Amanda Charney, TMU contributor and sophomore at USC
Greetings and salutations! Here is part two of my "What do you do with a BA in Theater?" article, and I hope it will ease your mind about your chances of finding employment out there in the big, bad world.
I have often fallen into a rut of fear that I am limiting myself too much to ever pursue a career outside of the theater world. Yet if you take a second look at the training a theater student gets, the opportunities can look endless for you to succeed in other fields! From years of working on shows and honing your acting skills, you have collected a wide and incredibly useful variety of abilities that can be applied to almost every career!
So, here is a (relatively) brief list of the attributes and skills a theater student has that sets him or her apart from others. Feel free to refer to this as you put together job or internship applications! I've done most of the work for you; all you have to do now is apply it to your personal experiences.
Function under stress:
"Be off book by Friday!" "Rehearsal until midnight tomorrow, guys! See you at 10am!" "We should have been at this point in the process last week. Come on, pick up the pace!"
Sound familiar? Being involved in theatrical productions brings out the best (and worst) in people. The ability to cope with huge amounts of stress for months at a time is a skill that theater students have honed to a T.
If there's one thing you learn when you have four hours of rehearsal a day, six days a week, it's how to manage your time so that you don't collapse under exhaustion and stress. Theater majors are extremely adept at this, even if they don't think they are.
Managing time wisely and effectively is an underrated skill that cuts down on stress, mistakes, and even illness. In any career, from acting to marketing to psychiatry, this is a key skill that can set theater students apart from others seeking the same job.
Theater students are used to having to go above and beyond what is normally demanded of them and have the ability to adapt well to sudden changes of pace. I mean, you have to be when you transition into tech week and you have those long, arduous nights of standing around being as patient as possible. Being willing and able to work around schedules and re-plan events is a treasured trait in an employee!
People skills are a necessity for any job in any field. The ability to collaborate with a diverse group of people is highly valuable and no one is better at it than actors. In a production, the show can only truly shine when the cast and crew work together cohesively and smoothly, thereby giving actors the experience of successfully working with a large group to accomplish a common goal.
Not sure where exactly you can go with a Theater BA? What about teaching? Just like in performing, a teacher needs to be comfortable in front of a group, be well prepared and knowledgeable with their subject, and be willing to put in effort outside of the bare minimum required of them.
How about public relations or marketing? Directors of Public Relations essentially manage communication between an organization and their target public. Who better to connect to "the people" than someone who has been expressly trained in being relatable? Also, the people skills mentioned as part of working cooperatively come into play here. Being able to negotiate and work out a solution that improves the situation for everyone is a part of every production and is valuable for any organization.
Even lawyers would benefit from acting training! It's said that a courtroom is the world's most utilized stage. The ability to guide a diverse group of people into sharing your point of view is vital to both the actor and lawyer.
I present these ideas not as an alternative to acting, based on the presumption that you will fail, but as a glimpse at the endless opportunities that are out there for people with a theater degree who either fear they will one day change their minds or need to supplement their actor's income with a second job. As an actor, you are a valuable, unique person in so many situations; never get overwhelmed! Embrace the skills and abilities you inherently have, work hard, and - with a little luck to help you through - success will be yours.