By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — For drama and laughs, town residents only need to make a quick drive down to the park.
The Not So Common Players, a not-for-profit theater organization in town, regularly hosts free performances at Clifton Common. The group recently wrapped up two week’s worth of performances of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which saw huge crowds armed with lawn chairs and picnic blankets for each show.
The group has long-standing roots in town. Not So Common Players formed after another theater group that performed in Clifton Park during the summertime eventually left to pursue other venues, and ultimately folded.
After that group left, said the groups’ board chairwoman Elisa Verb, there was a need for performing arts in town that went unfilled. The stage at Clifton Common was also going unused.
Eventually, the Not So Common Players came together to fill that niche, Verb said, and their first show was staged in the summer of 2001.
The board consists of 13 community members who are in charge of selecting shows, producers, and directors. The directors are then tasked with finding actors and musicians. Beyond that, the board is tasked with managing the day-to-day business and the long-term planning of the organization.
Not So Common Players began by hosting one show per year during the summer. The group has since gone on to organize at least three shows during the year. The group receives funding from the town to put on the three shows, and they fundraise they rest of the money needed to produce additional plays. They also collect donations.
“The donations are there to help us improve,” Verb said, noting that while the actors work on a volunteer basis, other workers, such as light technicians, producers, and directors, are paid a small stipend.
To start the process of selecting the next play, various directors submit their plans to the board, including which play they intend to put on. After securing the rights, directors then begin the audition process and hire their teams.
The actors used in the plays are a mixed group, Verb said. Some are local, some have just graduated from school, and some are veterans. Almost all of the auditions are open auditions.
“We absolutely get a combination of actors,” Verb said. The auditions are held usually about three months prior to a show, and the actors rehearse multiple times each week leading up to the show.
But free shows are not the only thing that Not So Common Players provides to the Capital Region. The group just finished its seventh year of its children’s camp, during which kids from all around the area can come to learn about acting and improvisation.
Both the camp and the free shows support Not So Common Player’s goal of not only providing quality entertainment for free, but also of making theater more accessible to everyone, Verb said.
“We introduce a lot of children to theater for the first time,” Verb said. “I definitely think we fill a niche.”