows alongside of lesser-known ones. Community theater organizers took a poll a few years ago to see what the community really wanted from local theater. 

“The first step is understanding where you are in your community and what you can offer them as artists,” Marin said. “We found that the community doesn’t want old, classic plays all the time. The community wants different things.

“People want to see us do awesome things, not just plays, so we’ve decided to dabble into musical theater.”

Marin noticed that even though the theater was putting out quality shows, they weren’t known to a wider audience. So this year, leaders in the theater regrouped to shape a season with popular shows, sprinkled with a few shows lesser-known to the average theater-goer.  

This year, Marin said the theater saw success with “Tarzan,” and “Hairspray” selling about 90 percent of the available tickets, and of course the cult classic “Rocky Horror Picture Show” sells well each year. Marin said he hopes attendants who come to the bigger shows may follow the theater and come to some of the unfamiliar ones.

Of course, big changes take more money, which Marin said has been a familiar snag for JCCT. Musicals tend to cost more money to produce than plays, and the shows wouldn’t happen without private donations and thousands of volunteer hours per production.

Once costs like utility bills, concessions, royalties, costumes and set design are taken into consideration, the bill for a show begins to run pretty high — at least $10,000 for one show.

In addition to a more melodic season, Marin said the theater is aiming to integrate more into the community, and those plans will be revealed in a special announcement event scheduled for Aug. 16 at JRH Brewing, 458 W. Walnut St., which is free to attend and open to the public.

Marin said he and other theater leaders are also looking to be more involved with the community and outreach, including collaborations with other local artists and business owners downtown. 

“We are downtown, some people may not consider us downtown, but we are downtown as much as anyone else who is downtown,” Marin said. “We’re just across the tracks.”

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.


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