"Except for the relatively small amount of money they charge for tickets, community theaters ask virtually nothing from patrons, yet they offer so much in return for that small investment.Oak Harbor’s Whidbey Playhouse is a case in point. Its most obvious contribution is inexpensive, quality live theater staged each season for the enjoyment of the entire community. But that’s just the most visible benefit.Behind the scenes, volunteer cast and crew members earn valuable experience at stagecraft. Students and younger volunteers have an opportunity to try their hands at working in the prop department or helping with sound and lighting. In return for their efforts, they get to work with older, more experienced crew members, in essence receiving free on-the-job training (beyond that attainable in a high school theater class) that they may take with them to a college drama department — experience that might give them a leg up on classmates with no formal theater background.The same can be said of fledgling actors and actresses, whether they take their community theater experience with them to a university or right into the working entertainment world. Several young Whidbey Playhouse alumni, for example, have gone on to stage, television and film work in Seattle and Los Angeles.More mature players and crew often use the community theater as an outlet for fulfilling long-held dreams of a life on the boards — dreams that may have been put on hold for years by real-world obligations of career and family, but which in retirement offer a new path to enriching their lives.And each summer the playhouse is visited by touring theater companies and musicians, providing tourists and locals alike with convenient entertainment options. The summer season also features an annual visit by the renowned Missoula Children’s Theatre, which takes residence for one week each July for a run of shows and classes for young patrons of the arts and potential thespians.Considering all of that, for $9 to $11 per ticket — or a little of your time spent as a volunteer — you certainly can’t beat that kind of return on an investment. "

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