People with theatre degrees and those pursuing them have heard countless comments suggesting they haven’t made the right choice.
“You know you’re not going to make a lot of money, right?”
“Why don’t you get a more practical degree?”
“So you want to wait tables for the rest of your life?”
Some of these comments have come from theatre folks themselves, such as:
“Yeah, I’m going to be an actor, which means I’m going to live in a cardboard box forever.”
These perceptions towards theatre degrees are disappointing for a variety of reasons. Obviously, these sorts of comments are far from uplifting.
But the big point I would like to drive home is the fact that theatre degrees are nowhere near as useless as people think they are. Sure, you’re not going to be an engineer or a teacher, but the truth is, these degrees teach valuable life lessons that can be used in other careers and realms beyond those of theatre.
Some of these vital skills learned are:
Learning to be organized benefits everyone, be it the stage manager, actor, costume designer, props master, or any other position. Therefore, everyone learns it. Organization allows processes to move more smoothly and efficiently and helps keep stress levels lower (which is a great benefit to have around tech week!). Making sure that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, making a schedule and sticking to it and making sure that routines are efficient allows for a much more pleasant experience.
Organization is a useful skill in any profession. Developing good organization skills and habits in theatre allows a person to have a handy set of tools transferable to many other professions if they go down those paths.
Though it can be considered a subcategory of organization, time management is another highly important skill. It also plays a role in creating a more efficient process for everyone. It means people arrive where they need to be on time, maximize the productivity of the time they are given, and help keep the schedule running efficiently. This is another skill set that is applicable to every profession out there.
Communication is one of the most often used skills in theatre. It happens between director and actors, stage manager and directors, among production team members, and so on. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page and understands what is going on is vital.
However, it does not stop there. Communication is also an art. Being able to communicate well is incredibly important. Reading the room, professionalism and keeping a level head are all important skills to know. Being precise and clear, knowing how to ask for clarification and how to be respectful matters. Knowing how to address people, how to reach them and how they like to interact with others is important.
These skills matter in both personal and professional life. Relationships are much healthier when people can communicate well with others. It’s difficult to work in theatre without good communication, so the degree allows people to develop a skill that helps them for life.
Theatre degrees are valuable. They teach skills that work for inside and outside the theatre and digital media realms. They teach skills that allow those with theatre degrees to succeed in many professions. Even if you don’t apply the theatre degree to professions within theatre or digital media, it doesn’t mean that you are wasting it. It means you have a versatile toolbox that has benefited you. Not everyone goes into the profession that is associated with their degree.
If you want to pursue that theatre degree, pursue it. There is so much to learn and so much to experience. All of it is valuable.
Photo: George Fox University