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Decisions Are Hard

The Life and Times of Declaring My Major at Boston University's School of Theatre

Decisions Are Hard

Decisions are hard. Always have been for me, always will be. In my previous blogs, I've referred to my major and my program as a BFA in Acting. I kind-of sort-of maybe lied to you and myself ... More so I omitted the full truth. You see, my program at Boston University's School of Theatre within the College of Fine Arts is structured so that, in your first year in the program, you take a prescribed set of courses in either performance or design and production (with no specific designated 'track' quite yet). Performance students audition in each year and are part of a 30-40 person cohort called the Performance Core (Perf Core) and Design and Production students participate in interviews and are accepted into their own cohort called D&P. I auditioned in under performance and am part of the 37 wonderful individuals who make up Perf Core '25.

Throughout our first year, the Perf Core is split into 2-3 smaller groups who share every single class besides the required first year college writing course each semester that is outside of our major. These performance classes are called our studio classes, which include Acting, Theatre Ensemble, Voice and Speech, Movement, and Alexander Technique. All 37 of us culminate into one big group for Locals and Drama Lit. At the end of our first year together, we get to formally declare our major and hence decide the type of theater performance training we will focus on for the next three years: BFA in Acting or BFA in Theatre Arts (Tharts). For some the decision between the two majors is easy, whereas for others (*cough cough...* me) it most definitely isn't.

And so: the tale of my difficult decision. BU's School of Theatre (SOT) has a beautiful program that emphasizes new and student-led work and provides so much freedom and knowledge and art right at any artist's fingertips. I was obsessed. Prior to coming to BU, I spent endless hours researching everything about BU and Boston, watching frosh vlogs by people who are now seniors and I've had conversations with... I knew how to get to every Trader Joe's and Whole Foods as well as local theatres within a 5 mile radius. It wasn't just the city I fell in love with. I was also enamored with the endless opportunities to act, direct, write, and even produce my own work in a collaborative environment that the SOT program would offer me. As a Tharts major.

I know, I know, I'm a fake. I've been referring to myself as a BFA Acting major this entire year and now I throw this curveball. So why, if what drew me to BU was the Tharts program, did I keep telling people I was a BFA Acting major? Honestly, I am not even sure I know. Maybe saying Acting rather than Tharts was "easier" or maybe it was because I was flip flopping back and forth between the two before I even came to BU and continued to flip flop literally until the final day we had to make a decision. Yes. Undoubtedly. Did I originally come to BU for the Tharts major? Yes. Most definitely. Nonetheless, I agonized over the decision and spent a lot of time making pros and cons lists, discussing the (in retrospect, relatively small) decision endlessly with my mom, peers, upperclassmen and faculty members alike, and constantly switching back and forth between Tharts and Acting. My main worry if I selected the BFA in Acting was that I wouldn't be able to direct and write plays for shows at BU and would miss out on opportunities to do so. College is such an accessible way to figure out what does and doesn't work as a creator in all facets-something I will most likely not have anywhere else in my life. On the other hand, if I selected BFA in Theatre Arts, I worried I wouldn't have the structured conservatory acting program I thought I so desperately needed and I wouldn't be able to further develop my trust in myself as an actor.

The day before spring break, the Perf Core was asked to email our two program heads, Kirsten Greenidge (Tharts) and Christine Hamel (Acting), a "Leaning Paragraph," detailing our decision process and which major we were leaning towards. And my paragraph was two pages long. In summary, I decided I was going to be an Acting major that utilized all the Tharts opportunities in directing, playwriting, etc. Kirsten immediately swooped in and suggested I set up a meeting with my faculty advisor, Elaine Van Hogue (who happens to be the previous head of the Tharts major). Safe to say, that meeting caused a bit of a mini crisis for me, because I really thought the Acting major was my best fit. However, as she pointed out to me, everything I was saying was Tharts at heart, just with the Acting name pasted on top of it. After being reminded of what I really wanted out of my theatre education, Elaine encouraged me to have a meeting with the directing professor, Clay Hopper, as soon as possible in order to foster that relationship, which-smart. So I did.

At that meeting I received the confirmation I instinctively knew: I was a Tharts major who was scared to say Tharts as I feared it may come across as though I lacked focus in my studies (oh so contraire, as I have known what I want out of my education before I even came to BU). BU faculty suggests that one main way to select between the two majors is to do so based off of your learning style. They advise us to ask ourselves, "Do you want a structured learning environment or a smorgasbord?" This isn't helpful for me. I need both at different times. I need autonomy as an artist as well as the ability to follow my curiosities, instincts, natural rhythms of creative growth and exploration, and to foster my innate ability to absorb a vast amount of knowledge and experience in something when it calls to me. Yet at the same time I also need something to reign me in before I fly away to the clouds. I usually find that structure keeps me reigned in, yet it also limits my creative growth at the same time. Clay put it a different way and instantly after he said it, everything sort of clicked into place: "Choose based off of your learning style..." Sounds pretty similar, right...? Then he asked, "Do you want to follow your curiosity or have information conveyed to you?"

I knew my answer immediately: I need to follow my curiosity, as an artist and as a person. Literally everything about me is constantly in flux. There are times where I can't think of doing anything other than acting and there are times where I can't stand doing anything other than directing and there are times where I am constantly stuck in whatever world where I'm fervorously writing, etc etc etc. I've learned that I tend to grow more artistically when I follow my instincts and dive deep into an area when I'm ready to take it in while allowing myself a break from other aspects of my artistic side. During my teen years, I took a few years off of intense acting training and the separation truly made the heart grow fonder. I fell more in love and more enthralled with the craft and art and practice of acting when I wasn't so focused on the learning of acting. And so, I realized that I can still obtain in-depth acting training at BU while also listening to what I need as an artist.

That is what Tharts provides; Tharts allows for those times where my art wants to do something other than acting but also allows me to act whenever I need to. This major affords me the time and energy to pursue all the opportunities that the SOT offers as well as pursue my own ideas to my heart's content. I think I always knew that Tharts was the right major for me-and I think everyone knew but I just needed the time and process to confirm this. And so-boom-a week after turning in my leaning paragraph, I turned in a new paragraph (this one was only a page and a half) confidently stating that I was choosing BFA: Tharts. I will follow the Acting and Directing tracks with a minor in Social and Racial Justice-and will more than likely include playwriting and dramaturgy and writing in general to that list because why not? I will get to create and play with my art the next three years and I will not let anything hold me back.

As a result of the decision process, I've noticed I've been a very docile artist and person the past few years. After so much time being pushed down in the name of patterns and "the way things are" (basically a lot of ageism, elitism, ableism, and outdated patterns the industry can't help but follow out of comfortability for the people in power), I've sadly started to believe it all. I started to fully believe I had no autonomy and control over myself and where I will go with my art, resolving to a waiting game of when I will get to make the art I want to make. And while those ideals may come from some merit, they don't necessarily need to be held true in college. I think I'll allow myself to dream while I'm here. I mean, my motto in life is literally "I know what I want, I know how to get it, so I'm going to do it." So why am I not just doing it? *photo by the one and only Josephine Hannah Goldfarb



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