Community Based Theater is generated in, with, by and for members of specific groups, often with the goal of discussing important issues facing the community and helping to foster some kind of change. It is distinguished from Broadway theater because it isn't created to make a profit, and is somewhat different from not-for-profit regional theatres in the U.S., because it relies directly on the involvement of both theatre professionals and local community members for its content and its production.
Ensemble theatre is often devoted to making less of a hierarchical distinction between members of the creative team than is typical of commercial theatre in the United States. Even when it uses a more traditional rehearsal and production process, the goal of ensemble theatre is in placing creative control back in the hands of groups of artists.
This collection of resources, some of which we used in the "Creating a Community Based Play" course, gives an overview of how community based theater is made, why it's made, and some of the range of people and companies doing this kind of work. There are also a couple of resources about theatre that is created with non-hierarchical methods that place the focus on the whole group rather than just singling out individual artists.
Collaboratively devised theater and performance are not new to the Theater, Film and Media Studies Program at St. Mary's College of Maryland. The department has a history of producing work generated with and by students that deals with issues of social justice on campus and in the larger world.
Most recently, On Contentious Grounds was directed by Professor Daniel Bear Davis in Spring 2017. Professor Merideth Taylor directed several productions generated collaboratively with students, including Crossroads: On Common Grounds, which was originally produced in 1999, and was then re-imagined in 2016 as part of the college's 175th Anniversary celebration. Taylor also directed a series of performances, called The Big Picture, The Bigger Picture, and The Big Picture App. In 2011, playwright Caleen Sinnet Jennings wrote and directed a play called St. Mary's Hear and Now, which was based on interviews in the community about the experience of being Black at St. Mary's College of Maryland and in St. Mary's County.