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Old 06-07-2013, 04:07 PM
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I've started watching the new AMC tv show "Showville", and just love it. They go around to small(ish) towns and put on a talent show of local talent. The audience votes on the best performer (they've had singers, dancers, comedians, ventriloquists, and etc.), and the winner gets $10,000! It's a really fun show, and I love that they showcase small town talent.

And I've always loved Prairie Home Companion's "Talent from Towns under Two Thousand" shows.

It drives me crazy when people who live in cities think that cultural opportunities can only be found in large cities. In fact, that's one of the major arguements used to proclaim the superiority of urban life. Yet my personal experience of living in both types of places shows that talented people - artists, musicians, woodworkers, comedians, and etc. - can be found in every place. And some of the best museums and theaters in America are located in small towns.

I'll give you an example. I once lived near Alma, Arkansas. A local banker there loved plays, so provided a building for theater, and helped fund the community theater group. I once saw a truely amazing production of Steve Martin's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" there. OK, not every actor was great, but most were good and one of them was really wonderful. People said he works for the street department in a nearby larger town.

And everyone knows a special high school musician, or a truely hysterical local storyteller.

There's lots of talent to be found in small towns. Who lives in yours? What cultural opportunities can be found in your small town?
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:00 AM
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Our high school has three orchestras. The teacher/conductor was classically trained in Europe, has done well professionally and just loves what he now does.

The town has a venue that brings in musicians from around the country and some from outside the U.S. They have live webcasts of the NY Metropolitan Opera. We also have a community theater group. Several places in town has live music frequently. A neighboring town has events sponsored by ArtCore that brings a variety of international groups there.

There is a pretty good variety of talent among the locals, too. I have a daughter who lives 26 miles from a town of 950. They have a strong community band that is really quite good. They also get a variety of entertainers from all over in her region performing in area towns.
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Old 06-08-2013, 08:51 AM
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I'd venture to opine that education and wealth are the main predictors of cultural activity, and not necessarily the town's size. College towns, or towns with wealthy retirees, are excellent examples of small locales which can nevertheless be culturally sophisticated.

By "culturally bleak small town", we generally mean an impoverished town where the one or two factories which were the main source of employment have shut down during the past 30 years, leaving the local denizens stranded. The more energetic young people move away (college or military being the typical routes) and the wealthier retirees move to Florida. The town anchoring my zip-code has about 20,000 residents - really, not all that small. But unfortunately it suffers from a bleak dearth of culture. On the other hand, 10 miles further north there's a much smaller town with a strong reputation for the arts. It has a small university, and is known for "alternative" values that attract craftspeople, musicians and literary-types.
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:29 AM
Location: Middle America
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In small towns that are largely industrial (had to find these days), agricultural, etc., in terms of their economic engine, and don't really draw a traditionally arts-minded community, the culture that you're most likely to find is one that has been fostered by individual families as their particular tradition. The most culturally-minded people in my rural farming community were ones where someone in the family was artistic, and passed that love down to future generations. The families where they learned bluegrass instruments. The guy who did bronzecasting as a hobby when he wasn't working at the hardware store, and taught his kids, etc.
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Old 06-09-2013, 04:53 AM
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I'm going to disagree with OhioPeasant. A small town doesn't have to have a University to have talented people and cultural opportunities. The poster above this cited some good examples - a bronze sculptor, some bluegrass artists. And my story of the theater in Alma, AR - boy, that town is about as far from being a Universiy town as can be.

Here's some more examples: I live in a town of 965 (extremely blue collar) at the moment, and I know at the very least there's a woman who creates works of art out of birchbark, carrying on an Ojibwe tradition. The next town over (also extremely blue collar) holds an annual nationally known summer orchestral training program for gifted children from around the country. The kids study with musicians from around the world, and put on free recitals in the other small towns in this area. Last year they produced an opera, using a nationally known opera singer in addition to local community members. Why does it happen there? The program director grew up in the town. In the town (primarily agricultural with some small industry) where I worked seasonally last year there is really good museum that brings in great cultural programs, including a monthly contra dance with callers and bands from around the region.

That's the kind of thing I mean. If I'm seeing this stuff, it's got be available in your back yards too, folks!

I'm wondering if some of those reading this feel that the term "cultural opportunity" can only count if some external standard of aesthetics is being met. I would argue that art created beautifully by amateurs is as much a"cultural opportunity" for others as art created by highly paid professionals.

If Showville came to your hometown, who would they find to perform, and what would they be doing?
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Old 06-09-2013, 06:06 PM
Location: Sierra Nevada Land, CA
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Our local town of 5000-the County seat and nearby town of a 1000 have three live theatres. Not to mention in the rural nearby counties numerous festivals throughout the year. All mid to high-end stuff. Two of the live theatres hire a few actors from LA to use with local talent.

Perhaps part of the reason we have so many cultural things is that I live in a retirement area, which has a history of live theatre and local festivals.
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Old 06-16-2013, 06:35 PM
Location: Location: Location
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I live in a town of just a tick over 4,000 residents. We don't have a theater in town. BUT in a 25 mile radius, there was, at one time in the last decade, No less than ten community theater groups. That doesn't include the local college drama productions - and we have quite a few colleges. Some of the groups are now defunct due to having lost their buildings. One was sold and one was in bad shape and the LL refused to fix the problems. (Imagine the roof leaking into the audience and dripping on one of the biggest benefactors!)

I have performed on most of the stages in the area, and some are better quality than others, dependent largely on the facility itself. One of them, in the next town but literally minutes from my home, mounts excellent productions, mostly musicals with a few straight plays here and there. Some of the others were kind of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland hey, kids, let's put on a show! types.

Our area has seen everything from Shakespeare in the Park to Urinetown. I was in a production of The Full Monty that was amazing. I was privileged to work backstage on a production of Chicago that would blow your socks off.

Please, support your local theaters. Go see a show. Offer to get involved. Paint the set. Usher. Man the refreshment table at intermission. Audition for a part. It's a swell hobby.
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