What it Means to be a Theater Major
Time and time again, people like myself are given the same reaction when we share our hopes and dreams. It goes a little like this:
Other: So, you’re in college?
Other: Wonderful. What’s your major?
You: Yup. Theatre.
Other: Well… that’s… nice…
Then, it’s one of the following. Think of it as one of those “you decide the end of the story” comics.
- Are you going to pick up another major?
- What are going to minor?
- Oh… is it at a Liberal Arts School at least?
- What are you going to do with that?
Picked one? Excellent. Seems a bit harsh, correct? Unfortunately, we Theatre Majors are quite used to it. After years of raised eyebrows, awkward pauses, and suggestions to take up that Communications minor just incase, we become immune to the negative response we get for choosing a path out of a passion that lives deep inside. Yes, it is true, there are times we are graded on how loud and far we can make our voices fill a space instead of a hefty reading, dancing with a clown nose instead of calculating math problems, or memorizing a monologue instead of writing a research paper. However, we are graded on analyzing plays and applying them to the stage, on memorizing and reciting Shakespearean text word for word, beat for beat, on directing a Thornton Wilder play that might as well be written in a different language equipped with actors, lighting design and overall concept. The list could go on. We are also asked to leave our inhibitions at the door and enter the classroom ready and willing to do anything at the drop of a hat. We are asked to laugh, cry, jump, scream, and clown in front of our fellow classmates. We are asked to be silly and then serious in a matter of seconds, or sometimes both at the same time. We are asked to create something out of nothing as a team.
Before I go any further, I have to be clear that we are not the only students who are capable of these attributes. This is about a community who is exhausted of being underestimated. What it means to be a theatre major…
We are communicators
As millennials, we are often confronted with the flaw that we do not know how to communicate. To some extent, I believe this is very true. Our heads are constantly buried in our phones, hearts skip a beat when your phone rings in fear of actually speaking to another human, and eye contact is a rare commodity. As a Theatre Major, we are trained from day one, how, when and why to look someone in the eye. Yes, it’s very scary at first, but once you get past the initial shock, it’s actually not so bad. In fact, it’s extremely beneficial when it comes to interviews, meetings and overall interaction with your peers and coworkers. Our job as actors, directors, playwrights and designers is to tell a story. In order to do so, it is necessary that we find ways to communicate. Whether it be through our voices, bodies, ideas, words, sounds, or colors, we are taught how to articulate something that may be difficult through various tactics.
We are improvisors
Expect the unexpected in any shape or form. Nothing can always go according to plan, and when that happens, we are forced to think on our feet. Now, imagine you are going onstage to a full house of 200 patrons. Your costume is a little lose in the back, you can’t find your prop and your scene partner skipped about three pages in the script. You cannot drop everything and run away. Okay, technically you could, but you would have a very upset director, producer and design team. Specifically speaking, as an actor your options are reliant on your ability to live in the moment and succumb to what comes naturally. Although that sounds easy, and probably pretentious, it’s really not. It takes years of practice. With that being said, theatre majors have the ability to think on the spot when something unexpected happens in the work place, in life, or at your best friend’s wedding.
We are listeners
People in general love to listen to themselves talk; they love to hear their opinions, one-up each other’s stories, or earnestly want to be apart of something. There is nothing wrong with talking, I love talking when I’m in the right mood. However, to be successful is to be a good listener. By being a good listener, we have the chance to understand one another on a deeper level. Through this, empathy is born. Our work as Theatre Majors relies heavily on listening and empathy. Otherwise, there would be no story worth telling. The ability to listen and empathize in the real world is guaranteed to get anyone far. People desperately want to be heard and have an innate desire for acceptance. If this can be reciprocated, it creates a respectful and supportive atmosphere in any capacity. It is no doubt a dog eat dog world out there, but with a little empathy, I think we have a chance.
We are team players
The artistic process is extremely personal, but it is through our own processes that we are able to work together. Whether it be in the rehearsal space between actors and directors or in a production meeting between designers and directors, team work is the only element that will bring anything to life. Theatre majors are accustomed to sharing ideas, trying new (uninhibited) things, and creating art by working together. Any job requires a specific kind of community that is usually built on team work. Theatre majors are team players and have the tools to bring people together.
We are accustomed to rejection, therefore we are patient
No is our favorite word. Just kidding, we’ve just heard it a lot and have been braced from the beginning to hear a lot of N’s and O’s. At the end of the day, it’s always a tough bullet to bite. Theatre Majors are sensitive creatures, no doubt about it, but we build a thick skin in a short four years. We learn that sometimes the best actor in the world won’t get the part because, surprise: he wasn’t right for the role. This applies to everyday life and applying for jobs in the real world. That’s not to say to stop chasing your dream job if you hear “no” the first time. If anything, that should give you the drive to get up and try again. Improve your resume, get experience, do your research, and go in with confidence. In all likelihood (especially in our 20’s) all of our dreams are going to take a while to come true. To reach these dreams, we all need patience. Patience and determination can only bring good things.
Four years ago at the start of my college career, the daunting Theatre Major question truly got under my skin. As someone who is graduating in a short four months as a Theatre Major, I’m not scared anymore. Stressed, anxious and in dire need for a fortune teller? Absolutely. It is very true that a job in the Theatre is not as easy to come by as, say, a job in Finance. However, I strongly believe that regardless if a Theatre Major gets a job in the theatre or not, we are trained to be functional adults in the real world.
(Cover photo: Seniors Nick Castellano and Sydney Grant in The Saint Plays; all photography by Freshman Aria Lynn Sergany.)