Chances are, if you like to do theatre, you’ve thought about going to school for it. But maybe you thought it was impractical? Well yes, it is absolutely impractical. But it is also totally worth the experience.
1. The most fun you will ever have. If you’re passionate about theatre, then what could be more fun than theatre being something you are required to do? You spend your day at class learning about theatre, your evenings in rehearsal doing great theatre, and your weekends hanging out and partying with people who want to talk about theatre.
2. You learn to multitask. Can you study for a biology final and attend rehearsal at the same time? Well maybe not in freshman year, but it is guaranteed that you will know how to do this by senior year. You will get good at studying no matter what the noise level going on around you and you will be able to somehow, magically, study your lines at the same time.
3. You make incredible friends. Theatre kids have a reputation for being gossipy and dramatic. While this is sometimes true, if you love theatre, you probably already know how to deal with it. Also, by the time you get to college, you stop being “theatre kids” and start becoming actors. That’s when you make some of the best friends of your life. You learn to collaborate with friends. Which is a great skill to have.
4. You learn skills outside of your disciple. You may be an actor, or a set designer or a stage manager or a director. But by the time you’re done with your degree you could end up being an actor and a set designer and a stage manager and a director. While you won’t get great at everything, you will be have some experience in almost every aspect of theatre. Useful and fun.
5. You overcome your fear of heights. You kind of have to at some point. Whether you’re the lead actress or the master electrician at some point you’re going to have to get up high. And while you may be terrified, you will be exhilarated to know that you “screwed your courage to the sticking place” and made heights the routine.
6. And you gain unique experiences. In addition to all the theatre experience, you will gain unique and strange experiences. For instance, I know three sentences in sign language, I am comfortable in a corset, I know how to Elizabethan style dance, I am comfortable with wire work (thanks Peter Pan) and I can make a fake punch look convincing.
7. You learn to improvise. I’m not just talking about improv here. I’m talking about improvising in rehearsals as well. When you find that a specific element of your design, or your concept isn’t working, you learn how to roll with the punches and think of a different solution. In the moment. Sometimes during a performance.
8. You learn to annunciate. It may sound strange, but learning how to annunciate is a key skill. At the very least when talking to automated voices on the phone, or people who aren’t hearing or understanding you. Learning how to make sure that someone heard you is a good still. Top this off with a stage presence and you can keep people focused on your in a meeting or a lecture.
9. You learn to balance. Not just on your feet, although that does happen if you do musical theatre. You also learn to balance a lot of different aspects of your life at once. Being a theatre major, you learn to balance classes, a social life, homework, papers, rehearsals, memorizing your lines, building sets or sewing costumes, etc. etc. You may end up doing some of it at two or three in the morning, but you do learn what you’re capable of juggling.
10. You learn to take criticism. Auditions and acting classes and working with a director all involve a ton of criticism. I was surprised when I got out into the real world how many people thought they had offended me and how often I would have to explain, “it’s ok, it’s constructive.” You learn to take that criticism to your face and let it roll of your back.
So while it may not be the most practical degree, if you love theatre, please do it. A theatre degree is a special and magical and FUN way to spend four years. I highly recommend it.