BWW Blog: What's Right For You
Trying to figure out what career is right for you can be one of the hardest parts of college. I didn't figure out exactly what I wanted to be doing until my Junior year. Studying and working in theatre can be one of the most versatile careers/degrees out there. So, how do you know it's right for you?
I took on my theatre major after being involved with my first production at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. My decision came after I had just changed out of being an Education major, and was in a weird grey space of not knowing what I was doing with my life. I was a Sophomore at the time, and knew that I enjoyed theatre as a hobby, but as I got to know people in my department, I realized that the feelings that I had toward theatre were stronger than just a hobby. I wanted to learn everything that I could to grow my craft. Thankfully at my school, that was 100% an option because our program didn't force my to pick one specific area of theatre - the many benefits of a Theatre Arts degree, rather than straight theatre (I'll be doing a future article on the differences in the two soon.). My program has given me the ability to do everything from acting, to directing, stage managing, working lights and sound, helping with costumes - and the list goes on and on. I was able to do all of this because I was able to choose what I want to do within my program.
My story isn't a hard "this is how you figure your life out" but there were many steps that I went through before deciding this was right for me, and hopefully this can help you if you are struggling on what your next steps are:
Does your school offer the program that you want?
Does your school put you on a "track" (acting track, tech track, directing track, etc.), or do you have the ability to pick classes from a variety of different areas in theatre depending on what sparks your interest? Do you want to focus on straight plays or does your school offer opportunities for musical theatre? Does your school offer the ability to student direct/stage manage/work backstage? All of this is important in deciding what it is that you want to do in theatre.
How many opportunities does your program offer?
Something that I gauged my decision on was what I will be able to do with my education while I'm there. Does the program that you are looking at offer internships? Are you eligible for Federal Work Study, and does your Theatre Department offer job opportunities? Be looking into what all you are able to get your hands on. Not only are you putting your education to work, you are gaining useful skills that can be added to your resume.
How big is the program?
Are you going to be 1 of 75, or 1 of 10? Having bigger programs can make you more susceptible to being lost in the crowd, but smaller programs can become overwhelming in regards to work. Having the bigger programs though can be a benefit due to the amount of people you will get to know and work with, but a smaller program can it give you more opportunities to work on different areas.
What do you enjoy? Then don't do it. (hear me out)
As the great Lin-Manuel Miranda once said "Study all the things you don't want to go into theatre.". You probably already know what you enjoy doing in theatre, whether that be acting/directing/backstage/anything, but find what you don't like in theatre or something that you never thought about trying. For me, I did not enjoy drawing/art...I was horrible at it. I have taken almost every art course that my program offers. Why? For two reasons: First, I challenged myself to do something that I normally wouldn't do, and I actually got better at it. Second, I gained a greater appreciation for the people who enjoy doing this, and who do it as their career. Sometimes it's not all fun, but you may surprise yourself and find something that you do enjoy, but never would have decided to try otherwise.
Finally, is this the only degree you will be pursuing?
Theatre in of itself can be a great solo major, especially if you are absolutely certain that you don't want to do anything else. For people who aren't sure if that is the only thing they want to do, Theatre is perfect for double majoring. Even I have a double major at my school. Not only am I studying Theatre Arts, but I am also studying Communications with a concentration in Marketing/Public Relations. I full-heartedly believe that theatre is one of the most versatile programs/degrees out there, and one of the easiest to double major with. Not only are you learning the ins and outs of theatre, but you are learning "real world" skills. For example, stagecraft: you're using tools and building things. If that's what you are interested in, maybe pair your program with Engineering. What about Stage Management? You're learning to be organized and keeping people on top of their game. If that's something you enjoy doing, why not consider pairing it with Business. People from the program that I'm in have gone on to work in Law, Business, Sports Casting, Journalism, Management, and of course performing Theatre. Pairing your degree can open up dozens of career options that you might not have even realized were possible.
Theatre can take on many forms, but deciding on what you want to take on can be the hardest part of it all. The fact that there are many options and opportunities definitely does not make this decision any easier, but hopefully these tips can help realize exactly what you want to be doing.
I'll see you guys in the next one!