Theatre is an Elitist Major

Michaela Buckley

I love theatre. I always will. I am still relentlessly pursuing a career in it. Yet we can’t ignore that it is an elitist major and career choice.

No matter how much I dreamed and worked, I will never make it to Broadway, I simply don’t have the money. I have had to turn down several freelance jobs and great opportunities because I had to choose economic stability over artistry, and it stings every time.

It can be traced back further than that. Most famous actors or singers say that they started their careers when they took dance classes at 4 years old, or singing lessons at 9. I couldn’t do that. Even community theatre in my area costs hundreds of dollars to join, and I did not have a ride to rehearsal because both my parents were working.

This is by no means my parents fault.

My parents tried to put me in singing lessons, acting lessons, drove me to auditions as often as they could, but even then it seemed like we couldn’t keep up. My parents had two other kids and full time jobs, it wasn’t fair for them either.

I did not even really fall in love with theatre until I was 14, by then it seemed I was already too late to be a star. In my teenage ignorance of how money worked, I couldn’t help but be jealous that other schools had professional directors and choreographers, while my drama teach did everything she possibly could to put the show up herself. My high school had an extremely underfunded theatre department (like most high schools), so even as the lead in every wonderful production we did, that was not going to cut it when it came time to audition for college programs.’

The college I attended ended up being the perfect program for me, it was a small school outside of LA where I was able to experiment with what type of theatre artists I wanted to be, yet it is no UCLA or Julliard (not that I even applied to those schools).

Yet sometimes I am still belting out songs in my car, or dreaming of choreography, but I am also perfectly happy not waiting hours in an audition room with hundreds of girls that look exactly like me. I realistically was never going to make it to Broadway, I haven’t even been to New York because a flight from LA to New York is already out of my budget, let alone seeing any shows.

Being a theatre major already is not a financially stable career choice, which I have always justified. Theatre is a tool for social change, not a tool for financial gain. Yet why is it so expensive to even dream of being a famous actor? Headshots, acting classes, travel, days off work, and we judge each other so hard for not having the money. This applies to being freelance stage managers, designers, and all theatre related career. You want to know how much a stage management kit costs?

We rarely hear of underdog stories coming from theatre, or at least I haven’t. No one roots for the spunky kid without a lot of training. No one roots for anyone to be a theatre artists really. Recently, one of my teachers told me that the lighting designer from Hamilton went to my high school. After hours of stalking on the internet I could not find if this was true or not, so even if that underdog story is true, he isn’t proud of it.

I have been made fun of multiple times for not having a season pass to our local theatre, or any local theatre. I don’t have tickets to Hamilton and probably won’t any time soon. I have never been to New York. All those things that are already not staples for any theatrical career are still seemed as crucial to being a “real” artist.

To me its a shame, theatre is such a vital part of education and expression, yet it is treated like a privilege or something that only comes with extreme sacrifice.