Reflecting On My Theatre Degree, One Year Later

Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Columnist

This month marks the one-year anniversary of when I graduated from college. After years of studying Theatre – with minors in Writing and Film Studies – it was nice to be able to say that my work had finally paid off. It feels as if so much has happened in my life since I got my degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, and much more has happened since the first day of my freshman year. That’s why I was inspired to write this piece, as I look back on that period in my life.

I still remember what it was like on my first day of classes, then as an aspiring actor who was eagerly waiting to learn as much as I could about all aspects of theatre. I remember taking my first theatre history class with David Pellegrini in my very first semester, thinking that my days as a prolific teen performer in community theatre meant that I was extremely knowledgeable about everything there was to know about the art of theatre, when in reality, there was still more out there for me to learn and discover. I remember taking many more classes, while also working in on productions as an actor, dramaturge, and in various tech positions, including many obscure and experimental plays that you might not always get to see at other school theatre departments. It was these classes and shows that largely helped shape and influence the way I look at theatre – and more broadly speaking, at art – today in 2017.

I also remember taking playwriting and scriptwriting classes with Matt Gallagher and Edmond Chibeau, which helped me discover that playwriting was what I was truly meant to do as an artist, and also helped me develop my craft early on. Finally, among many other things, I remember both the independent study and the academic project I presented at ECSU’s CREATE Conference – both of which involved staged readings of plays I produced myself – which helped prepare me for what I would potentially do after college.

I may have hit a few bumps and taken a few detours along the way, but in the end, I left college with a much understanding of who I am and what I wanted to do with my life. After years of studying and exploring, I had felt far more comfortable in my own skin, and also more confident in the possibilities that awaited me in the future.

It’s also hard for me to look back without also considering what I’ve done since then, given the ongoing topic of discussion that people often have: “Is getting a Theatre degree worth it?” With that in mind, here’s the way I look at it, now…

During my last year or so at ECSU, I kept telling anyone I knew – in the theatre department or elsewhere – the exact same story about what my immediate plans for my post-college life would be: Soon after graduation day, I’d be moving to New York City with the intention of doing all I could to take the plays I had written – some of which had already been presented as staged readings that school year – and producing them in the best city for artists in all of the United States.

While I wouldn’t admit it at the time, there was always a bit of uncertainty I felt over how achievable this would be…or how quickly I could make it happen, anyway. Indeed, I was aware that living in a city like New York City – much less producing even small shows at festivals – could get expensive. For that reason, especially within the first year or so after college, making such a move isn’t always super easy.

Yet I did find an affordable place just a few months after leaving ECSU, and since moving to New York this past September, three of my one-act plays have been produced with Manhattan Repertory Theatre and the NYWinterfest, with another one already scheduled to premiere this summer at the Midtown International Theatre Festival. I’ve also had the chance to recently complete a new full-length drama I’ve been writing and polishing for almost two years now, and I am just starting to make plans to present a staged reading of that play before the end of this year. On top of that, another of my one-acts – which was first produced during my last year at ECSU – is being published in a few months by Heuer Publishing.

Given how I’ve only been taking playwriting seriously for just a few years now, and have only been out of college for one year, I’d personally count those things as big achievements for me, at this point in my career. Maybe a bit of it was luck, but I’d like to think that a lot of it was both hard-work and honing of my writing skills that began with my college experiences. If there was ever any small doubts that I had about choosing to focus on studying my artistic passions in college, they’re all gone now.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I say it because now, as I scroll through my news feed on Facebook, it’s hard not to notice how so many people I know in the class of 2017 are awaiting their own graduation day. Maybe some of them are also leaving school more confident than ever that they’ll be able to achieve their goals and make their dreams come true. On the other hand, some others might be feeling nervous or dismayed at the uncertainty that lies ahead. Or perhaps some of them might be feeling a mixture of both.

If there are any members of the graduating class of 2017 out there reading this, please know that as long as you never, ever give up on your dreams, stay focused on your goals and don’t let anyone get you to have any sense of doubt over what is or isn’t possible, then there’s no reason why you can’t keep doing what you love in your post-college life, as well. That’s what my own experience has taught me, anyway. Already, I’ve done some things that I wasn’t sure I’d have already done by this time in 2017. So if I can find a way to achieve my own goals after college, there’s no reason why other artists can’t.

I hope you’ll all keep that in mind, as you sit there waiting for hours (if your graduation experience is anything like mine, anyway) for you to be called up on stage at the graduation ceremony, thinking about what will happen in the weeks and months that follow. Despite what some may try and tell you, studying your passion in school is worth it, as long as you stay passionate enough to do whatever it takes to get where you want to be, afterwards…

This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Playwright, producer, screenwriter, actor, poet, critic and essayist based in New York City.

To learn more about Mr. Piccione and his work, please visit Also, be sure to follow him on Facebook ( and on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione).