Want to be a Theatre Major? Here are 7 Things You Should Know

Want to be a Theatre Major? Here are 7 Things You Should Know

Seniors in high school: Majoring in theatre is the ultimate dream for some- you’re training to do what you love, you’re learning new things to improve your performance, and most importantly you meet people that are just like you. It’s no secret that having a career in theatre is incredibly difficult to pursue. You’ll be hearing “no” all the time, and sometimes you won’t hear from anyone at all. So why are we so adamant to take on this career that cannot guarantee us a future? After an entire year of being a theatre major, here are some things I learned to keep me going.

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How a Dance Class Made Me a Better Performer and a Better Person

Rikki Ziegelman

Going into college as a musical theatre major at a liberal arts college, I wasn’t afraid of taking academic classes or of struggling with grades- I was afraid of dance.

Since I was younger, I always distinguished myself as a singer and an actress, and the last thing I would look at myself as was a dancer. In fact, I would constantly joke about the fact that I was the worst dancer in the world and that I had no sense of rhythm or direction. I was hoping to turn into the dancing queen when I turned 17, but I soon realized that Mamma Mia lied to me (maybe that’s why it’s closing) (I’m totally kidding).

But all of this was probably because I had never taken a proper dance class in my life, and because of my self-doubt, I really didn’t want to. Honestly, I felt unworthy of even being part of the musical theatre program because dance is such a pivotal part of being a performer and I had never indulged myself in the activity. But I had to remind myself that I was at this school for a reason, and that I was paying money for training, which is exactly what I needed. 

The first day of dance finally came and I definitely debated not showing up, but I knew this is something I had to do. I put on my brave face and danced in front of basically strangers, and I ended up having an amazing time. Maybe I wasn’t doing all of the steps right, but I was sure as hell trying and having a great time doing so. From that day on, I fell in love with dance even more every single day.

More than anything, I think I learned that dance isn’t just movement with background music. Dance taught me a lot. First and foremost, it taught me to never judge something if you’ve never done it before. I regret all the times in high school when I would say I “hated” dancing, because in reality, I had no idea of the thrill and the happiness it could bring someone. Dance is an excellent form of physical activity, and most definitely waking up at 8:00am worth it. I would walk into dance class exhausted, but walk out bursting with energy from the insane work out that my body experienced, and that energy would last for majority of the day! Dance exposed me to an amazing support system and some incredible friends. Maybe I just got lucky, but I don’t think I would love dance half as much as I do if I didn’t have such wonderful people surrounding me and helping me each step of the way.

Dance gave me a new sense of self-confidence that I didn’t really know that I lacked. Dance just has a way of making you feel wonderful about yourself. And most importantly, dance taught me that it’s never too late to face your fear and start something new. Whether you’re 19 like I am, 109, or anything in between- you can always learn something new. 

This isn’t advice from one performer to another; this is advice from one person to another.

Even if you’re not a student in school anymore, you’ll always be a student to the world. There are new things for you to go out and explore every single day. Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from something you might actually enjoy. And once you find something new that you like, don’t stop! Keep looking, keep exploring. There’s always something new.

And above all else, keep dancing through life. (Yes, the Wicked pun was intended).

 

Photo: Oksana Dance

The Timeless Themes of Spring Awakening

Rikki Ziegelman

Everyone has one show that has stayed with them for years, and for years to come. Whether it was the first show you saw as a child, the first show you were in, or just a show that has the lyrics to explain how you feel, when you're at a loss for words. Theatre has a certain way of moving individuals by creating characters that can comprehend their surroundings, whenever we have trouble doing so. 

One show that holds a certain significance in my heart is Spring Awakening, for its immense impact on the theatre community as well as on my endeavor as a performer. Each lyric, each movement, and each line holds such symbolism. Albeit the show is set in Germany during the 1800’s, it's themes and motives still hold true in the 2015 technology-run society. The show recently announced its return to Broadway after Deaf West Theatre’s extremely successful run in California.. The show hasn't even been closed for a decade and yet theatre goers seem to be raving about its return. But what is it about Spring Awakening that is so appealing to audiences?

Spring Awakening is about rebellion, which is interesting because the show is so religion and authority based. It's about coming to terms with your motives and how they will further affect your family, your friends, and yourself. There is a constant mention of God and Christ; yet, Act I ends with a sex scene that is questionably considered a rape. So morally, are these kids obtaining to their religious standards by constantly praying? Or, are they “inept” and “degenerate” for experimenting with their innocence? Can prayer excuse your mistakes, or are these actions even considered mistakes at all?

Spring Awakening is about power and dominance. Power among peers, power among elders, and power among significant others. There is a reason why Wendla wants to know so much about her body and her sexuality, there's a reason why Moritz acts up during Latin class, there's a reason why Melchoir is so persistent when Wendla is just about to say yes to having sex. They yearn for power- both consciously and subconsciously. Which is why the finale, “Song of Purple Summer,” is so crucial to the shows ending. The color purple symbolizes royalty, and with royalty comes power. Power over others, power over situations, power to succeed. 

Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Spring Awakening is about innocence. These kids are so desperate to know more about themselves in terms of their sexuality. They know what they read in books, they know what they feel, and they know how they want to feel- but how to perform all of these actions and how to handle the sensation is what they struggle with. Some may argue that Melchoir raped Wendla, which is a valid accusation because of the play version and Wendla’s confusion and questioning. Others may argue that Melchoir was just as innocent as Wendla was- he knew how sex worked and that he wanted to release his “frustration,” but he had no idea what he was doing to the innocent lady lying before him. 

Spring Awakening is about change. Change within yourself, change within others, and change within time. “Purple Summer” is an important symbol for the allusion of time- for it is a flower that blossoms every summer. Time passes, flowers are planted, blossom, and then they fade away. No matter the weather or the time; just like us. We are born, we live, we die. We beat on no matter what because that is life. We have changes within ourselves, such as puberty, sexual awakening, or moving past your former mistakes. We change every single day whether we want to or not. 

So back to reality now- why is this 18th century show so important to us? Why do we adore it so much? Because we identify with the kids struggling with themselves. No matter what age you are or where you are in your life. Maybe you aren't right now, maybe not yesterday, and maybe not tomorrow. However at some point we all will struggle with a fight for power. At some point we will lose our innocence in some way, shape or form. At some point we have or have had a spring awakening, and we will chant our song of purple summer.

I'm a Theatre Major....And Here's Why

Rikki Ziegelman

 If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me what type of job I’d get with a degree in musical theatre, I wouldn’t need a job after college.

After high school, there is always pressure to take the next step. If you don’t go to college, people assume that you have no dreams or aspirations- that you yearn for that cashier position at McDonalds. So finally, you find your passion for the arts and declare your major. Suddenly, people think the cashier job is a better option.

Individuals do not yearn for a degree in theatre for the purpose of getting a piece of paper; they go to college to get training. Isn’t that why everyone goes to college? I mean what’s so different about getting training to be a doctor and getting training to be a performer? As an actor, I want to learn how to become the character, just as a prelaw student has to learn how to become a lawyer. As a singer, I want to learn how to perform high notes, just as a doctor wants to learn how to perform surgeries and tests. We are both learning, and the material doesn’t make us any more or less a student. We all want to be successful, just in our own unique ways.    

Then there are the people who assume that gaining a degree in theatre means all the classes we take are performance classes and that all we know how to do is sing, act and dance. Wrong. Being a performer means you know how to entertain a crowd. Being a performer means that you have no fear of public speaking. Being a performer means you have an extensive knowledge of history. If I’m doing a show about the 1920’s, shouldn’t I know a thing or two about the time period? To be a performer, you must grasp an understanding of every topic- not just how to do a pirouette (which, of course- we can do as well).

 People pay money to go to college to study what they love. Why would anyone invest $40,000 and 4 years of my life to take useless classes and be unhappy? College is the place where you discover yourself and figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. So what am I going to do with my degree in theatre? I’m going to do the same thing that a person with a degree in law would do, or a degree in science or communications. I’m going to look for a stable job before I begin my career. I’m going to take that piece of paper that we deem as a degree and frame it because I survived 4 years of test taking, paper writing, and sleepless nights. I’m going to apply my training to auditions, just as doctors would apply their training to their patients. I’m going to book a job in a show just as a prelaw student would get a job at a law firm. I am a student here on forward- and whatever I study is my choice.