Stage Door: OCTAfest

What do you know about community theater? Did you realize that these companies do this work as volunteers? That's right: They act, direct, build sets, promote and so on because they love it — not for any profit motive.

Of course, they have expenses like paying for costumes and renting halls (or maintaining a building they own), not to mention springing for the rights to produce works, so they sell tickets. They typically serve a neighborhood (that's part of what "community" means) — such as Mariemont or Wyoming or Fort Thomas. —- And sometimes their work is amateurish, since they draw from a limited pool of performers and work with very modest means. But almost every community theater has a magical moment annually when a show comes together in a way that audiences totally love.

Those productions make the theaters especially proud, and this weekend is when the various groups come together in one place to show off their work. The annual OCTAfest is a showcase of 30-minute excerpts that are competing to go on to a statewide event later in the summer. The audience is largely performers from other groups — many community theater participants are like gypsies who go from group to group and have friendships that extend for decades — but anyone can buy a ticket ($22) to come and see the best of the 2009-10 season.

Excerpts started last night and continue tonight at 7 p.m. and throughout the day on Saturday (from 8:30 a.m. to around 4 p.m.). You're invited to experience a potpourri of plays and musicals onstage at Miami University's Hamilton campus's Parrish Auditorium (1601 University Ave.). I guarantee you'll be impressed by the hard work and craftsmanship of many of the excerpts that are presented.