What’s wrong with you?!
This is the question you will be asked the most if you’re planning on pursuing a Theatre Major. Other questions might include: “What, is a business degree too good for you?”, “Are you insane?” or “Do you hate money?”, and of course, the classic, “Do you hate me? Are you doing this because you’re mad at me? Whatever it is, I’m sorry.” This final question is asked by approximately 80% of mothers who have just learned that their child wants to pursue a Theatre Major. We call this the ONMCWBTM Syndrome (aka the “Oh No My Child Wants to Become a Theatre Major Syndrome). After your parents have gotten past the initial shock, you can calmly begin to explain your reasons for being a Theatre Major, which I will presently discuss. (I’m aware that both parents and students read this blog. To all you parents suffering from ONMCWBTM – don’t worry, there’s a 50% chance that your student will change their major within their first two years of college.) Let’s see if I can kill two birds with one stone here, and answer some questions both parents and students will have when it comes to being a Theatre Major.
First of all, it should be mentioned that the world of Theatre doesn’t just include Acting, Directing and Teaching. Theaters around the world have made it a priority to be more than a group of friends getting together to put on their favorite plays and musicals. These are major, thriving businesses, equipped with Facility Managers, Literary Associates, Publicity Coordinators, Marketing Directors, Grant Writers, and even Attorneys. This means that there are jobs, REAL jobs, for a market that has specified needs in order to function and survive. So, you still want to be a Theatre Major? Great! But what do you want to do SPECIFICALLY? Parents, these are the types of questions you might want to ask your student when you’re discussing their decision.
Now, if you’re mind is basically made up on pursuing the more artistic jobs, like being an actor, director, or even a dancer, then there is one thing to consider: money. First, realize that the chances of you making more than $40,000 a year are not only slim, but almost impossible. This includes your extra job on the side (Yes, every actor has one of these). And in case you’re wondering, this is a description of the average working actor in a city like New York or Chicago, where the opportunities for jobs in theatre are the highest. So, if you can find another job waiting tables, selling retail, or even teaching, your chances of survival as an actor go up. Also, keep in mind that the average fine arts school costs over $30,000/ year, and you’re probably going to stack up a few loans to pay for tuition. This means that theoretically you could potentially graduate college with $120,000 in debt, prepared for a profession that might pay up to $40,000 a year.
This brings me back to the different types of jobs that are available in theatre. Some theaters have salary options, which I realize don’t sound very appealing at age 18, but think about this: When you’re able to have a steady income to pay off your debt and living expenses, you don’t have to worry about making monthly payments on time. These jobs are hard to come by; the surest way to make yourself a successful professional in theatre is to be qualified twork in a variety of capacities (i. e. Set Building, Properties Manager, Light Board Operating, etc.). Most conservatories and B.F.A. programs don’t make their students take these types of classes; this means, if you do intend to pursue a degree in theatre, you can set yourself up for success, and separate yourself from future graduates (aka the competition), by taking classes that offer instruction in these different areas. Remember, most theaters are more concerned with getting their sets built than understanding the set’s artistic integrity (they usually have designers for that).
So, what this all boils down to is one question: Do you want to pursue Theatre, or something more specific in theatre? This is an important question when deciding whether you want to be a Theatre Major, so make sure you’re thinking about it when deciding on a career.
Hope this helps! If you have any questions, please feel free to post a comment, and I’ll be more than happy to answer it.