Is Drama a "Real Degree"?

  • Becca Magson

You've heard it all before, I'm sure.

"Don't you just have to... stand there, on a stage... and say some words?"
"You don't even do much work."
"It's not a real degree."

"You're so lucky you don't have to do exams!"
"I'll see you working at McDonald's within a year flipping my burger!!! xD"

'You're all real funny. Why not train as a comedian? Oh, yes, because that degree doesn't exist. Because studying performance isn't a real degree, clearly. I forgot.

I'll never forget the shifts at the bar, where men in their 50's who have been plumbers all their lives, tell me that my choices will lead me nowhere in life, and I'll fail no matter what I do. Thank you, Barry, I'm so glad I never asked for your opinion in the first place.

No, we may not have to sit in a silent hall for an hour and write exams, but drama students will be damned if anyone says they don't work hard. There are so many unseen hours that go into what makes a performance happen - more than just the cast "standing on a stage and saying some words".

Let's break it down. We have (in no particular order of importance because every department is important):

  • COSTUME - These badasses make actual clothes to fit actual people who actually wear them. And then stay behind hours after they should do to wash them, even the underwear. The gross, sweaty tidy-whites that one actor wears and does a lot of stretching in. Yeah, you know the ones.

  • LIGHTING, SOUND, SET AND PROJECTION DESIGNERS - I've grouped these, because they all fall under the same umbrella of 'tech', but boy do these guys show their respected department justice! All of those hours of research, the drawing, the measuring, looking at shade Orange A vs Orange B for 7 hours only to go with Blue H, the hours spent on mapping... These guys are some of the unsung heroes a show has that adds character, colour and zest to a performance.

  • THE DIRECTOR - It's where the magic happens. The main brain. The main source of ideas, creative decisions, the final decisions, and having to deal with actors tantrums from time to time. For that final reason alone, directors hold a lot of my respect.

  • CONSTRUCTION WORKERS Do you want a set? Do you want it built and fit into your venue fast? Better call these boys, because no one can work timber, copper and steel like them. Days are spent hammering, sawing, cutting, gluing and painting the thing that the audience sees first. You can see just how much love builders put into their projects. If you cut the set open, each wood ring is +1 love.

  • THE ACTORS - We can't forget about these guys. They wouldn't let us if we tried. Loud, proud, and all round wonderful, we could have the prettiest lighting state, set, or props, but they would be useless if no-one was using them. Performers are what seal the deal to make such a great show, they bring the charisma, the spirit, the entertainment... And we couldn't love them more.

  • STAGE MANAGERS - Hooboy. I studied in the field of stage management, and let me tell you, these bad boys do not play around. Hours upon hours of paperwork, sourcing, prop making, scheduling, without a stage manager around the show would simply fall apart. I don't know how they do it, but they have the answer to everything. They have the tools to fix everything. They are the most organised people you'll ever meet. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Not yet you won't, you're not scheduled until 11.34 to take a bathroom break. 

Those are some of the many components that make up a show, however I could go on for pages. There are so many departments that make up a show, which we all learn to do from scratch! The hours upon hours spent during tech week (usually up to 14 a day), the countless rehearsals beforehand, the time spent creating, meeting, designing before you even have your cast, yet alone your script, it's too much to not be considered as real. 

Drama kids are some of the most passionate people you will ever meet. They'll love you and your work hard, but they'll love their own work harder. They put their heart and soul into whatever role they want to pursue, and they will make sure you know about it. And as drama kids set off into the 'real world', looking for 'real jobs', they'll still choose Drama, because it's real to them. And that's what matters the most.