Many "good ideas" don't make it. Ask any entrepreneur about the success rate of new startups. An estimated 90% don't succeed, with most failing within the first 2-4 years.
When Decatur Underground Theater started in 2010, we had our fair share of naysayers. We were different, and we (at least by community theatre standards) were weird. Fair enough. Although we had other mad skills, we openly admitted we knew little about community theater. We weren't totally clueless, though. We knew how to make large productions (like rock concerts) happen and had good organizational skills.
In any case, a lack of knowledge about community theatre turned out to be an advantage for Decatur Underground. It allowed DUT some flexibility and maybe even permission to break the mold (and we did).
Some local detractors openly pointed out that we 'didn't know what we were doing' in 2010 and would quickly fail.
Our response: Watch us.
It was openly predicted that DUT would fail. But we didn't. Why not? Well, it turns out - for DUT - it was never just about the show. We were different in many ways. One way we only do musical theater (the show itself), but that was just part of what we were doing.
We were having fun. But we weren't just having fun. We were on a mission, and that mission was Decatur, Illinois. We had a (different) model we were creating for our community theatre company, and the secret sauce that made the model work factored into the mission.
Community Theatre Secret Sauce
The mission is why we didn't pattern DUT after anyone else. It's why DUT is unique and isn't dependent on anything or anyone else. We're happy to share what the ingredients that make up the secret sauce looked (and still do) like. It's this not-so-secret combination of things:
OPPORTUNITY: Providing opportunities for those who may have never anticipated or gotten the chance to perform on stage in a musical or theatre in general or with no experience or connection with community theatre, in general, was necessary (but having vocal talent would for sure be beneficial for those aspiring to perform onstage)...
OPTIONS: Providing additional opportunities for the community for high-quality, affordable entertainment (not in a bar or club)... at an affordable price...
EXCELLENCE: Expect the best possible results from ourselves and our people - from those performing on-stage to those behind the scenes - always striving for excellence and giving them everything they need to succeed, and they will produce (it works in business, why not in musical theater?)...
LOVE PEOPLE: Operate our company in a way that isn't necessarily "religious," per se, but inherently expresses and demonstrates the love of Christ to everyone involved in our company in ways that recognize each person as a valuable human being, made in the image of God (imago dei), deserving of love and respect. We each may have different perspectives on some things, but respecting each other is paramount...
ETHICAL/MORAL: Function in a way that recognizes the importance of ethical and moral practices and holds people accountable - from the board to performers to backstage and behind-the-scenes volunteers. Ethical standards are non-negotiables...
GIVE BACK: Giving back to the community in unique and tangible ways is essential. That includes the shows we produce but also in other tangible ways beyond the show itself. For example, providing a delicious Nelson's Chicken Dinner to every police officer, firefighter, EMT, and dispatcher in the city on our Nelson's Fundraiser Day (last time that was approximately 80 first responders) or helping get animals in shelters get adopted, or helping kids. We love Decatur and want to give back...
MISSION BELIEVERS: we rely on a core team of dedicated, hard-working, awesome people who freely give their time and talents (and often other resources) to help us all succeed in carrying out our community theater mission with excellence - for the sake of our hometown, Decatur, Illinois.
The other piece of the model not mentioned above focuses on doing well-known Broadway musicals - shows that people will recognize and have proven their desirability, popularity, and staying power (mainly because of their incredible score).
It all works (at least for us).
In 2011, despite the unparalleled success of both Jesus Christ Superstar and Miss Saigon, some in the community still thought DUT was a flash in the pan and would never last. They didn't taste the secret sauce. Decatur's Lincoln Square Theater had not seen packed crowds like that (or crowds of any sort) in more than two decades. In our 13th year, the Decatur Underground Theater (DUT) experiment proved successful. We're still cranking out awesome musical theater and contributing to the Decatur community.
We're not going anywhere. The DUT secret sauce is delicioius.
There are plenty of things to do in Decatur... if you look. But, still, Decatur has both a desire and a need for even more things to do. We're just one part of a lot of great things that are happening in Decatur, Illinois.
We are not alone.
No, that isn't a Close Encounters reference. There are three excellent community theatre companies (DUT, Theatre 7, and Midsummer Moon), not to mention Millikin's Pipe Dreams Theatre and curricular theatre programs, as well as Kirkland. There are plenty of opportunities for each of us to contribute; our community has no shortage of need for what we all can provide. We can all contribute.
The Secret Garden The Musical
The Decatur community has repeatedly responded fabulously to DUT's high-quality musical theatre productions. Get ready - The Secret Garden The Musical is coming. The Decatur community is about to get their socks blown off yet again with DUT's production of The Secret Garden.
DUT's The Secret Garden The Musical production will hit the stage at the Decatur Civic Center Theater on March 24-26 and Mar 31-Apr 2.
So, for people asking, "what is there to do in Decatur?" - coming up the last two weekends in March 2023, check out Decatur Underground's production of The Secret Garden The Musical at the Decatur Civic Center. You will be blown away by the vocal talent that is right here in our community.
Tickets for -The Secret Garden The Musical - are now available HERE.
We're still giving back. I look forward to you at The Secret Garden!
Tim Revis, Co-founder & Trustee - Decatur Underground Theater
DUT is Decatur's Premier Musical Theater Company, bringing Awesome Musical Theater to Decatur, IL.
copyright 2023 Decatur Underground Theater Corporation