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Student Blog: A Love Letter to BA Theatre Majors

Student Blog: A Love Letter to BA Theatre Majors

To all the readers out there who are pursuing a BA in Theatre and have ever felt overlooked compared to your BFA performance peers, I see you, I hear you, and I love you!

"Ohhhh, so you're a theatre major! So are you, like, in plays and stuff?"

Yes...? Well, kind of. Sometimes? Not exactly. It's a bit more complex than that.

To all my friends out there who are majoring in theatre but not in performance (i.e., acting or musical theatre), chances are that you've had a conversation like this at some point in your college career. For the hundredth time, you explain the difference between a BA and a BFA, or even remind the listener about the existence of technical theatre, hoping they won't be disappointed when they find out you're not necessarily bound for the stage. Usually, they respond with something like "Ohhhh! That's still so cool though!" Still, as if one needs reassurance that they are just as valuable and interesting as an actor would be. But the sad thing is, a lot of us do need that reassurance.

(Disclaimer before I continue: I am NOT hating on performers or BFA students at all!! You all are lovely talented people who absolutely deserve all the recognition you receive! Keep sharing your gifts with the world, but always remember to appreciate and uplift the talents of those who also make it possible for you to shine.)

It's no secret that when non-arts people hear the word "theatre" their mind immediately goes to performing. This is not a blameworthy offense, as performers are obviously the most heavily featured elements in works of theatre. However, we all know that there are numerous other talented individuals involved in bringing theatre to life, from dramaturgs to designers and everything in between. All this to say, sometimes it can hurt to go unnoticed and undervalued.

Some of you might find that this invisible theatrical hierarchy manifests itself in the culture of your educational environment as well. An unspoken level of favoritism might be exhibited toward the performers in your program, with the triple threats at the top of the ladder. They may receive everything from more attention to more opportunities. Meanwhile, students who are part of non-audition programs might subconsciously get written off as untalented by their performance-major peers. After acting class, words of praise that could easily be expressed as "You did a great job on your monologue today" might instead be delivered through the backhanded compliment, "Wow! I can't believe you're not in the BFA program." As if pursuing a degree with one extra letter in the name is the ultimate standard of theatrical talent and worth. Spoiler alert: it's not!

These experiences are personal to me. As a young high school theatre kid with big dreams of Broadway, it seemed to me that pursuing a BFA in Musical Theatre or Acting was the only path to finding fulfillment and success in the theatre world. I idolized those three letters as some golden stamp of merit that automatically let everyone know you were talented. Seriously, it was pretty bad how obsessed I was- I used to spend hours watching and analyzing people's college prescreens on YouTube, imagining what material I would perform at a college audition. (Not going to lie though, watching old prescreens is a great way to find any kind of audition material). However, due to a combination of various life circumstances, pursuing a broader BA in Theatre was a better option for me. While I was greatly enjoying myself as a freshman theatre major, I quickly began to internalize this idea that I was some kind of second-rate student since I wasn't in a merit-based program. I stopped dreaming big and figured I was somehow lesser than everyone.

It's been well over a year since I started college, and I'm happy to report that my outlook has greatly improved. It's taken some self-reflection, perspective-shifting, and a lot of deep conversations with my fellow theatre BA classmates, but I can truly say that I am proud to be pursuing a BA, and that I firmly believe I am exactly where I need to be in my education. Like many others, I didn't initially recognize the incredible value in choosing this path, but I've come to realize how much better off I will be because of it, both in my life as a theatre practitioner and a person.

February has just come to a close and Valentines season is over, but that doesn't mean the time for focusing on love has to end- especially for focusing on self-love. So, to all the BA theatre majors out there who might be doubting themselves, here's my love letter to you- based on a collection of things I've learned to appreciate about myself.

Dear Theatre BAs,

You are amazing!! And if you are anything like I used to be, there's a good chance you don't realize just how amazing you are, and are also well on your way to becoming.

Your passion for theatre can't be contained within one single field; by pursuing a track that immerses you in all the different elements of theatre, you are developing into the type of person that the professional theatre world needs the most: an empathetic, well-rounded practitioner of the arts. By the end of your time in college, you will have had the opportunity to dabble in it all: performance, production, design, direction, technical operation, stage management- even more intellectual and analytical pursuits such as playwriting, dramaturgy, theatre history, and theatre criticism. Should you go on to pursue any of these individual disciplines professionally, you will still possess a deep understanding, appreciation, and admiration of the other elements of theatre, allowing you to better connect and collaborate with other artists. Your great capacity for empathy and respect for others' crafts will make you a valuable colleague and friend, a joy to work with whether on or offstage. Even if you decide to branch out beyond the arts one day, your universal recognition and regard for each member that makes up a team will allow you to go far.

You have likely been brushed off in the past by people who struggle to understand the value of your degree, but don't let this lower your self esteem! Instead, allow it to nurture a skill that you might not have realized you were already beginning to acquire: self-advocacy. At the same time that you are learning all about theatre, you are also learning how to defend your interests, prove your self worth, develop confidence and self sufficiency, and ultimately how to get your foot in the door. Depending on the program you find yourself in, certain opportunities don't come as easily to you. Nevertheless, you fight to get into the room, whether that is the classroom, the audition room, or otherwise. Whatever your talent may be, you are developing a strong determination to refine it and share it with the world despite the naysayers and other obstacles. This courage to assert yourself will prove useful not only in the competitive environment of the theatre world, but in all areas of life.

I am so proud of you for wholeheartedly pursuing what you love! You inspire me everyday with your bursting creativity, your wide array of talents and skills, and your insightful knowledge and appreciation of all areas of theatrical production and performance. Never be ashamed because of this path you chose, and never think that you are worth any less than your fellow theatre artists simply because your work isn't widely recognized as that of a performer. Continue to find joy in making beautiful art, and never stop fighting to be seen and heard. Keep loving and uplifting the work of those around you, but don't forget to love yourself as well. The future of the theatre world is in good hands because people like you exist.

With love,

A proud BA theatre major

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