Seven Famous Actors Who Got Their Start in Community Theatre

For many actors, performing in community theatre is like dipping your toe into the proverbial pool of entertainment. It has served as a launchpad for some, while existing as a safe haven for others to hone their craft. Regardless, community theatres are nurturing and magical places where performers unite simply for the love of acting.

 

As said by renowned actor Morgan Freeman, “There’s no theatre if there’s no community theatre.” No doubt, we theatre nerds agree.

Robert  Pattinson

Before sinking his fangs into the hearts of teenage girls everywhere, Robert Pattinson discovered his love of acting in community theatre.
 
Propelled by the desire to meet girls, he auditioned for a local amateur dramatic society, the Barnes Theatre Club, in Southeast London. Although he didn’t find a girlfriend there, a talent agent spotted him during a show at the theatre.
 
As fate would have it, the agent introduced Pattinson to the then-director of Harry  Potter, Mike Newell, who cast him as Cedric Diggory. The rest, of course, is history.
Pattinson on stage at the Barnes Theatre Club

Kristen Bell

Do you want to build a … banana? Prior to reaching stardom with hit films such as Frozen, Kristen Bell was vying for roles in community theatre. She “flipped out” and cried at her first community theatre audition for a part in Raggedy Ann and Andy

 

Bell told NY Daily News that she ended up being cast “in the complex and dual role of the banana in the first act and the tree in the second act.”

Bell continued acting in community theatre up until college, saying that the friendships she made encouraged her to pursue her passion.

Kristen Bell is the top banana in Raggedy Anne & Andy

Chris Evans

Chris Evans didn’t start out as a superhero. The Captain America star grew up performing in community theatre, acting with his two sisters and his brother in the Concord Youth Theatre.

“Each of us have done at least 15 to 20 shows there,” Evans told Backstage. His family was so into the CYT that when he was around 18, his mother took over as the artistic director there and has been ever since.

 

Seeing his older sister, Carly, onstage inspired Evans to be an actor. “Her play would end, and she’d get flowers and candy, and it just seemed like such a good time,” he said. “She was having a ball and hanging out with her acting friends — it just looked awesome. I was like, ‘I’ll give this a shot.’”

12 year-old Chris Evans was a mainstay at the Concord Youth Theatre.

Jane Krakowski

The 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star credits community theatre for fostering her love of acting. In fact, Krakowski practically grew up at the Barn Theatre in New Jersey.

“My parents were involved in community theatre in New Jersey. Instead of hiring a babysitter, they would take me with them,” Krakowski told Newsday. “So my love of acting seeped in from watching my parents and seeing them

have fun.

 

When I was very little, I was in A Christmas Carol, and my mom was Mrs. Cratchit. I also was in Gypsy  and my dad was Herbie. Every time there was

a part for a kid, they would see if they could sneak

me in.”

We found Jane's teenage head shot!

Anna Kendrick

With her “pitch perfect” presence, Anna Kendrick is currently a go-to performer for musical theatre films. Despite hitting it big with a Broadway role in High Society at age 12, the Oscar nominee’s first taste of theatre was through auditioning for local shows.

“My first audition was for Annie, when I was like five years old and auditioning for community theatre,” the Maine native told E! News.

 

The Into the Woods actress didn’t get the lead that time around, but she did play one of the other orphans in the production. Kendrick remembers the experience fondly, telling NPR that singing “Hard-Knock Life” was “the best.”

Even as a child actress, Anna Kendrick was front and center at the Lyric Theatre in Maine.

Kristen Chenowith

Now a veteran performer of Broadway stages (not to mention a Tony and Emmy winner), Kristin Chenoweth started out learning the ropes on a community theatre stage.

 

The Wicked star played in musicals such as Anything Goes at Theatre Tulsa during her younger years. Located in Oklahoma, Theatre Tulsa is the seventh longest-running community theatre in America and strives to educate artists through training and experience.

Chenoweth isn’t the only star to come out of the Theatre Tulsa, with actress Jeanne Tripplehorn and author Sam Harris receiving their first stage experiences there as well.

Kristen and her mother share a backstage moment in Tulsa.

Emma Stone

Although she is now a Hollywood darling (and a Best Actress winner!), Emma Stone began performing at a small theatre in her hometown in Arizona. The Valley Youth Theatre was a haven for Stone, who has said that performing helped curb her panic attacks when she was growing up.

Before leaving for California, Stone played in 18 different shows at the nonprofit theatre, including Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella.

Bob Cooper, an acting coach at VYT who has known Stone since she was 11, revealed in an article with Daily Mail that she credits the local theatre for giving her the skills she needed.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” she wrote to him. “It’s all because of you.”

Emma Stone as Eeyore in the Valley Youth Theatre's "Winnie the Pooh."

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