Community theater is doing well here in the hinderlands (and not so hinderlands) of Colorado. In Colorado Springs a town of about 200,000 people, they have three or four community theater groups with their three days-a-week runs running between three and six weeks. In nearby Pueblo (a town of 100,000 about 45 miles south of Colorado Springs) they have two solid community theater groups with roughly the same setup on play dates as Colorado Springs.
The much smaller town of La Junta (about an hour east of Pueblo) has 6,000 people in the community and they have a thriving community theater group with a wonderful theater. Their runs are generally two to three times a week for either two or three weeks. Twelve miles away Rocky Ford which has about 3,000 people in the community also has a pretty good community theater group (they use an old turn of the century vaudville house) and they will do two-shows-a week for two weeks.
I imagine a great deal of the draw depends on what shows are being done. The classic musicals do great, soldout houses every night. The classic comedies also seem to do well. I saw a community theater group do Arsenic and Old Lace in Colorado Springs and it was SRO. I saw the same group do Titus Andronicus and there were quite a few empty seats. I saw the Rocky Ford group do The Sound of music and they had to double their normal run. On the other hand, a year later (the next musical performance) they did Five Guys Named Moe and there were more people on the stage than in the house.
Also I noticed you’re from Virginia, I imagine that there are some good professional groups not that far away. I imagine that has a bit to do with the lack of good turn out at your local community theater group.
You’re comment about quality of production is valid in many cases (although it is part of the fun of community theater, too) but you would be surprised about some of the high levels of productions put forth in community theater. I was traveling through Garden City, Kansas, of all places, a number of years ago and saw a community theater production of Caberet that seriously rivaled the one I had seen on Broadway a year before.
I went backstage to compliment the cast and crew on the show and one of the stage hands said to me, “You think this is good? You should have seen Fiddler (on the Roof) last year.”
So it goes.