Life lessons from community theatre

You’d never guess Nathan Salter (Digital Media and IT ’10, above) spends much of his spare time as an actor. He’s affable without being chatty, handsome but humble, laid-back despite a serious coffee habit. He doesn’t seem the type to seek out a stage.

In a way, that’s why he does it. Since 2012, Salter has been a core member of the Fort Saskatchewan-based Rare Form theatre group. The 25-year-old NAIT web designer describes his involvement as a way to be creative, but it’s more than that, too. He’s found that being someone else over the course of a production offers lessons that can be applied to life offstage as well.

Here’s a look at the personal benefits of community theatre, and what Salter learns about himself by making the effort required to stepping into the shoes of someone else and walking onto the stage.

I joined because I needed a way to meet new people and just have some sort of creative outlet. If you’re around other people who are talented and can make you laugh, it’s a great escape.

I force myself to realize that you have no control over how it’s going to go.


To get over nerves I over-prepare. I try to hit my lines as hard as I can, to the point where, when you’re about to go on, you just have to let go and think, “I’ve done as much as I can.” I just sort of force myself to realize that you have no control over how it’s going to go.

I learn lines by writing them out, over and over. I actually type them. I haven’t met anyone else who does it that way. When I review them, I’ll black out the lines to see if I remember them and then go back and check. I’m a very visual memory person.

The 2016 production was my first time directing. First and foremost, it involves helping the actors, determining where everyone is going to be on stage, line delivery and things like that. Outside of that, you get into the more technical stuff: designing and building a set, coordinating with the theatre, figuring out lighting, sound cues, maintaining timelines, things like that. It’s like project management.

Playing a character, I learn a lot about myself by comparison, because you’re forced to act in a way that’s not how you normally act. You think about what you’d do in a certain situation.

I’m not a person who is naturally very good at talking to people, so putting yourself in a position where you have to interact and think about how you’re portraying yourself is a good way to take that over to real life sometimes – to get better at putting yourself out there.

It’s pure adrenaline.


The day before a production, as soon as you’re in the theatre getting everything set up, it’s pure adrenaline. But it’s over very quickly. That’s always kind of bittersweet – assuming it goes well. It’s always really exciting and then a huge relief, knowing you don’t have to do anything for a while. Usually after a couple of weeks you kind of miss it. But before too long, we’re planning the next one.

As told to Scott Messenger

Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.

Sign up today »