The Gettysburg Community Theatre (GCT) has been changing lives for nearly 15 years. As one of the premier centers for the arts in town, the theatre provides a space for actors of all ages to explore their talents and connect with peers who understand their love of performance.
Chad-Alan Carr, the founding executive and artistic director of GCT, has worked to promote the arts in Gettysburg for over a decade. Every day, Carr witnesses the joy, self-discovery, and sense of togetherness that the arts can promote. “Theatre has always been a safe place and a place for self-expression and acceptance from others,” he said.
Since its founding in 2009, the theatre has weathered its share of hardships, none more universal than the COVID-19 pandemic, which turned live performances from enjoyable evening outings into dangerous threats of airborne infection.
GCT made it through “thanks to the support of our community,” said Carr, and the hundreds of actors who rely on the theatre for a creative outlet returned to the stage after a 13-month shutdown.
Almost any Gettysburg local who has seen a GCT show will give a raving review when asked. Despite the struggles the theatre has been through, its staff and actors persevere, providing show after delightful show to the public. Other artists, however, have not been so lucky.
Quarantine took a massive toll on arts departments across the nation, forcing schools into awkward workarounds that saw actors rehearsing outdoors, choir students singing 10 feet apart and art students working on projects from home, where many had access to few or no art supplies. Since then, times have only gotten tougher for young creatives.
Kids must have a creative outlet, whether or not they make a career out of it. Arts programs, especially drama, build children’s social skills, improve their focus in other classes, and increase their self-esteem. Creating art soothes the mind and motivates kids to refine their abilities through practice and collaboration.
Opposers argue that art never leads to successful or stable careers, but artists comprise about 1.6% of the U.S. workforce, according to Americans for the Arts. In comparison, a 2017 report by the U.S Science and Engineering Workforce revealed that about 4.9% of Americans are employed in science and engineering fields combined. Professional actors, art teachers, graphic designers, and magazine editors alike can all attest to the fact that art can indeed serve those who dedicate themselves to it.
Beyond funding, though, beyond test scores or job prospects, art makes kids happy.
“Community Theatre saved my life,” Carr said. This statement rings true for millions of other people who have found joy through art. Without art, students have no way to explore their inner workings and release pent-up emotions. Without art, kids who love to sing are forced to go silent, and kids who love to draw may not have the supplies they need. Without art, people are deprived of the community, creativity, and love that a show or a mural can bring.
Writing, drawing, acting, and making music do not cost students anything. They only seem to pay off in the end.
Gettysburg is lucky enough to house a theatre, an Arts Council, and numerous schools and businesses that offer opportunities to engage in the arts, but thousands of other communities blatantly stifle kids’ creativity. The national atmosphere of hostility towards the arts has birthed a new definition for starving artist: Rather than being impoverished because careers in art don’t pay, these artists are starved of the very ability to do what they love.
What could be the harm in throwing them a bone?
Rebekah Reaver is a senior at Gettysburg Area High School who is
honored to be interning with the Gettysburg Connection. They have been
a Gettysburg resident for 9 years and enjoy writing opinion pieces
along with free verse poems.