BWW Blog: It's Not Impractical, Karen
THE SKILLS YOUR DRAMATIC EDUCATION WILL TEACH YOU BEYOND JUST JAZZ HANDS
Going to college means overpriced wall art, new friends, and finding that one hidden gem in the dining hall that doesn't totally make you sick. But for people majoring in theatre and drama, it also brings the inevitable questioning of your life choices by your Mom's friends and extended family. Pursuing a creative major, while often commended by your peers, can be seen as impractical and untraditional, but there is more to your drama education than *shuffling off to Buffalo.* Before impulsively taking the advice of an adult who thinks you should just major in finance, you can show them this list of life skills that only a dramatic education can teach you.
First off, let's talk about empathy. From the day you enroll, you become a part of a community of other young artists, put there to help each other grow. The more honest you are with your work, the more authentic it will become, and therefore you will learn to empathize and connect with everyone in your class. Playing roles, whether relatable or a complete stretch, force you to enter the shoes of someone totally outside yourself--someone with their own story, problems, and emotions. Being able to understand and empathize with not only the journey of a character in any play you might read or role you're cast in, but of the other students in your class, will teach you how to be a generally empathetic and understanding person as you live your life.
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a skill that is applicable to any area of life, whether that be in regards to political discourse and revolutionary change or facing personal fears and anxieties. In your acting classes, you will likely be asked to confront deeper emotions and insecurities, as well as participating in discussions and activities that push your boundaries. As opposed to running away, you will learn how to sit in and accept discomfort, which is by all means something everyone could stand to learn.
The fact that theatre training helps with public speaking goes without saying--most college training programs offer classes in voice/verse, which teach skills such as voice control, diction, projection, and breath control. Acting teaches you how to be articulate and properly interact with people, so any presentation that you might have to give, whether that be in a job or for a college level course, will come naturally. And making eye contact with your audience? Such a breeze after you've done endless intimacy exercises at 8am.
Which brings me to authentic human connection, and I'm not just talking about the ever-powerful showmance kind. Being thrown so rapidly into playing opposite anyone--friend, enemy, or stranger--gives actors the ability to identify cues in others and gives them the incentive to make those connections. A memory I recall from one of my acting classes was when we had to form something that my teacher famously called a "puppy pile," which consisted of every member of the class just kinda laying on top of one another (this was pre coronavirus, of course). Oddly enough, we soon became more comfortable with one another, and once you are exposed to connections such as these, you will ultimately have an easier time connecting to others in real life.
You might laugh, but traditional theatre games like "zip, zap, zop" and "freeze" promote thinking on your feet and being true to a moment. Thinking on your feet aids productivity, and not to sound like The Absolute Worst, but isn't life just really a prolonged improv game? Always having good answers ready will help in any given class, conversation, or job interview; whether it be an audition or otherwise.
Drama training skills truly are applicable to any walk of life, so whether your theatre training amounts to a Broadway career or not, you've developed a sense of yourself that is simply unmatched by any other form of education. So before your decision to commit the next four years of your life to exhaling on a "HAAA" sound is in question, remember that it truly is worth it. And please, feel free to use this as ammunition in an argument with the PTA board from your high school.