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The performing arts are in the spotlight as the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command celebrates the 2012 Army Festival of the Arts Competition. The competition was established to recognize and encourage distinguished achievement in entertainment and recreation programming and productions on Army installations worldwide. The festival highlights the dedication, quality of execution, and commitment made by military members, their Families, civilian volunteers and staff who contribute to the quality of life in garrison communities. The competition recognizes locally-produced amateur theater, music and special events held on installations. The competition runs from April through September. The deadline for making submissions to the contest is March 30. Garrisons participating in the competition are asked to submit requests for consideration of upcoming productions by including tentative dates of performance as well as a production guide by that date. Submission information and criterion is available on the website www.ArmyFestivalOfTheArts.com

According to the website, the competition encourages participating garrisons to produce and develop a broad range of programming with limited or existing resources. The plays, musical concerts and other entertainment military personnel and Family members put on “provide an awareness of the importance of embedding recurring arts and recreation programs within a military community,” the website states. “They are the cornerstone of the foundation of support that Family and MWR services provide around the world and at home.”

Nearby installations like Fort Lee and Fort Meade have taken home awards in the past for dinner theater productions and other extracurricular events put on by Soldiers, Family members and civilians. Unfortunately, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall has not had an indigenous amateur theatrical troupe for some time, say staffers of the JBM-HH Community Center, who have overseen such productions in the past, both on base and while working at other installation around the world. Organizations that regularly put on evening concerts, such as the U.S. Army Band, are exempt from the competition because the performances they put on are considered a part of the unit’s mission.

LeRoy Harris, JBM-HH Community Center manager, said the base is considering nominating a production put on by a National Guard major last year in the center’s auditorium that utilized facility furniture and fixtures as props in the play’s set design.

Unlike installations that have a large residential population that can support a theatrical troupe throughout the year, most people who work on JBM-HH go home at the end of a duty day, which makes maintaining a permanent afterhours performance group harder, Harris explained. He also noted how there are so many more entertainment options in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area that compete for a Soldier and Family member’s attention than is available at an isolated installation where the community makes its own entertainment.

Professionals specializing in entertainment production, direction, music and recreation programs will judge entrants in the annual Festival of the Arts competition. They will meet with performers, production personnel, staff and volunteers to thank staff for their contribution to arts and recreation programming.

In some cases, the festival will provide theatrical workshops to provide participants with performance consultations, audition preparation and improvisational theatre techniques. Workshops are designed to highlight self confidence, performance awareness and promote the development of music and theatre programs at garrisons desiring to restore or create new programs for their communities.

According to the Festival of the Arts website, “Garrison performance art and recreation activities enhance core Family and MWR objectives and support Army Family Covenant initiatives around the world.” The festival also serves as a feeder program for performers to join other armed forces entertainment events like the U.S. Army Soldier Show and Operation Rising Star.