10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success

Studying lines for a production “The Servant of Two Masters”

I have a confession to make. I was a theatre major in college (yes, complete with the snooty but appropriate “re” spelling). I’ll wait for you to stop snickering. Judson University (it was Judson College when I attended), the small liberal arts college outside of Chicago labeled the major course of studies as “Communication Arts” which is what I tend to put on resumes and bios because I realize that “theatre major” tends to elicit thoughts such as “Do you want fries with that?”

When I chose my major, I had no pipe dreams about becoming a professional actor. I did it because more than one wise adult had advised me that my actual major in college would have less impact on my eventual job search than having the actual degree. “Study what you love” I was told, “not what you think will get you a job.” I listened for once and chose theatre because I’d done it all through my secondary education, I had relative success doing it, and because I simply loved being a part of it. Fortunately, my parents gave me absolutely no grief about my choice (unlike most of my fellow majors. Thanks mom & dad!)

"Arms and the Man"

“Arms and the Man”

Fast forward 25 years and, like many people, I am no where near the waypoint on life’s road I envisioned I’d be back in college. Almost 20 years as a business consultant and now a business owner with a modestly successful track record in my business and blogging, I realize how much being a theatre major set me on the road towards success.

Here are 10 ways being a theatre major helped me succeed:

  1. Improvisation. The great thing about the stage is that when it’s live and you’re up in front of that audience anything can, and does, happen. Dropped lines, missed entrances, or malfunctioning props require you to improvise while maintaining your cool. Theatre taught me how to focus, think quickly and make do while giving the impression that you’ve got it all under control. It’s served me well when clients, airlines, coworkers, or technology wreak unexpected havoc at the worst possible moment.
  2. Project Management. A stage production is basically a business project. You have teams of people making up one team working to successfully accomplish a task on time, on budget in such a way that you earn the applause and an occasional standing ovation. Being taught to stand at the helm of a theatrical production was a project management practicum.
  3. Working with a Limited Budget. Everybody who has worked on stage knows that it’s not the road to fortune. Most plays (especially small college shows) are produced on a shoestring budget. This forces you to be imaginative, do more with less and find creative ways to get the results you want without spending money. Ask any corporate manager and they’ll tell you that this pretty much describes their job. Mine too.
  4. Dealing with Very Different Human Beings. The theatrical community is a mash-up of interesting characters. It always has been. From fringe to freakish to frappucino sipping socialites and everything in between, you’re going to encounter the most amazing and stimulating cross-section of humanity when you work in theatre. In my business career I have the unique and challenging task of walking in the CEO’s office in the morning to present our findings in an executive summary presentation and to receive a high level grilling. I will then spend the afternoon presenting the same data to overworked, underpaid, cynical front-line employees and get a very different grilling. Theatre taught me how to appreciate, understand and effectively communicate with a widely diverse group of human beings.
  5. Understanding the Human Condition. Most people have the mistaken impression that acting is all about pretending and being “fake” in front of others. What I learned as a theatre major was that good actors learn the human condition intimately through observation and painfully detailed introspection. The better you understand that human being you are portraying from the inside out, the better and more authentic your performance is going to be. In my business I am constantly using the same general methods to understand my clients, their customers as well as myself and my co-workers. I believe that having a better understanding of myself and others has ultimately made me a better (though far from perfect) employee, consultant, employer, and ultimately friend. I didn’t learn methods of observing and understanding others in Macro Econ, I learned it in Acting I & Acting II.
  6. Doing Whatever Needs to Be Done. When you’re a theatre major at a small liberal arts college there is little room for specializing within your field. You have to learn to do it all. Light design, sound engineering, acting, directing, producing, marketing, PR, set design, set construction, ticket sales, budgeting, customer service, ushering, make-up, and costuming are all things I had to do as part of my college career. Within our merry band of theatre majors we all had to learn every piece of a production because at some point we would be required to do what needed to be done. I learned that I can capably do just about anything that I need to do. I may not love it and I may not be gifted or excellent at it, but give me a task and I’ll figure it out. I now work for a small consulting firm that requires me to do a wide range of tasks. The experience, can-do attitude and indomitable spirit I learned in the theatre have been essential to success.
  7. Hard work. I remember creating a tree for one of our college shows. We had no idea how we were going to do it, but we made an amazing life-like tree that emerged from the stage and looked as if it disappeared into the ceiling above the theatre. My team mates and I cut out each and every leaf and individually hot-glued them to the branches of the tree. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them glued on while standing precariously on a rickety ladder high enough above the stage that it would make an OSHA inspector soil his boxers. Sleepless nights, burnt fingers and a few brushes with tragedy were needed to get that tree done. But, we got it done. It was fabulous. And a few days later we tore it down, threw it out, and got ready for the next production. C’est la vie. In business I have periods of time with unbelievable workloads in which there are sleepless nights, seemingly endless days and tireless work on projects that will be presented and then will be over. The report will be archived and I’m onto the next project. C’est la vie. I learned all about that as a theatre major.
  8. Making Difficult Choices. You’ve got four parts and twenty four schoolmates who auditioned. Some of them are your best friends and fellow theatre majors. Do you choose the unexperienced jock because he’s best for the part or the friend and fellow theatre major who you fear will never talk to you again if you don’t cast him? My senior project was supposed to be performed outside in the amphitheater but the weather was cold, windy and miserable. Do I choose to stick with the plan because it’s what my actors are comfortable with and it’s what we’ve rehearsed and it will only stress out the cast and crew to change the venue at the last minute? Or, do I choose to think about the audience who will be more comfortable and might actually pay attention and appreciate the performance if they are inside away from the cold, the wind and possible rain? [I changed the venue]. Any business person will tell you that difficult decisions must sometimes be made. The higher the position the harder the decisions and the more people those decisions affect. Being a theatre major gave me a taste of what I would have to digest in my business career.
  9. Presentation Skills. Okay, it’s a no brainer but any corporate employee can tell you horror stories of having to endure long training sessions or corporate presentations by boring, unprepared, incompetent or just plain awful presenters. From what I’ve experienced, individuals who can stand up confidently in front of a group of people and capably, effectively communicate their message while even being motivating and a little entertaining are among the rarest individuals in the business world. Being a theatre major helped me be one of them.
  10. Doing the Best You Can With What You’ve Got. Over the years I’ve told countless front line service reps that this is rule #1 of customer service. You do the best you can with what you’ve got to work with. I remember an Acting I class in college in which a pair of students got up to present a scene they’d prepared. They presented the scene on a bare stage with no lighting, make-up, costumes, props or set pieces. It was just two students acting out the script. It was one of those magic moments that happen with live theatre. The rest of the class were transfixed and pulled into the moment, reacting with surprising emotion to what they witnessed. You don’t need Broadway theatrics to create a magical theatrical moment on stage. You don’t even need a stage. The same is true of customer service. You don’t always need the latest technology, the best system, or the greatest whiz bang doo-dads. A capable CSR doing the best they can and serving a customer with courtesy, empathy, friendliness and a commitment to resolve can and does win customer satisfaction and loyalty.

I’m proud to be an alumnus of Judson University. I’m really saddened that the school’s theatre program waned for a while and am encouraged that it shows signs of life once more. What I have learned I’ve tried to pass on to my own children. Study what you love. Follow your passion. It will serve you well wherever life’s road takes you.

2012 05 OWN Pic LR

Tom Vander Well graduated from Judson University with a degree in Speech/Theatre in 1988. He is currently partner and Vice-President of c wenger group, a consulting firm specializing in customer satisfaction research and call quality assessment (e.g. “your call may be monitored to ensure quality service”) where Tom has worked for 20 years. Tom has been “waiting for Guffman” for the past ten years while serving as President of Union Street Players, the award winning community theatre in Pella, Iowa. There he has been producer, director, actor and writer. He has also performed for Central College, the Pella Opera House, and the Pella Shakespeare Company. His play Ham Buns and Potato Salad was presented at the Missouri Playwrights Workshop at the University of Missouri and is scheduled for an April 2014 premiere in Pella.

Related Blog Posts by Tom Vander Well:
Preparing for a Role: Digging into the Past
Preparing for a Role: Digging into the Script
Preparing for a Role: The First Rehearsal
Preparing for a Role: Digging into the Character
Preparing for a Role: The Rehearsal Process
Preparing for a Role: How Do You Memorize All Those Lines?
Preparing for a Role: Bits and Moments in the Grind
Doing the Harlem Shake with Theatre Central
Preparing for a Role: Production Week
Preparing for a Role: Keeping Focus When Siri Joins You on Stage
Preparing for a Role: Ready for Performance
Theatre is Ultimate Fitness for Your Brain!

About Tom Vander Well

Wayfarer, husband, father, consultant, thespian, writer, thinker, and back porch musician. Pressing on through the journey one step at a time.
This entry was posted in Theatre Journal, Wayfarer's Journal and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

533 Responses to 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success

  1. Scott says:

    Nice job bud – lots of truth there. 25 years. Wow. Marcia and I celebrate 30 this month. Thanks for being there when it began!

  2. Jennifer Lee says:

    Great post! I was a theatre major for about a year in college, but continued taking the classes even when I switched. I think the Method technique did make me a more sympathetic person overall. While I used to snicker at sappy movies, I now more often than not tend to cry right along with (whomever the actor may be). (The same is true with real life situations, by the way.)

    Your other points are quite accurate as well. Thanks for the great read, and the stroll down memory lane.

    (And yes, I too always go the “re” route, as all “Master Thespian”s should…)

  3. Shawn Flynn says:

    Tom, I have a son about to do the same. Great blog. Hope all is well!

  4. Warren Anderson says:

    BBH forwarded this to me a while ago, but I just got around to reading it. Very nicely articulated, Tom. The only thing missing was a tangent re: “The Shower Hour” on WJUD. Surely you could have worked that in somewhere. :-)

    Blessings to you.

  5. Justin Wade says:

    Reblogged this on I'm Not Robert Frost.

  6. Wonderfully stated!! I’m a professional speaker/trainer with a PhD in Theatre. I was taking with an audience last week about developing Emotional Intelligence and an audience member (who knew nothing about my background) said, *You know, I think really good actors are the only people who have been trained to know what real empathy is.* We can add that to the list too!

    • Wow, Pat. What an amazing and true observation. I’ve often told people that I felt that my theatre training was a better psychology course than anything the psychology department ever offered (all due respect to the psychology profs). Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation! Cheers!

    • Kittymama says:

      Pat, I agree. Acting classes and practice taught me heaps about how real people respond and behave. Since everything has to be perceived and then go through the internal steps to become action (and the audience has to be able to see hints of it happening), it’s cognitive behavioral therapy in a nutshell.

    • Vérité says:

      Wow, what a great post! Thanks Tom.

      Over the past few decades I’ve dabbled extensively in drama–and even received some critical acclaim–so it’s no stretch to say I’m into it. I also got a bachelor’s in psychology (while enrolled at the arts college within my university)–and the post-academic course of my life has NOT been principally about classical psychology. What’s more, all the conceptual material in the world is meaningless without some practical ability.

      I went into psychology hoping to help others (and myself of course), and ended up very confused by all the inconsistent theories, radical politics and overall dysfunction I encountered. People are not rats. Reaching and helping people is far more art than science. Those most able to help are those most able to genuinely love–regardless of their job titles. I’ve been helped by hair stylists, teachers, ranchers and cops. Moreover, I’ve been harmed by foolish clinicians.

      Of all the skills I find valuable in life, genuine empathy may be #1. To me, it embodies “real love.” The ability to listen with the mind and heart—and to understand other people’s perspectives—is priceless. It enhances quality of life in every way. By far the best place to learn this is theater. The hardest role I ever played, Uncle Chris in “I Remember Mama”, was the only one which ever earned me a performance nomination–and it was a big one. I spent hours trying to understand who Uncle Chris was, learning about his culture, pondering the life he might have had, reflecting on the changes he’d seen, studying accents, getting into his period, and basically becoming him. It was hard and fun, but more than that, it was fulfilling. I learned a lot of empathy there.

      Daniel Goleman’s work is important–and emotional intelligence is a valuable area of study. But people have intuitively known much of it for thousands of years: we need stories. Stories help us know ourselves better. They connect us to each other. They give us historical context. They add value to everything we do from science and mathematics to art and sport.

      More than that, we need truth. Anything we call “great,” is great because it embodies a great truth. Lately I’ve become interested in the work of Paul Ekman. He was the scientific adviser to the show “Lie To Me.” His research into detecting deceit and into the broader topic of understanding facial expressions is amazing*. Every actor needs this. The more we understand other people, the better we understand ourselves. The better we understand ourselves, the greater our capability to present our stories. And the deeper and more profound our stories become, the more everyone benefits from them. Perhaps there is some small bit of truth here.
      (*Unfortunately, some of Ekman’s underlying assumptions are pretty sketchy which weakens his story–despite its truths).

      Far and away the greatest story I know was written over a period of fifteen hundred years, by forty different authors. It is the story of God’s relationship with man through the Jews and the fulfillment of His plan in the Messiah. Though it’s politically incorrect (and nearly taboo) to say so, the greatest accomplishments in the past 2000 years of Western civilization hang on the greatness of the Bible, the person of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I doubt such greatness can exist apart from great truth. As much as I love acting, learning, stories, and people–and all the truth and greatness that are out there–for me, nothing is truer or greater than the God of Job, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul and John. He became one of us and His name is Jesus!

      • Thanks for sharing your own experiences. I’ve long believed that all great stories are merely reflections of the Great Story. Well said.

      • Rachel says:

        Thank you, Tom for your article (I did Communication Arts too)! And thank you, Verite for your beautiful comment! It’s wonderful to read online about love of theatre and especially, love of Jesus!

      • You’re certainly welcome, Rachel! Cheers!

      • Great article! Reading it reminded me of a Brigadier General I knew when I was a Captain on active duty in the Air Force. I attended a formal dinner called “From Bars to Stars”. To attend, junior officers (those with “bars” on their shoulders — Lieutenants and Captains) invited senior General officers (those with “stars” on their shoulders). When the senior officer, a 4-star General got up to give the after-dinner speech, he threw a curve ball at the other lower-ranking Generals. He said instead of him giving a speech, he “assigned” a half dozen of the other Generals to give an impromptu 5-minute speech on leadership. He gave them about 2 minutes to jot a few notes. A panel of junior officers voted Olympics-style by holding up numbers cards to determine the best speech. My Brigadier General, an accomplished military pilot, was one of the 6 selected and he delivered the best speeches of any length I’d heard before or since by a senior officer (who usually have a speech writer!) He spoke with poise, eloquence, and a bit of drama, including several quotes from famous leaders. He won the contest and, then when he accepted the “trophy” he said being a theater major in college had finally paid off!

      • Great anecdote! Doesn’t surprise me at to know that a theatre major ended up in that kind of leadership position, either. From what I understand, dealing with the bureaucracy of the military requires a ton of improvisation on a daily basis :-)

      • Alice Roberts says:

        Really enjoyed reading your comment. So few people in their lifetime acknowledge the God who has made all our stories possible! I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. I loved theatre in my years in college and have acted out my life in what I feel God had for me……teaching the love of Christ to my family!

      • Thanks for adding your own experience to the mix Alice! “All the world’s a stage,” as the Bard said, and you are playing out the most important and influential role of all for your family. All the best to you!

  7. Jo Hall says:

    Thank you, Tom. A beautifully articulated argument in favor of the arts, and Theatre in particular.

    • Thanks, Jo. Too bad the arts are so generally viewed by administrations, parents, and Trustee Boards as unnecessary. If I wanted a Technical Education I would have gone to Technical School rather than a Liberal “Arts” college! Anyway, thanks for your kind words and for giving me the opportunity to rant a bit this morning.

  8. David Loftus says:

    Beautifully put. I flirted with theater as a teenager and college student, but was afraid to commit to it in any formal way. I majored in English lit instead, which was just as useful, over the long run. Strangely enough, I became more attracted to the stage over time, in my 30s and 40s, and now, in my early 50s, after many years of working in offices in the public and private sectors, I’ve become a free-lance actor on stage, and in video and film as well as a writer. I don’t know what that says about what you wrote above, except that there’s a lot more time to work your way around to doing what you love, and a lot more ways to do it, than one might think.

    • Thanks, David. Great addition to the conversation. I totally agree with you. After I graduated with my theatre degree I did not step foot on stage for 15 years. About seven years ago I found myself auditioning for a community theatre production and fell right back into it. Since then I have enjoyed acting, directing, writing and producing. I even got a little video and film work. The opportunities are out there, you just have to step out and take the risk!

      • Kelly says:

        After finding myself 5 years on from graduating with my Drama degree, recently made redundant and not involved in anything theatre related (except for gigging now and then with a band), your blog post has reminded me of the passion and optimism performing always filled me with and re-affirmed that I was right to choose to study and invest 3 years into a something that I love rather than something that would be deemed ‘sensible’ to the point where I cannot believe I have been questioning that choice lately. I’m also realising there is still time to do what I love, and although I may never make the career out of it I have always wanted, there is still plenty of time to get back into it and it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. The pressures of money and the pressures I’m putting on myself not being ‘where I think I should be’ by now have been confining me when instead I should be finding other things that instill that same sense of passion, rather than desperately trying to find a job that will ‘just do’.
        I’ve now bookmarked your post so I can continue to remind myself every time I start to panic…! If you see this post, thank you :)

      • You’re welcome, Kelly! I’m glad the post inspired you. Follow your passion. It’s amazing just how different life can be when we are content in doing what we love or a called to do. I think most all of us find ourselves in stretches of life’s journey when we do what we have to do in order to get to the next waypoint, but if we seek to follow the passion the Creator has instilled in our hearts then we will find ourselves in more life-giving places. All the best to you in your journey. I would love to hear back from you from time to time. Let me know how it’s going!

  9. carrieissovery says:

    It’s so good to see encouragement in this area of study. I also attended a small private university and, out of necessity, dabbled in all the performance and production aspects. I work in theatre now, but these skills are great in my daily life as well. Give me an hour, a Dollar Tree, and a Goodwill and i can throw you the best darn theme party ever! :-)

  10. wordcoaster says:

    Not a Theatre major, but certainly heavily involved so I can appreciate the benefits. Most people think it’s just a bunch of freaks getting together to chase dreams of that next big applause. (And perhaps there’s more than a bit of truth in that.) But I have seen a lot of value in what others consider frivolity. Nicely written :)

  11. Randel McGee says:

    Excellent article! Wonderful insights! Thank you! from a professional performing artist – Randel McGee

  12. Melanie Klein says:

    Same here, although I did eventually switch to astrophysics, also for love. Combining these two great skill sets, I had a ball in spacecraft business development for 25 years. Thanks for your article. Melanie Klein

  13. Thomas Richards says:

    All falls back to the cheesy, but very true, quote, “Theater is life” or “All the World’s a Stage”. Great blog!

  14. Mark says:

    Hi Tom. I was a theatre major as well and I am smiling as I read your post. I could not have said any of it better myself. 18 years after graduation I have a very fulfilling and successful career in software sales and I use my TA degree every single day. Thank you for atriculating this so well.

  15. Melissa says:

    Great insight! I completely agree.
    I am a:
    – Radford University, Theatre Major 2008
    – Facilities Coordinator at a private boarding school
    – Actor in my free time
    Absolutely nothing wrong with that! :-) Thank you for sharing!

  16. What a lovely article! Thank you so much for stating these truths well. I have taught theatre majors in small liberal arts settings for almost 30 years, and every day I remind them that the skills they are learning has more to do with LIFE than with Broadway (though I don’t mind if they want to go to Broadway). ;-) The world is an insecure and wacky place; learning how to communicate, solve problems, collaborate with others and create empathy provides wonderful tools to navigate that world. Thank you for your generous thoughts about our craft!

    • Thank you, Gay, for teaching young people the craft along with these important skills. Kudos to you. My theatre profs influenced my life more than they’ll ever know and I’m sure your former students would say the same. Press on!

  17. Jodie says:

    I’m so in love with this post. Incredibly accurate. I graduated with my undergrad degree in Acting and am now working in finance administration for a university in Ohio. Hopefully soon I will be albe to pursue my goal of starting my own business, and I’ve toyed with the idea of specifically hiring Theatre majors as I know we can think outside the box. :)

  18. Jodie says:

    **able, rather than “albe.” Never said I wasn’t dyslexic… ;)

  19. Hey, Tom — great post! I came late to acting but also found tons of useful lessons for business and for life — how to connect with your audience, using the “moment before,” agreement and yes/and, telling stories, connecting on an emotional level, show/don’t tell and, of course, the importance of rehearsal. I believe every communication or interaction that’s important to you should be treated like a performance, whether it’s a presentation or email or networking event or job interview. Anyway, I wrote a book on the subject in case you’re interested:

    http://www.ActLikeYouMeanBusiness.com

    Robb

  20. Hi, Tom — Congrats on all your success. I was a Drama (and Psych) major in college and have stayed the track for 30 years. I also studied acting with the famed Stella Adler. I’ve performed as an actor in major films and small ones, TV and stage. I direct, write and produce, as well, and my sons have become professional actors and are saving nicely for college with their earnings (Tendal Mann and Royce Mann). I’ll be thrilled if they choose to major in Drama or a related field, but will support them in anything they want to do. I’m most proud that partly due to their acting experiences, they’ve developed empathy for others at a level rare for their age, leading to significant and consistent donations and work with charities. I had the experience of being hired as an “undercover actor” in the Dateline NBC story years ago titled “Slim Chance” and was offered every job I applied and interviewed for during the investigation, even ones for which I had limited skills or experience, based on the life and business skills you mention which I learned from acting training. I also teach Theater and Acting and this spring, I’ll be teaching an Acting class for Business Seniors at a respected, private southern college for the second year (a business school which is consistently ranked amongst the of top 5-20 in the nation). I say good for them for understanding the value of all this and hiring a professional theater artist to teach it! I plan to share this essay with my students. What you state are the same goals I’ve had in teaching the course and I have a feeling that it will mean even more coming from you with such eloquence. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts!
    Sheri Mann Stewart, SAG/AFTRA/AEA

    • Sheri, I’m honored that you took the time to share your comment with me. I hope that my post will resonate with your students and encourage them to pursue their study.

      I also have two children (daughters) who were involved on stage and in commercials as they grew up. I can attest that it was great experience for both of them (and a little bit of money towards the college account didn’t hurt!). More than that, I value the opportunities we had to be on stage together and work side-by-side in productions. I think it was great for parent and child to work together in a different environment, to create together and to share in a memory that will last our entire lifetimes.

      All the best to you in your teaching and, more importantly, your life!

  21. Heather says:

    I run a small actor-manager troupe in Fresno. There are eight of us and each ensemble member has to serve in some administrative capacity– like marketing or graphic design or stage management or box office — as well as act in the productions throughout the year. People often say to me, “You let ACTORS manage the company?”. I say, “Of course. . . that’s how Shakespeare did it.”.

  22. Lhay Thriffiley says:

    I was too! One of the most incredible things I learned from my days in acting was to never say NO, especially out of fear! “Yes, and…” has been a big theme in my life. Great piece!

  23. Karen DeSemple says:

    Great post!! My oldest is just finishing up an Associate’s degree and plans to major in Theatre. While he would love to be a full time actor, this gives me soaring hope that, whether he does or not, he will still be a screaming success!!

  24. Your words that you wrote were a parade for me. 40 years has gone by when I too was a theater major in acting(BFA and MFA in acting) and I have made a living at using all my theatrical magical moments. I have had my own business now for 30 years and Hartfelt Communication is dedicated to teaching everyone the Human Connection using theatrical techniques. I wish I could give you a big hug for you have made me again feel so proud at the choices I made. They were choices that at times that created huge loss but today I am filled with joy and gratitude.. Thank you Drake University and Temple University and the National Theatre Institute for creating great seeds of learning.

  25. Stephanie says:

    I love this! I was a theatre major and am now going into ministry–and people ask me all the time why I would go into theatre and if I regret it. Not at all–the things I learned in theatre I wouldn’t have learned in most other fields! Thanks for sharing this :)

  26. I have to agree profusely with your post. Theater is where I learned to work—never worked harder in my life—managing, strategizing, budgeting, and about everything else under the sun. Long live the theater majors (and I have to add costumiers ’cause that was my speciality).

    • You go, Jen! The great thing about the hard work of theatre is that you’ve never had so much fun working so hard because you’re doing it with such an amazingly creative and diverse group of people. You costume mavens always impress me!

  27. Chester Lee says:

    Great article, I was a theatre major as well, but now run my own successful web development firm. However I think you missed a big “way”.

    We don’t miss deadlines.

    Think about it, we announce our season a year in advance (usually) — at that time, there is no set, cast, director, costumes, etc. But we give an opening date and start selling tickets.

    No matter what happens, no matter what conflicts arise, or obstacles are thrown in your way, the curtain goes up on that night — and the performance goes on.

    I have never missed a deadline, and I am sure neither have you — and I believe a lot of that has to do with the mentality of being in the theatre.

    • EXCELLENT addition to the list, Chester! Well said! You are spot on. How many times did we hear that the show would go on and the curtain would go up on opening night whether we were ready or not? You work to be ready for that moment and you’d better be prepared. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  28. Kent Fritzel says:

    WOW! So much of what you have written is profoundly true on multiple levels. I have always known the ways that my Theatre training made me uniquely qualified for whatever I decided to take on, but was never able to articluate them as beautifully as you have. So well done. I’ll carry the torch!

  29. blogattack says:

    I’m in the midst of my own degree in theatre, and I realized at one point that I have a lot of random life skills, particularly in the “fixing things” area (I’m a techie). I think theatre is one of the most underrated fields out there for having real, honest life experiences. Thank you so much for this post.

    • Sweet! I have to admit that the tech areas are NOT my speciality – though I learned to do what I had to do. The light, sound and set folks always impress me so much because they work so frickin’ hard and do such amazing things without ever getting the spotlight. Expertise, pride, and performance mixed with a HUGE dose of humility. I raise a tall, icy cold pint to you and all the techies you represent! Huzzah!

  30. Christina Gould says:

    Thank you for your articulate post! When the late Polish director Jerzy Grotowski was choosing his career, he wanted to pursue a profession that would help him discover the true nature of the human soul. He considered Medicine, Psychology, and Theatre. He choose Theatre. Amazing! Your points illustrate how the study theatre continues to enrich us!

  31. Doug says:

    Just change the name of the school to Concordia Teachers College – River Forest IL (now Concordia University – Chicago) and you have my experience nearly 40 years ago.

    And here I am now, teaching theatre to high school students — who are all going to have to read your essay!!! (permission to reprint and share???)

    Now if we could only to get “the educational powers that be” to see that STEM is not the full answer. You need steAm — science, technology, engineering, ARTS and math. As I never tire of pointing out – theatre reflects “the world” and every skill set, every bit of knowledge used in the “real” world is present and needed in the world of theatre and the other entertainment arts.

    Thanks for helping others to see the arts, and especially our shared passion: theatre, ARE excellent training and are REAL subjects with direct benefits to any field of work.

    • Permission granted! I only ask that you provide attribution along with the web address.

      I am so very much in agreement with you. I couldn’t be more disheartened to find theatre programs in mothballs and visual art programs transformed into computer graphics programs. Without the arts our nation, our culture, and our children will suffer.

      Thank you for teaching theatre to the next generation!

  32. linaloki says:

    Nice. I actually just graduated college last August with two degrees: theatre and philosophy.

    Everyone spent the 5 years I took to get those degrees looking at me like I was a crazy person, but I stuck with it. And, yeah, the goal is to eventually become a writer and actor for stage and screen.

    Right now I’m working a paid editorial internship at a trucking magazine, and I’ll continue in the field of writing and journalism until I can better try to make my theatrical dreams a reality. Money and fame may be a long way away, but I don’t regret doing what I did. And the connections you make in theatre, especially when you’re willing to do more than just acting (I stage managed a few shows toward the end of my time at school), are good for any number of occasions.

    But it’s good to hear others have found success with a degree in theatre. It’d be great if people tried to understand what the arts can give as opposed to just thinking liberal and performance arts degrees are a beeline to the fast food counter. You do what you love, you work towards your goals, you get somewhere in the end. Even if it isn’t exactly what you expected.

  33. Read this post that was shared by the “Doug” above. he was my teacher in HS. I am now a teacher myself and much of what you listed is true of being a teacher too: working with diverse groups, presentation, etc. I believe most good teachers have a bit of the ‘actor’ in them! Nice article! May use it myself with proper citation and credit given if allowed.

    • Absolutely, Tracy. Permission granted. I am totally in awe of those of you who have given yourselves to be educators (my sister is a 5th grade teacher). Long hours, parental pressure, administrative silliness not to mention all the governmental regulations and funding chaos can only serve to make you feel like it’s a thankless job at times. Yet, there is not one of us who can’t look back and name the teachers (Mrs. Avery, Mrs. Mathers, Mrs. Scwartz, Mr. & Mrs. Danielson, Mr. Parks, Mr. Craft, Mr. Springer, Mr. Ludwig, Mrs. Zembles, Mrs. Rasmussen, Prof. Larson, Prof. McFadzean, Prof. Thompson) who impacted our lives in ways they can scarcely comprehend. Cheers to you, Tracy!

  34. Pingback: 10 ways being a Theatre Major prepared me for ministry | landon whitsitt (dot) com

  35. Roger says:

    Great examination of the unstated concept that for the student, theater is a program of “drills for life.” For the student, theater develops the whole to a more disciplined and focused person. As a high school teacher I’m sure I’ll use this, with your permission; the arts have to respond to budget challenges as forcefully as possible. In theater you can’t call time or run out of bounds, yet the performing arts are under the gun every year.

    First paragraph, last sentence; “tends to illicit thoughts” – “tends to elicit thoughts” just sayin…

  36. kelly Hardy says:

    Awesome

  37. Tara C. says:

    A friend of mine here at Ball State University in Indiana posted a link to this blog on Facebook. As a member of a flourishing, successful, and challenging theatre department, I deeply appreciate this article. I’m studying as a Theatre Education major and hope to one day expand my summer theatre camp in a youth center for the performing arts. Theatre can do such incredible things for people, and especially for children! I wish that more people could see that instead of calling this a useless major or, as one writer for BSU newspaper who immediately received much fire thrown his way decided put it, a hobby major. Thanks for such a wonderful articulation of the benefits of theatre!

    Also, on a side note: The name of my camp is Journeys Theatre Camp and one of our camp sessions is called “Wayfarers” which is what you have entitled your blog. So cool!

  38. Donovan says:

    Hello Tom. Great post! I’ve had a BFA Theatre for only two years now and I am a Financial Consultant with a rather mutual fund company. I was hired for two reasons: 1. My social skills acquired from my acting experience and 2. My work ethic, as proven by the fact that neither of my parents went to university and I paid for it entirely on my own. These people saw the value of my peculiar skills.

    If you are a hard worker and intelligent, it really doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you will succeed. I have not given up on theatre. A play I wrote is currently being produced and I will be in at least three productions this year. Life is what we make of it! I wish you the best of luck on the rest of your journey.

    • Thanks, Donovan! I’ve had a one-act produced and just shipped my first full-length play, and I am excited about my current role in Ayn Rand’s “Night of January 16th!” Thanks for sharing your comment and stopping by. All the best to you!

  39. Brett Harwood says:

    As a theatre professor I want all of my students to read this. Actually I really want all of their parents to read it! I have been teaching for nearly 20 years and I do not know of any of my students who are working fast food counters. They may not be working in the theatre, but they are all successful at they’re respective careers.

  40. Jay says:

    Brilliantly stated! I’ve seen college education deteriorate to a mindset of “jobs training.” I keep saying that you don’t train people for a job — you train people to think on their feet so they can do ANY job. I too was a theater major who ended up in a completely different job. But I wouldn’t be as good at my job without my theater training.

  41. Carol Alleman says:

    Thanks for writing this. It reached me through a colleague via Facebook, where I reposted it. Two other things I learned as a Theatre major were Healthy Competition (stress on healthy) and Collaboration. My theatre training opened doors for me into television production which led to graphic design training and now I am a freelance designer. I still do as much theatre as I can, including every aspect from acting to stage managing to tech, and hope I can until my life is over. Working with interesting people from all walks of life keeps me from settling into bad paradigms. Thanks for voicing with such clarity the reality of many of our lives!

  42. Sydney Powell says:

    This gives me hope! Whenever an adult asked me what I want to do in the future and I reply major in theatre they scoff and say that I will never use any of it. But I love acting and have been in a few plays and musicals and have seen how hard but useful this is. And you explained it perfectly. Thank you!

    • Hang in there Sydney! Do what you love. Love what you do!

    • Ashley says:

      Sydney, people used to say the same to me. I’m now in law school, and funnily enough, my theatre training comes in handy almost every day. The skills we learn carry across so many different disciplines that it’s a wonder how anyone can ever speak ill of a theatre degree.

  43. Jenni Lou Russi says:

    What a lovely surprise!! I graduated from Judson over 30 years ago – before a person could “major” in Theatre – but was affected by Theatre in a major way at Judson. Many of the people with whom I graduated are working in professional Theatre today – myself included!

  44. Amen! Could not have said it better!

    Wagner College Theatre Major – class of ’95.

    ps- Improv rules!

  45. Sam Snyder says:

    I’m currently a freshman music major and theatre minor. As a student attending a small school, with one foot in each of two of the smallest departments on campus (with, I might add, even smaller budgets), I empathize and agree with your observations. These are many of the reasons I give for doing what I do.

    Thank you for the encouragement. I’ve been having doubts lately about my chosen path – it’s a thankless degree with often insane hours and limited immediate employment prospects – but this is a fantastic reminder of the skills I’m developing and their value outside of my little world in West Texas. I will certainly be sharing this post with all due credit. Many of my friends and acquaintances are in the same position I am, and would benefit greatly from your words.

  46. David says:

    Like so many others here… I have to say, there is nothing new here in my mind.. but.. you did a great job putting it together. I basically just landed an awesome job as a Executive Director of Chorale Bel Canto ( choralebelcanto.org ) And my background is.. well.. me (thedavidbeach.com) Every interview, of which there will several, I basically told them what you have written. I was against people with a great deal more experience as an exec director… and I got the job. Still stunned. But, the stuff we learned really does pay off and some real business people ‘get it’ Now, to get that series ;-)

    Thanks

    David

  47. All of this is absolutely true. I, too, was a theatre major, and it taught me everything you’ve mentioned. However, all my undergraduate and graduate schools listed my degrees as THEATRE degrees. Or Acting. Or Directing. This was death to me when trying to find a “real” job in New York City, surrounded by actual “Communications” majors. “Why did you leave the restaurant industry?” was my most common interview question. (Interestingly, my auditioning skills prepared me well for being cool as a cucumber in job interviews.)

    I did find a niche editing legal documents for a while (parsing Shakespeare prepared me quite well for the rigors of “legalese”), but found I was always going to be someone’s assistant unless I went back to school and started my own business. Theatre training prepared me well for that, too – loads of hard, crazy, daring, imaginative, balls to the wall, f*ck the budget, intuitive, faithful, painful, dreaming, truthful and passionate work went into building my thriving therapeutic massage practice, and I doubt I could have done that with an accounting degree.

    Come to think of it, it was my precociousness in Voice and Movement classes that ultimately led to my career as a licensed massage therapist. I walked into class one day to find my fellow actors arguing over who’s turn it was to be my partner in our warm ups – “But she stretches me out and massages me so gooooood! Julie is the best! It’s like she’s a professional!”

    I’m glad I lived that dream, and am living the one I was meant to now.

  48. Lori says:

    I am having this tattooed onto the inside of my eyelids! I’ve been living with a degree in Theatre for 30 years. I’ve had several non theatre careers and many non theatre jobs and I never knew why they all seemed so doable. Thanks for a great post!

  49. Bravo, Tom! – Let’s hear it for thesps, past, present and future.
    XO
    VCH and Midlantic Theatre Co., Newafk
    A NJ 501(c)3 nonprofit corp.
    Theatre in Newark + Schools & Prisons

  50. O, jeepers. “Newark.” – “Newafk” is that strange town out in Martian-actotr–type-land … Sorry!

  51. Cynthia Clay says:

    I loved reading this post. I have a BA in Dramatic Literature and an MFA in Theater Directing. I’ve run my own training and development company for 20 years. My theater background completely prepared me to innovate, create, adapt, empathize, plan, manage, speak and motivate. Most recently I’ve been delighted to discover that my ability to improvise and think on my feet has led to delivering great webinars. Who knew? Thanks for nailing it.

  52. David Popalisky says:

    Tom, I teach dance in the Theatre and Dance Dept. at Santa Clara University and found this recommended by an alumni of our program. Well written, right on and to the point. Kudos.

    David

  53. Reblogged this on Making It. and commented:
    A great post to remind you of your worth as a theatre graduate and the marketable skills that you receive which are transferable to any industry! It keeps my spirits high and my hope is that most theatre grads can manage to employ these useful skills within the competitive theatre industry!

  54. Pingback: Day Twenty-Three of 366. | Making It.

  55. mrthuse says:

    Wonderful post, Tom. I taught theatre (w/ an -re) for 35 years before retiring 5 years ago. Still hear from former students – the vast majority of whom are not in the business – who consistently tell me what you wrote above. It’s a marvelous life and as a people we are richer for those like yourself who saw past the footlights to what really mattered. Bravo.

    I still direct, so I still get to see the light go on behind the eyes when the actor “gets it”. Next to my grandson’s smile, it’s the best look I know.

  56. mblow says:

    To add more accolades, this is a wonderful, spot-on post! I was a theatre major at Rhodes College (and actually used my degree for about ten years). My most recent career (that I just left) was in training for a healthcare company. My co-workers asked me how I managed to understand so much about the workings of the business and develop training for so many diverse groups within the company. I’m now going to point them here.

  57. Rebecca says:

    As a university Theatre Professor, I wholeheartedly agree. Your blog post It’s been shared many times amongst my Fbook friends, the ones who used their degree to work in theatre and the ones with theatre degrees who do everything from tech support to Elementary School Teachers to video game designers and massage therapists. Thank you for posting this.

  58. Cathy says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I graduated with a Theatre degree a year ago, then moved to a small town with my husband where there is only community theatre. Occasionally, I’ll look at my student loans and the bakery job I have and wonder, was it worth it? You give me hope!

    • Hang in there, Cathy! As a community theatre regular here in a small town, I feel your anxiety. There’s a long road ahead filled with opportunity. The degree matters less than the important life lessons you don’t even realize you learned. Have faith. The best is yet to come!

  59. Vicki says:

    Great article – it nicely sums up what I’ve been telling myself and others for the past 18 years. I also have my undergraduate degree in theatre – set design to be exact. But a few years out of college my part-time business job to pay tuition turned into full-time, and then an MBA and full career. Now I lead CRM for a national internet business. People ask me how I do what I do and I always create my theatre training from college. I’m sharing this with as many people as I can. Thank you!

  60. A. H. White says:

    Outstanding. When asked once what having a BFA in Theatre meant, a friend replied, “It means I can do anything”. I believed it then and believe it still.
    Best Regards.

  61. Kati says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing! I was a Dance Major in college, and it taught me the same skills. I can completely understand where you are coming from, especially with the weird looks, and the “How’s that going to help you in the future?” smart alec comments. The ARTS cross all boundaries and develop life skills. It’s too bad that those of us that realize this, have to fight such a long, arduous fight to get the rest of the American public to realize the importance of the Arts, the benefits of the Arts, and the fact that America needs to quickly start massively funding the Arts. You want job skills? Become a Arts major! :)

  62. Sara says:

    Nice article! I often think about my (theatre) major and whether my college loans are worth it, even ten years later. But, truth be told, I had the best time, can’t think of anything else I would have wanted to commit that amount of time to, and now I work with small children and there are very many take-aways from my theatre education that I use on a daily basis. I am definitely sharing this article. :)

  63. Helen says:

    People often ask me how I know how to do all the things I do: crochet, sew, knit, build retaining walls, build and reupholster furniture, cook, mix colors, wrangle kids, garden, clean houses, organize garages, redesign and build a deck, pour concrete, etc, etc, etc. My answer is usually that it never occurred to me that I COULDN’T do any of these things. My undergraduate degree in performance was partially paid for by my work study jobs in both the scene and costume shops. If there was a task to be done, we figured out how to do it. It didn’t matter that until the moment of necessity they we had never touched a table saw. We learned of the move. Being a theatre major made it possible for me to believe that anything is possible with a few simple machines and a will to make it happen. Mine may say the it is a degree in theatre, but it is truly a degree in whatever I want to be.

  64. Reblogged this on theprocrastinatingscatterbrainedwriter and commented:
    I love this article so much, especially since it’s totally true. I’m so glad another theatre alum (even though this guy went to another college) can understand that theatre experience has a lot of worth in the real world. Thanks to Dr. Carrie Ameling (Theatre Professor at Limestone College) for sharing this article on Facebook.

  65. You may be aware that your article is showing signs of going viral among the Chicago theatre community. I hope it spreads far beyond that. Thank you for your insight, and may you inspire more to pursue a well-rounded education.

  66. A good read which I’ve passed on to others. Can’t really argue with any of what you’ve written except to point out that it’s “elicit” thoughts, not “illicit” thoughts. Sorry, inveterate theatre/English major here. Well done.

  67. Scot Colford says:

    Amazing. Thank you for putting words to the thoughts forming in my head these past 20 years. Well done.

  68. Cheryl says:

    I also was a theatre major for a couple of years (along with dance and music) and I love all the points you made in this article — very well thought out. The most valuable lession I learned from Acting class was “What do you want from this Dialogue?” I have found that in so many “conversations/discussions/debates/arguments” that I have participated in, so many times it becomes about the emotions, about winning, about control, but the most important aspect to me has been to define what I want from the dialogue, be clear about that and authentic. I have also found it much easier to dialogue when I understand what the other person wants. I learned that in Acting class.

  69. Karen M says:

    Wonderful article. Really hit the heart. My son is currently a Theatre major in New York. Could not of said anything better! Thank you.

    • More than one parent of a theatre major has shared that sentiment with me, Karen. THANK YOU for having faith in your son and letting him pursue an amazing education. It will serve him well, I promise you.

  70. Bridget says:

    I love this. My husband and I were both Theatre majors. We both have not just a BA, but an MA in Theatre. He is an Armor Officer in the US Army, currently serving in Afghanistan and I stay home with our two sets of twins. I think we could both write a post about how useful our education is in our current careers.:)

    • I am personally heartened, Bridget, to know that a MA Theatre grad is leading troops in Afghanistan! I can trust that when the battle plan gets FUBAR’d there’s someone who knows how to improvise under pressure! Equally heartened to know that mom is capably improvising on the home front. God bless you both and your two sets of twins!

  71. Sherry Duson says:

    Wow, I love this! As a fellow theatre arts major, I totally agree—almost all I needed to know about my current life I learned as a theatre major and professional theatre company member. And of course, three years of grad school.
    My current profession? Psychotherapist in private practice.

    • You know what Sherry? I spent a year working as a business manager of a large marriage and family therapy practice. I always felt like my theatre training was like a psychology degree. I sometimes felt like I understood certain clients better than a few of the therapists did! Thanks for sharing!

  72. Lira K says:

    I like to refer to it as my Degree in Pretend (I also have a minor in making up stories) to highlight how crazy having a theatre degree is, but I’m right there with you; the empathy, all the producing, taking a cast of 27 and creating a product that affects 700 people…. They are all relative to the job I have now – also as a business consultant!

    But I’d like to add something else – getting our theatre degree also prepares us for Following Our Dream, and having the perseverance to continue to do what we truly love. I know so many who fear leaving the jobs they’re no longer happy at, but we aren’t afraid of the unknown. The guts of going onstage, in front of hundreds, with the possibility of so many things going wrong, helps us understand that if we have spent hours, days, weeks, studying and rehearsing, for This Moment, we are going to be FINE. And if we aren’t, we’ll improvise. All invaluable life skills.

    Bravo for this great article!

  73. Lydia says:

    Outstanding post! The same goes for all those folks who have spent years working in community theatre, taking on the same multiple responsibilities, and accomplishing quality performances — in addition to working their day jobs.

    • Huzzah for community theatre! As a community theatre regular, I can’t agree with you more. We have a local liberal arts college and I’ve worked hard to make connections between the community theatre and the college theatre department. As much as they may not want to hear it, I remind the college students that they might as well embrace and celebrate community theatre since many of them will end up there (and that’s not a bad thing!).

  74. Erin says:

    I’m in Outdoor Education, and hire a new group of educators every year. I have never had a great way to explain why I am just as excited about applicants with theater backgrounds as those with a BS in science or their teaching certificate. Now I do. We are incorporating improv into our training and weekly meetings because it is just that important. We want our classes to be student-centered, but how can they be if the teacher is terrified to go off script?

    • Great connection, Erin. You’re absolutely right. In business, in customer service, in education – you name it – it pays to be able to think on your feet and improvise. Thanks for sharing your own experience!

  75. Reblogged this on Only Connect! and commented:
    I found this blog on WordPress & felt it was worth reblogging as every word is true!

  76. JAC says:

    Great article!

    I have always prescribed that the college experience should be considered as a buffet table, and you should sample as much as you can.

    Your ultimate goal should be to follow your passion, what you retain from your life experiences will always be the resource for your inspirations in fullfilling that passion!

    I have sent this to my son ( who is in college now).

  77. Ruth Ready says:

    I am a director for a high school drama department. Basically, I took the job because no one else wanted it. I will be sharing your insights with the high school students I am working with to reinforce the value of being involved in the program. They have been a little down because the previous director stated that she just didn’t see that we had enough talent to pull off a musical. This is high school enthusiasm trumps talent in my book.

  78. Betsy Wolfe Stemple says:

    Tommy boy! Well said. Was fun to hear you talk about the old days…..the days of the “Fine Arts Losers.”

    • BETSY!!! Thanks, my dear. Those were great days, were they not?! I miss you. Got to homecoming to emcee the big Saturday night to-do for all the profs, but it was a quick in and out. Hopefully we’ll make it back soon!

  79. Michael says:

    I’ve been fortunate to have actually made a living from my Theatre degree.

    But I also know of people who use theirs every day in many ways as well. One friend told me her son landed a great job over several applicants who were more qualified, simply because his theatre experience made him comfortable speaking in front of people… and NAILED the interview!

  80. Michael says:

    Oh, and BTW: I’ve always told people “Theater” is the building, “Theatre” is the business.
    (Just my opinion, of course.)

  81. Alina Castillo says:

    Awesome post! I’m a freshman in college now, as a theater major, and it’s really encouraging to see things like this. While I would love to have a career in the theater, I of course have no way of knowing for sure if that’s what I’ll be doing, and it is just so awesome to see someone who didn’t make performing their job forever really got useful things out of majoring in theater. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Follow your passion and your dreams Alina! I believe that if you work hard and prove yourself responsible, there is no limit to where the journey can take you. Remember me when you make it big someday ;-)

  82. Pingback: I love this post. | The Write Side of My Brain

  83. Andrew Sather says:

    FWIW – this post is making the rounds on Broadway now.

    I have a BA in Theater & Drama and have now been working on B’way for 15 years, after spending a better part of a decade touring both nationally and internationally. Theater has given me opportunities that no other career could begin to approach. I’ve worked in all 50 states, had my 30th Birthday in Australia, explored (with an astoundingly cute chorus girl) the catacombs under the Paris Opera House, opened a state of the art theater in Japan and played ancient Roman theaters in Italy, Greece and Spain, (and all that was just during one year) etc. etc.

    I’m glad to see that an earlier commenter picked up on one of the points I wanted to add – we get our projects done on time. No matter what happens, we have a set opening night and a curtain time. Do what you have to to get the show up on time. Period.

    Second point – working in theater teaches you how to maximize your staff member’s various potentials and minimize their “limitations”. Whether you’re trying to cast a show from a limited pool of actors, or get a set built, or lights hung, etc, it doesn’t take long to see who is good at what jobs, who can learn, and where they should be working.

    When I was an undergrad I was a TA for a “slave labor” tech class that all theater majors were required to take. One semester I had two students who were seemingly polar opposites – one a former Navy SEAL, big, bad – tough as nails – can do attitude, etc. The other a wanna be actress who really really really had zero interest in swinging hammers, slinging wrenches, anything involving work or the potential of sweat. They were required to help hang the lights for a 4 hour call one morning where I was the crew chief. I had briefed all the students before hand to show up wearing comfortable “work clothes”, no skirts, high heels, fancy shirts, – expect to sweat. The SEAL was ready a rarin’ to go, the actress showed up in a short skirt with red pumps. I partnered them up and assigned them to hang a FOH (front of house) position which entailed climbing a straight ladder and hanging lekos on a fixed pipe. I figured the girl would foot the ladder and the SEAL would do the “grunt” work. It turned out that this Navy Seal, who had dome multiple tours and God only knows what, was afraid to climb the ladder. Fear of heights, no matter how in manifests itself, is nothing to mess with. A person who freezes or freaks out overhead is a danger to him/herself and everyone beneath. Long story short – I punted, had them switch tasks, told the SEAL not to look up her skirt and before I knew it, the position was hung, they were laughing and having a great time.

    About ten years ago I attended the high school graduation of their oldest child (I guess he peeked :-), they’re both retired rock ‘n’ roll roadies who are working as local stagehands in a decent sized city.

    I’ve also spent several years as a coordinator/manager of various regional companies, dealing with everything from volunteers to semi & highly skilled professionals. The abilities to quickly assess abilities and potentials and designate accordingly has served me well as management as well as a touring crew head.

    This may fall under your category “do the best with what you have”…

    One other note – when I was doing my college internship with a well regarded regional theater, the Production Manager asked me what my major was going to be. At the time I was going to get an Education degree. When he asked “why Ed?” I told him that I needed a “fall back”
    His reply: “If you give yourself a fall back, you will fall back. Do it.”
    I declared a theater major and have been gainfully employed “in the business” for well over 30 years now.

    • AWESOME addition to the conversation, Andrew. I LOVE the story of the SEAL and the actress. That’s classic. I also had not heard the “fall back” line – also very re-quote worthy! Thanks for taking the time to leave a great comment!

  84. Jules Lauve says:

    All so true. Thanks for writing that.

  85. Brad Daniels says:

    Thank you for making my degree seem not so useless. Have a BFA in Music Theatre Performance and have had so many turned-up noses trying to break into anything worthwhile beyond the stage and second restaurant/minimum wage jobs. I wish I understood the business world better to know how my skills could lead me to a better job than the ones I’ve been working, but at least I have a better grasp of what’s in my toolbelt now. Thanks for enlightening me a little, and I’ll keep referring to this in the future. Delete this and I will send an army of Improv’ers to flash mob outside your house… err wait… that might be cool. Yeah, just don’t delete this.

    • Hang in there Brad. I’ve had several comments from people who said they got their job because they were the only applicant who could communicate well in the interview, or who were able to explain that their degree prepared them to do anything. You might breeze through the comments on this post to get a little encouragement.

      Bring on the flash mob!

      • Brad Daniels says:

        Thank you Tom, I will! When I find a printer, I’ll print this all out and and keep a copy on me. It’s an inspirational message that colleges with theatre programs would be wise to post in their office areas.

  86. David Lemire says:

    My wife and I are engineers, but we’ve done lots of theatre and taught Shakespeare and theater-craft to middle schoolers. Totally agree with everything you said. Great piece. I’ve imitated a couple of my Facebook friends by sharing it there and will probably share it with my co-workers at our enginering consulting firm as well. Thanks very much.

    • Thanks for passing it along, David. Keep up the work with middle schoolers. The only reason I ended up in theatre was because a teacher in middle school pulled me aside after class and told me I read really well and I should give the drama club a try. The rest, as they say, was history.

  87. John Joyner says:

    Thank you for this. I quite often get blank stares from people when I tell them I was a theatre major. A couple of dolts have even asked, “You can get a degree in that?” Unfortunately, most people have never had the pleasures (and pain) we have had, so they don’t understand how well this has prepared us for life. You have articulated what I have tried to say in every job interview I have ever had. Thank you for giving me more ammunition. A friend and theatre major cohort of mine posted this on facebook and said she will be printing this, framing it, and handing out copies at every job interview in the future. I will be too.

  88. Brian says:

    I am a ten year high school theatre teacher and each year I cover many of the same points on back to school night. I tell parents that I do not seek to train out
    of work actors, but the next president if Disney.

    The only other thing I stress is the abilty to work on a deadline. In theatre, the audience will show up at a specific time, no matter what.As a drector, I have this vision od the NASA countdown clock that begins its inevitable march on the day of auditions and ends with the calling of the first cue opening night.

    • I had someone else make that same great point, Brian. Theatre teaches you to meet deadlines and be ready when that curtain goes up! Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      Houston, the eagle has landed.

  89. You just watch, Tom! This posting will show up on the websites of theatre programs across the country! As a theatre prof who watches passionate young artists struggle with their parents and peers over their decision to pursue advanced study in theatre, I try to reach out with words of encouraging practicality.

    You’ve done a great service here. And I hope I can QUOTE you!

  90. Kimberly says:

    Fabulous post. I especially liked the part about learning to understand people. Contrary to popular belief, most actors can’t lie to save their lives in real life. The reason we enjoy watching them is that we can see everything they feel on their faces.

  91. Pingback: Theatre as Life-Prep | The Arts Room

  92. Holly says:

    A friend sent me a link for this, after discussions about my daughter. She has been involved in theatre since grade school, and is now a junior in high school. She plans on production design as her college major. I am excited and happy for her, because I know she has chosen a career that she has both a talent and passion for. Para 7 – Hard work – so, so, SO true. And as a parent, so hard to watch the work, risk, and long hours put into a set build, only to stand by and watch them tear it down on closing night. But the pride you feel in what they have accomplished, with little time, few people and even less dollars, can’t be described. I also know the director knows what they are doing when they schedule the cast & crew party after tear down on closing night – there are no sad faces while tearing down the set since the party doesn’t start till the set has left the building! :-)

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your story, Holly. Thanks, also, for having faith in your daughter and supporting her on her path. Well done, mom.

      (You’re also spot on about the cast party after set strike…I think that’s been a well known secret since the days of Euripides!)

  93. SETC Professional Auditions will definitely be sharing these comments along! Thanks

  94. Larry Belew says:

    well said. When I was a private school principal in Miami, FL I told my secretary that I learned to do the job, not from my graduate classes in school administration, but from years of directing theatre.

  95. jessie says:

    This is wonderful. I have done theatre and music since I was 6-years-old, but like you I never thought I’d be a professional actor so I’m majoring in PR, but you are completely right. So many people believe that a theatre degree is a pipe dream major when it is actually a stepping stone to becoming a better more empathetic person. :)

  96. jessie says:

    Reblogged this on Jeez….Jessie! and commented:
    So true

  97. Tina says:

    I agree completely! I graduated with a B.A. in Theatre 25 years ago from a state university in PA. Just as you described, my fellow theatre majors and I participated in all aspects of production, from acting to lights to sets, costumes, PR, and more. I have said for years that those experiences help me all the time, for all the reasons you mentioned! I went on to get a master’s in Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education, and now work with 4-year olds. I have to tell you, teaching requires an awful lot of creativity, organization, thinking on your feet, hard work, presentation skills….everything you mentioned. I did a lot of stage management in college and community, and the ability to coordinate the different aspects of a stage production, and bring together specialists in different areas (lights, sets, props, costumes, actors, etc.) is so different from helping different departments of a company, group of students, coworkers, or clients understand each other and collaborate. Thanks for a great article….which reinforces the value of theatre as well as music and art programs!

    • I appreciate you sharing your own experience, Tina. All the best to you in your teaching. Observing my sister, who teaches 5th graders, I can see exactly what you mean by the demands of the job, and I can understand how your education helps.

  98. Tina says:

    I meant stage management is NOT so different…..(Sorry! Typo!)

  99. Brett Hall says:

    Wow! I thought I was alone in thinking this way. I graduated with a Communications Degree from Western State College of Colorado and went on to study at University of Maine, Orono and received an MFA from the North Carolina School of the Arts. I worked in theatre tech and was a Professor for four years. I worked on a few films, shifted gears and stared working with passenger railroad equipment. Ten years later I was a VP of a railroad. I left that and now own a company building custom Airstream travel trailers. Everything you said about Theatre preparing you for real life is true…and I hire Theater folk whenever I can for these same reasons!

    • Nice, Brett. It’s interesting to read all the comments to this post and to hear people share their life journey. So many varied paths, and yet every has found that their experience in theatre has made a huge difference. I appreciate you adding your own life journey to the list!

  100. Amazing and accurate summarization of a Theatre Majors assets. Thank you for posting this wonderful essay. I have always felt that I had been gifted many of these same benefits upon graduating with my B.F.A. in theatre . Bravo, Mr. Vanderwell for composing this piece with truth and eloquence.

  101. This is wonderful for so many reasons, I can hardly express my thanks for your writing it. As I try to transform my own theatrical/education career into something else, you have just helped me with the dreaded task of refining my resume. Brilliant work that I will share with all (including my classes).

  102. Pingback: SUnday Roundup – February 5th | Sue Edworthy Arts Planning

  103. Luis Munoz says:

    Tom,

    Would like permission to reprint this in THE LEAGUER. We oversee a 1200 school play contest in Texas. Our teachers would love to read this. I sent an e-mail earlier.

  104. John Stuehr says:

    Another plus on being a theatre major, one you are exhibiting with great care, is the importance of dialogue. Thank you, Tom, for your attention to virtually ever comment, showing that listening is also an important life skill. Bravo to your wonderful essay, and the great dialoge it has created not only here on this blog, but all across the internet.

    • I’ve always believed that one of the powers of blogging was in the opportunity for dialogue and conversation. Thanks for noticing, John! You are right. The better the listener, the better the actor.

  105. Morris Townson says:

    I work with a large community theatre in Morristown, TN. My children have grown up back stage, on stage and above the stage. It is the best education, experience, and work ethics that I can give them.

  106. Jeff says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I have a degree in theatre and am currently Artistic Director of a theatre company. However, I also a day job. I have been promoted 3 times and allowed to create my own department within two years. How did I get promoted? With the skills I gained in college and running a company. Theatre is the study of the way relationships work in varied environments, with varying personalities. You can apply that understanding in any field and become more successful.

    • You got that right, Jeff. In my seventh year as President of our humble little community theatre, I empathize. My co-workers and clients were a little surprised when I showed up bald one day (I was playing Daddy Warbucks in Annie). Keep going. Best wishes to you and Black Out Theatre!

  107. Love this.
    You are so right. I now use what I learned over years of being in theatRE to teach to young ladies the same through the birthday party entertainment company I started and own(www.KingdomofAzuria.com). In the actual performing of these events, as well as in the business aspects (working with clients,etc), I use all of these skills you mentioned.
    Had no idea it would have been such a part of my everyday life today, when I was back in college.

    Very well written.
    Enchantedly yours,
    Jennifer

    • Goodness. I never expected to get a comment from royalty! Thanks, to your highness, for bestowing the honor upon us, and all the best to you and your kingdom. May it ever prosper (happily ever after, of course).

  108. Benji Kaufman says:

    Tom,
    Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece! I am currently a theater major, and the head of acting for our department shared this with me. It’s nice to know that there are others out there that know a being theater major isn’t a dead end if you don’t become famous. Thank you for restoring hope in us!

  109. 100% spot-on! I was a Theatre major too, once upon a time. And I also founded and ran my own professional nonprofit theatre company in NYC at a time when everyone was “just saying no” to arts funding. And nothing teaches you how to be prepared for any contingency like being the producing artistic director of a small nonprofit in the biggest fishbowl there is (add being in most of the shows as well, in addition to designing all the costumes). Short shrift is given by 99% of the world (including almost every Theatre major’s parents) to being a Theatre major, saying you’ll never make it. And while most Theatre majors don’t end up making it in Theatre, Film, & TV, or struggle modestly in those fields and then move on to more lucrative ones,. the lessons learned earlier on are invaluable and carried from career to career as part of our success toolkit.

    • Thanks, Leslie. I can only begin to imagine the stresses and anxieties you experienced getting the show on stage and keeping the thing running. I can understanding, however, how the experience prepared you for almost anything in life. I appreciate you taking the time to share.

  110. Pingback: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success « Liz Shinkle, Theatre MacGyver

  111. Julia Fanara says:

    Tom,
    I am heralding from sunny Southern California. A friend and colleague sent me this article as a fellow theater arts major. I graduated from a liberal arts college with a theater arts major 34 years ago. I have been an English teacher for 33 years and have taught AP English 22 of those years. I have a credential in English and was able to apply all of my academic theater classes toward it. My analytical skills came from my theater background. I am also the Assistant Head of School for an all girls’ high school. Every day is like a play in production – you come in the morning expecting one thing, and leave having dealt with an entirely different thing – theater arts prepared me for this, as well. I give a lecture similar to your blog every year to my AP girls who are sitting in front of me stressing about college and what they are going to do with their lives. They tend to be the high achievers who are driven or are being driven by their well-meaning parents. Thank you for sharing this with us. I agree with many other who have posted – this will go viral. Thanks again.

    • Thanks, Julia. From sunny CA, please think of us suffering in the midwest ice and snow. As I’ve tried to communicate to all the teachers and educators who’ve posted comments, I want to thank YOU for teaching the next generation of talented ladies who will shape our world. I hate to think where I would be were it not for the teachers and profs who cared about me, prayed for me, pushed me, challenged me, got in my face, and helped make me the person I am today. Thank you for what you do every day.

  112. Pingback: Striking a Chord: When a Blog Post Goes Viral | Wayfarer

  113. mdstill says:

    Tom,
    I loved this article. It was passed along to me through Facebook, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! I am a theatre major up here at Iowa State University, and I have often gone back and forth in my head whether it was worth all the money or not. I have loved theatre ever since I got involved with Union Street Players that summer I was cast as Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. There was no doubt that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but lately many doubts have come over me. This article let me know that even if I don’t find work in the industry, there are other options for me, and my college education will not go to waste. Thanks for sharing, it was much appreciated!

    • Go Cyclones! It will certainly NOT have been a waste. I was just on stage last month with an ISU grad and ISU theatre alum who’s now teaching here in Pella. She was wonderful to work with and I can tell she’ll be an amazing teacher. No matter where you end up, I’m convinced that what you’ve learned will serve you well! Plus, you’re from Iowa…. so you got that goin’ for ya ;-)

  114. Rebecca Wells says:

    Thank you for this post. We have always told our children to follow their dreams and our daughter has followed her Theatre dreams and is a Technical Theatre Major. I have forwarded this post to her and her friends. Thank you again!

  115. Kathy Alred says:

    I was a freshman at Judson when you were a senior and a legend in the theatre department. I don’t remember getting to share the stage with you even though I was in a few plays. I still remember Dave McFadzean saying “Let me SEE you make your decision!” I use that as a teaching technique all the time in my work as an ecology teacher. There are lots of life lessons to be learned in theatre training. Even for non-theatre majors who were merely intruding.

    • Hey Kathy. I absolutely remember you! I think we all remember lessons from Dave. He was one of a kind and we were all (even non-theatre intruders) privileged to learn from him. So glad to hear from you. I hope all is well for you in ecology education and, more importantly, in life. Thanks for posting a comment!

  116. Nancy says:

    Thank you! I was already proud of my theater degree (IUP), but this post has reinforced it.

  117. Reblogged this on Fírinne in Uisce Beatha and commented:
    In lieu of my own work (which has been sadly lacking) I offer up this wonderfully written article on how Theatre works in the real world outside of the theater.

  118. I am a Personal Trainer and business owner. I graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a major in English and a minor in Theatre. I have to say, my experience with acting classes and putting on plays (as an actor and/or a tech.) helped me so much in my career. The essence of my job is: hard work, project management, improvisation,dealing with very different human beings, and understanding the human condition! Thank you for writing this!

  119. Julia Guichard says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am a professor in a theatre department in a liberal arts university. Almost every day, I talk to a student who wants to major in theatre but is afraid that it isn’t practical….or more often, has parents who are worried about the job prospects for their son or daughter. I believe that studying theatre is one of the best college degrees around….but then I am biased. It’s nice to hear you articulate WHY it’s been so beneficial for you. Would you mind if point potential students and parents to your post? And maybe some administrators while I’m at it….

  120. Terry Johnson says:

    This is wonderful. I was a college theatre major and now train people who want to be yoga teachers. I tell them that the best thing they can learn is how to improvise and that it was my training as an actor that has been most helpful for being an effective teacher. Thanks very much for the insightful words.

  121. Pingback: Reasons to be a Theatre Major… | Belhaven Theatre

  122. sophie says:

    Don’t forget the more quotidien skills: ability to re-wire a lamp, swing a hammer, build a wall. My post-college roommates (and my husband) all marveled at my willingness to get in there and build, re-build, and re-wire.

  123. Lois Hoffman says:

    Great post. Although I didn’t major in theater (my husband did), so much of this still applies to our life as jugglers. While similar attributes apply to all children, each audience is a little different. And of, our drops happen in different, often inconvenient times. We have to see our show through the eyes of someone else to make it successful. And we have to learn to work and play well with others.

    • Great application, Lois. There’s a guy here in our community theatre who’s a passionate juggler. I’ve always respected anyone who can juggle things on fire. Yikes! Thanks for the comment.

  124. Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com says:

    Awesome post, and great comment from Melanie. I was also a physics and theatre guy… spent a summer doing nuclear research at Oak Ridge while acting and music directing a show at the theatre in town. Astro was ultimately my favorite physics genre, and musicals are my favorite theatre genre. (I love the left brain/right brain energy in my life!)

    I couldn’t have achieved any success in my unusual career – initially in management consulting and later in professional speaking and corporate entertainment – without the great challenges to act, direct, write, build, manage, and sweep that I encountered working in the theatre. There are so many metaphors for the corporate world that this entire blog could be dedicated to weekly posts on the subject and it would only scratch the surface!

  125. Tom– Thank you so much for your incredibly inspirational piece. As an acting teacher, I spend my days living your 10 points and passing them along. I appreciate your taking the time to articulate them so eloquently. It inspires me to remember how deep this work runs as I work with my teen/college age students who are stepping into the heart of their passion much as you did.

    Thank you again, your piece has really touched me.

  126. Carol Lyn Webster says:

    Love this article! As a theatre teacher, this becomes an excellent handout to defend thw keeping of the arts in public schools and how this helps students no matter what they intend to do in llife.

  127. This article was called to my attention by a former Junior High School student who was totally involved in the theater Dept. I had the privilege of running for the first ten years of my career as an English/Speech/Drama teacher in Racine, WI. I know how true the points made in the article are, as I am well aware of the successes many of my former theater students have realized in their careers! I am proud to have passed on so many of the attributes you mentioned i your article to so many young people. I recently retired from a 38 year career as a teacher and principal and can only look back on those years as the best years of my life!

  128. Will says:

    A great, level-headed and very true post. I was a theater major and made my career as a set designer. For five years Johns-Hopkins had me as presenter at career seminars they give for high school students in New England. Using my own profession as jumping-off point, I told them all the skills I had been taught or had to develop and how they had enriched my life and guaranteed a varied and highly rewarding career, as well as a secure one n economic downturns.

    A few years later my department at MIT, Music and Theater Arts, held an alumni event with a panel of six alums, theater majors or heavy theater concentrators, who were doing everything from Law, management off corporations and scientific research to actually having founded and be director of a theater company in NYC. They all spoke of the innumerable ways acting and directing training, design and technical work, and theater scholarship had a major hand in giving them what they needed to succeed.

    Thanks for this, it was a pleasure to read.

  129. Pingback: You Never Forget Your First Love « Brunch With Jacqui

  130. Well stated. I always thought that my Theatre (note the spelling) was the best major in the world. Continued on until I had a PH D. in Theatre and taught at the college level for four years until I became the Performing Arts Coordinator for Milwaukee Public School Recreation program for 16 wonderful years that brought me into closed contact with artists throughout the Milwaukee area and across the state. After several more transformations in life including head of staff development for a department of 1500 people, a facilitator and TQM consultant I have retired to run my own successful business for the past 10 years. Thanks for this wonderful article.

  131. Great article and I concur with every point. I, too, received a degree in theatre. And I haven’t acted in years. I’ve spent the past 8 years as a Business Analyst in different corporations. And my training at an actor has been invaluable. So, for those of you actors out there, there are other jobs besides being on stage that you can use your skills for.

  132. I can’t stop smiling.
    The gypsy life lives on for me! I take each of these lessons with me to work every day. Well, when I am working ;)

  133. Oh this was a sigh of relief for me! I knew my degree meant something…. To me, anyway. But you have shown a light on how much it has gotten me through the last 10 years! I love it! Cheers to you!

  134. Anna says:

    I taught comp (freshman writing) at the University of Southern California. The theatre majors were my best students because they knew how to take criticism and improve their work. They knew that criticisms were about the work and not them as people. So there’s one to add to your list!

    • Great addition to the list Anna. You are so right. In my profession as a quality analyst and call coach, I have to work with people all the time who can’t take criticism. When you’re an actor, you learn to embrace it. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  135. stefan paul says:

    Number 10 really should read “doing the best you CAN with what you’ve got.” And to a large extent, it is a redundancy of numbers three and six. Apparently, your theatre major did not teach you the principles of effective writing.

    Otherwise, you make some very interesting points.

  136. bethany says:

    Great post here! I’m a JU alum, too, and I still work as the staff writer in their communications office. I stumbled across this post through one of our media aggregate tools. Thanks for mentioning Judson and talking about the benefits of your education!!! If you ever want to write a guest post for our student blog, email me bsuckrow[at]judsonu[dot]edu!

  137. Mary says:

    As a theatre grad myself, I absolutely loved your piece. We often hear from scoffers that those who major in theatre won’t go anywhere in this world. Well, not true! We’re all over the place, bringing our skills to the table in random career fields across the globe. I work in National Security and am working on an MA in Communications. Life is good, Shakespeare is awesome. Thanks so much for your post, you nailed it!!

  138. misternaz says:

    Tom, Greetings from Hong Kong from an Asian American teacher! I started my day as usual opening emails and I got this article shared by a former student who was in my Show Choir (the group that did our musicals). This article really spoke to me because theatre really changed my life since high school. While I was not able to pursue theatre as a degree, it led me to choose Music and I managed to blend both well. I was able to be involved with theatre though and my closest friends have been those that I have met through productions. I’ve been blessed to teach Theatre, Drama and Music for 21 years now and everything you mentioned really hit the spot. Seeing my students show an appreciation for theatre after they leave my classes is my greatest fulfillment as a teacher. Currently, I teach IB Theatre (wonderful programme – love it) at an international school here and another thing that I have seen is how powerful theatre can be because it is found in many different forms around the world. Anyway, let me just add two points (perhaps other posters have mentioned this in a different way) – 1) it led me to find my passion and so I find joy and satisfaction at every production; 2) Theatre allowed me to accept my weaknesses and strengths and thus I was able to appreciate not only the people around me but most importantly, myself. Thanks much Tom. This article is my lesson today for my Year 13 (aka Seniors) who are now on their path to choosing university courses. 謝謝!

  139. brothertom says:

    Graduated with my Theatre degree in 1988. Thanks for the reminder that it wasn’t a total wash.

  140. Ryan D says:

    Reading this was like looking in a mirror… I have a BS Degree in Communication with a concentration in theatre. Now, at 29 , I am managing the network infrastructure department at a mid sized software company. I have heard many times the sound of 5 pairs of eyes rolling in unison whenever the topic of what we all studied came up but the examples below are sport on. A liberal arts education with an emphasis on communication and critical thinking has been the number one factor in my professional success even in an unrelated, technical field. Thanks for expressing the benefits so eloquently.

  141. Lynn Baber says:

    You are my new hero.
    I am the Theatre Arts division director of the National High School Institute (Northwestern University’s Cherub program), the country’s oldest (and I think largest) summer theatre intensive for young people.
    Thank you for being so articulate about something that is very near and dear to me.
    Lynn Baber

  142. Racquel Hagen says:

    Tom,

    Thank you for a very wonderful article. I was a Communication Arts major at the University of San Francisco who did have lofty ambitions of a theatre career. That didn’t pan out, but I’ve always felt that my studies in college prepared me for real life and everything that I’ve done since far better then anything else I could have studied. Thank you for validating everything I’ve always believed in a much more eloquent way then I could have.

  143. Al Koenig says:

    Bravo! Wonderfully done. I wondered how I had done so well for so long with just a Theatre Degree. Excellently done!

  144. Thank you for spelling it THEATRE.

  145. amandaroederwrites says:

    Well done! We need more great advocates for arts education in the world.

  146. Lisa Zara says:

    I work for a publishing company, and we have a plethora of theatre majors, I always wondered wh?. I know my personal success has always been driven by the lessons I learned in theatre. The biggest one was to be humble…pick up the paint brush along side the rest of the folks and help finish the set the night before opening. I think it is why I am a good manager. I never expect my staff to do something I can’t and won’t do myself. And I am always looking for a better, smarter, cheaper way to do it. Who, in theatre, ever had extra money to spend ? It taught me logic and common sense, which is all too uncommon in business these days.

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  148. Brian Flanagan says:

    Brian likes this.

  149. Joseph says:

    As a little known actor/director/tech currently working in a high school, I’ve tried to tell folks these things…not sure they believe me. I will use your well written article to back up my points. Seems if they read it from someone else, it becomes more believable-huh? May even frame it for my office wall…if that’s ok with you. Thank You

  150. Daniel says:

    Great article, Tom. Insightful, thorough, and very true.

    From a Theater Major, (former) Improvisational Performer, MBA grad, and Senior Manager at a Fortune 500 company.

  151. addison says:

    These points have been my retort for anyone who questions, “Well, what are you going to do with that?” when they ask what I majored in during college. My answer has been, “I’m not sure, but this is what I know I can do…” My degree has prepared me for any situation I may find in the “business world.”
    A few months back a nursing student at The University of Texas at Austin (where I was a BA-Theatre) wrote an article in the Daily Texan (our paper) about the uselessness of arts programs in public universities. She based her entire article on the amount of money the university wastes educating students who will not end up fiscally contributing heavily to our economy. She further stated that if art students were serious enough about their careers, they would have attended a conservatory. She clearly did not understand the next-to-zero budget we’ve operated on for years and the incredible budget cuts we deal with EVERY year (which results in some of our favorite, most-dedicated professors leaving our program because there is not enough money for those not on tenure). Our department generates income through our numerous plays, as well, which does not stay in our department but goes back to the university. And secondly, most students are on financial aid. I believe that at least half of my program would not be able to afford a conservatory.
    I’m sorry to rant but it’s just disappointing that others do not understand the invaluable skills my degree gave me. I may not have made it through college without the theatre program. My brain does not work with math or science, it just doesn’t, I’ve tried for my whole academic life! I am only 23 and it is nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels like my degree prepared me for the world. For life, itself. Thank you so much for this article. You hit the nail on the head, for me.

  152. lifephilosophic says:

    This post really resonates.

    Mine is a mixed-bag background in theatre arts and philosophy. Currently, I work the overnight shift at a bagel store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and attend to the bar and post-bar clientele.

    The experiential understanding of “the human condition,” which came from a life of theatre, proves invaluable every night. What always irks me is the extent to which customers in Williamsburg, a wealthy and priveleged area, are suffering as a a result of identifying with the idea of being consumers and/or a disfigured idea of what it means to be an “individual.” Certainly, I work there because I do too.

    The arc of the overnight shift is usually that of a tragic fairy tale where the ending is happy and life, while continuing, also continues to come full circle regardless of the pain required for our growth. Man’s archetypical struggles are on display in their least inhibited forms.

    Danny, the bartender across the street, who I now deeply confide in and who marked the beginning of a heavily promiscuous period in my life one year ago, enters the bagel store drunk at five a.m. My partner, tom, and i were in his bar the previous night attending to some pandora’s box-like conversation for which Danny had offered the advice ‘get out now.’

    At five a.m. Danny ordered a soup and two macaroons and underneath the actions performed at the register or bakery case our relationship with one another was palpably changing. Words of Reason, Wisdom, Conflict and Empowerment, at the bagel store, are also entirely uninhibited and when Danny opened the wound he thought might still be raw, out of a sort-of drunken compassion, i was quick to release some of the information i had burdened myself thinking of. The realease, much needed, and the decision to release ultimately, again, changing the nature of the realtionship within the moment.

    Because I have also been interested in philosophy it has been important for me to notice the intrinsic relationship between eastern concepts of man’s artificial ego and man’s Authentic Self. While the evening takes places within the social structure and the ego must be called upon now and again to perform for a boss, customer, vip or drunk, there is another space in which the evening exists.

    So, when Danny understood the suffering I was experiencing and moved in to kiss me it was not the motion of a common drunk. He kissed me and the experience, as only it can, began to change the nature of the experience. It quickly became obvious that what was a small kiss demonstrative of a tender friendship could become something entirely different. There is another potential present, always, the energies of temptation, inviting us to explore a different reality, escape the moment; something else. These temptations are why someone like Tom and someone like me would enter into a relationship with one another. Out of trust, focused on understanding with one another, through one another and helping one another to better understand.

    And so at five a.m. instead of a larger kiss following that smaller one, there were only words. “Patience is a virture. There are things that Tom and I don’t share now but these things that we have to conquer together are asking us to be conquered.”

    At the bagel store, the aim increasingly becomes to focus in on the energetic activity, try and center the Self into a tranquil state of mind and begin to understand those times when I cannot; eliminate disfigured concepts about how objectification can be beneficial and love is committed through dominance. To, simultaneously, realize the ease and effectiveness of decisions that are made from an open concious space.

    Thank you for reading,
    Ash

  153. strawash says:

    Reblogged this on lifephilosophic and commented:
    Response:

    This post really resonates.

    Mine is a mixed-bag background in theatre arts and philosophy. Currently, I work the overnight shift at a bagel store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and attend to the bar and post-bar clientele.

    The experiential understanding of “the human condition,” which came from a life of theatre, proves invaluable every night. What always irks me is the extent to which customers in Williamsburg, a wealthy and priveleged area, are suffering as a a result of identifying with the idea of being consumers and/or a disfigured idea of what it means to be an “individual.” Certainly, I work there because I do too.

    The arc of the overnight shift is usually that of a tragic fairy tale where the ending is happy and life, while continuing, also continues to come full circle regardless of the pain required for our growth. Man’s archetypical struggles are on display in their least inhibited forms.

    Danny, the bartender across the street, who I now deeply confide in and who marked the beginning of a heavily promiscuous period in my life one year ago, enters the bagel store drunk at five a.m. My partner, tom, and i were in his bar the previous night attending to some pandora’s box-like conversation for which Danny had offered the advice ‘get out now.’

    At five a.m. Danny ordered a soup and two macaroons and underneath the actions performed at the register or bakery case our relationship with one another was palpably changing. Words of Reason, Wisdom, Conflict and Empowerment, at the bagel store, are also entirely uninhibited and when Danny opened the wound he thought might still be raw, out of a sort-of drunken compassion, i was quick to release some of the information i had burdened myself thinking of. The realease, much needed, and the decision to release ultimately, again, changing the nature of the realtionship within the moment.

    Because I have also been interested in philosophy it has been important for me to notice the intrinsic relationship between eastern concepts of man’s artificial ego and man’s Authentic Self. While the evening takes places within the social structure and the ego must be called upon now and again to perform for a boss, customer, vip or drunk, there is another space in which the evening exists.

    So, when Danny understood the suffering I was experiencing and moved in to kiss me it was not the motion of a common drunk. He kissed me and the experience, as only it can, began to change the nature of the experience. It quickly became obvious that what was a small kiss demonstrative of a tender friendship could become something entirely different. There is another potential present, always, the energies of temptation, inviting us to explore a different reality, escape the moment; something else. These temptations are why someone like Tom and someone like me would enter into a relationship with one another. Out of trust, focused on understanding with one another, through one another and helping one another to better understand.

    And so at five a.m. instead of a larger kiss following that smaller one, there were only words. “Patience is a virture. There are things that Tom and I don’t share now but these things that we have to conquer together are asking us to be conquered.”

    At the bagel store, the aim increasingly becomes to focus in on the energetic activity, try and center the Self into a tranquil state of mind and begin to understand those times when I cannot; eliminate disfigured concepts about how objectification can be beneficial and love is committed through dominance. To, simultaneously, realize the ease and effectiveness of decisions that are made from an open concious space.

    Thank you for reading,
    Ash

  154. Sean Coughlin says:

    Tom, this is fantastic! I also went to a small private, liberal arts college in Leavenworth, Kansas then called Saint Mary College (now the University of Saint Mary). I, too, was a theatre major and a voice music minor. After my B.A., I acted a couple years in Rhode Island at a living history museum, and then decided that I needed to take a different path. I went on to pursue an M.F.A. in theatre management in Detroit (always felt I was more business minded). That took me to California managing theatres for 5 years. And now, I took another leap, I quit my job at the theatre in sunny Santa Barbara, California and moved to NYC trying to do Broadway. So far, after a few months, I’m just a Broadway intern, but slowly things are happening for me. A LONG journey, but without that base in college doing everything in the theatre from acting, to building sets, and later as a manager…I would never have taken this step. If I’m unsuccessful, well, I tried and I gave it my all with no regrets. And if I am successful, I will be so happy working in the art that I have truly loved for years. Either way, what will be will be.

    Thanks for the article! It gives me confidence that no matter what path, I’ll be okay. Cheers!

  155. moirat says:

    Thanks for the post. Wow, felt like you were writing about me – well, except that I am female and went to St. Mary’s College (now Univeristy) in Winona, MN. Though at times regret not pushing for a career in the theatre (yikes, it IS automatic for us ole theatre geeks ;) I will NEVER regret the decision to be a Theatre Major. Thanks for the reminder that we do use it every single day.

  156. Hmmm, this post really made me think. A little background on myself: I’m 20 years old, male, attending the University of Alaska Anchorage as a Technology major with an emphasis on business. I have never taken any acting lessons, but I have always been interested in doing so. In my early childhood, I was offered to audition for a television commercial and as I grew up, I regret my decision of being so shy and naive back then. Now in my peek years, I desperately seek out leadership opportunities and my track record speaks for itself: in high school, I was all about JROTC and now in college, I am holding 2 officer titles in my fraternity, an executive of 2 organizations, and am a first-generation member of “The Emerging Leaders Program” (ELP). I’m also a member of 2 different national honor societies -_-. Speaking of ELP, we had a retreat yesterday at TBA Theatre here in Anchorage and as I stepped inside this quaint little space, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of excitement as is always the case, when I step on a stage, or a production set (or simply when I am given an assignment to act things out in class). I guess I’m asking for advice here, is it too late to take lessons this late in my life or is it totally appropriate?

    • It’s never to late, Marco. If I’m reading between the lines correctly, you’re feeling called to explore this path. It may not be lessons. I might simply be auditioning for a play or taking a beginning acting class or attending a workshop. I think you’ll be glad you did. It will definitely not hurt you, and I’m almost certain it will have a positive results in your life, your relationships, your leadership, and wherever your life journey leads you. I have shared the stage with others who, like you, didn’t take the step until later in life. They almost unanimously wish they’d done it earlier, but I’ve never heard one person regret it.

      • Joseph says:

        This is my personal reply to Marco asking if it’s too late. NO. I was 32 years old when I did my first community theatre play…no experience or theatre education, but got 9 different character roles. I was immediately bitten by “the bug”. It opened up a whole new world for me. Since then I have been involved in over 400 productions as an actor, director or tech. Community theatre is a great way to get your feet wet. Age is not a factor…go for it!!!

  157. Fantastic article…I must share. Myself : a BFA in Theatre from TCU, 1987
    Your words were so truly spoken. I’ve tried telling others this before, just not as eloquently as you
    Thank you for writing this….

  158. danebenko says:

    It’s not the degree you get, it’s how you apply it.

    –DB

  159. eagander says:

    Well, well said! I wish my parents were still around, I would send this to them. I, too, majored in “theatre” (or “the-A’-tur” as it was pronounced in Oklahoma), and even spent a number of years working professionally across the U.S. maybe just to prove my parents wrong (“Honey, we just want to you be happy, but we feel we need to say that we don’t think you’ll make a living at it.” Uh, Ma, I did.). Eventually, I veered off into other fields – education, communication/language, mental health, rehabilitation and finally to case management working with people with disabilities – but I know, beyond any doubt, my theatre time was training me for life beyond theatre. Thanks for the validation!

  160. As a former theatre major I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I am currently writing a short story, that will probably never be seen, and was hoping to get your permission to reference this post.

  161. Rachel says:

    Thank you so, so much for writing this. As a fairly recent grad (just out of school 3 years myself), it is pretty darn difficult finding a job and can be pretty discouraging when people roll their eyes at an arts degree. I’ve told my theatre students; If you learn absolutely nothing else from studying theatre, you will learn how to be a better human being. Thank you for the inspiring words.

  162. Tom,
    Thanks for the article. I graduated from Northeast MO State University (now Truman State University) in 1993 with my Theatre (yes, snooty “re”) degree. I now work as a sign language interpreter. “Work with what you have,” “Improvisation,” “Dealing with Difficult Human Beings” are all part of my daily job. Plus, I travel presenting workshops for other interpreters and consistently receive positive comments on my presentation skills. You really summed up the small college/university theatre experience. Thanks again.

  163. Michael Chiasson says:

    James Cagney, the story goes, when asked “What does it take to become a great actor?”, replied: “You hit your mark, you look the other fella in the eye, and you tell the truth”. Professional training that demands you tell the truth has much merit, not often credited. The slings and arrows of those who find our work pretentious, unproductive, possibly dangerous, are blunted by the clear exposition of your persuasive, gentle argument. Thank you.

    • I remember that Cagney anecdote from many years ago. I probably heard it in college, but it had been lost in the archives of my brain’s hard drive. Thank you for helping recall it to mind. You are so correct in the way others misunderstand the discipline. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  164. alisonamazed says:

    Reblogged this on Alison Amazed and commented:
    This is so true, but I’ve never lied and said my degree was in Communication arts, and yes, it’s a under appreciated field of study.

    • Thanks, for the comment Alison. My diploma actually reads “Communication Arts” so I don’t feel like I’m lying when I’ve stated that. If anything, I think that my alma mater was less than specific with the particular concentration of Communication Arts I studied as they tried to find budgetary efficiencies in merging two departments (small school – small budgets). Cheers!

  165. Pingback: The Myth of the Theatre Major Stigma | Marley McClean

  166. Came here via Alison’s reblog. It’s a good read and a great presentation – a mix of personal quirky anecdotes and underlying business methods. Clever. I don’t need to wish you much success in your business life because you’re obviously there :) And great CR replying to 150+ comments individually, and where appropriate, personally. You obviously learned time management well too.

  167. Clementine says:

    I knew my theatre major prepared me for the working world! I knew it and no one believed me!! I’ve been going into interviews for weeks attempting to articulate just these things and, finally, someone has confirmed my position and provided me excellent additional examples. Thank you, thank you!

  168. Bobby says:

    I also have a theatre degree. . . I distinctly remember all of the other students watching me play freeze tag in Acting Ensemble, while they walked to their chemistry and engineering classes. . .

    I’ve been EXTREMELY lucky and fortunate to be where I am today- employed. The best way to be successful with a theatre degree is by developing the common sense to do something else (much like the author of this article).

    I’m just glad that I got it out of my system. I’d hate to be one of those people who quit their career in a midlife crisis to pursue acting because they still think “they could make it.”

  169. Elaine Nash says:

    Very, very good points. This will help a lot of kids who want to major in theatre talk their parents into letting them! :)

    My son’s a theatre major in NYC, and thank goodness, is already finding professional work. Fingers crossed that will last. If it doesn’t, it’s good to know that his education is arming him with the tools to succeed in other ways. Your 10 points applied sound like criteria for a great President! :)

    Typical NYC convo…
    Person #1: “What do you do?”
    Person #2: “I’m an actor.”
    Person #1: “Oh, really! Which restaurant?”

    • Ha! Nice. Yes, Elaine, I’ve had a lot of comments from both students and educators who say they’re going to be sharing it with the parents. Kudos to you for believing in your son. I’m sure he’s going to do just fine – no matter where his journey takes him. Cheers!

    • Vérité says:

      Wow Elaine, that’s a VERY compelling idea! What if dramatic skills really are criteria for a great President? I think you may be on to something extremely subtle and profound.

      Of the last 5, the best actors (at least in my opinion) were Clinton and Reagan. So many people think of these two as polar opposites–and in many ways they were–yet both are considered to be the most successful recent Presidents.

      So many aspects of leadership are quasi-theatrical. Actors must understand and hold the attention of their audience. They need a good sense of timing. They often must be able to bluff, bluster and improvise. They may be required to feign interest (or disinterest). Diplomacy requires tremendous attention to social and contextual detail. So it seems what makes for good actors certainly doesn’t hurt leaders. Now politics is something of a contact sport, so this is no place for a prima donna. While superstars may tend toward this, rank-and-file actors are used to directors cutting them to pieces. Maybe what made Reagan a great President was that he overcame being a mediocre actor with a tough hide.

      In my earlier post I mentioned that my bachelor’s in psychology and all the conceptual material in the world is meaningless without some practical ability. I went into psychology to help people, not manipulate rats, and I found out it’s much more of an art (like theater) than a science (like math or chemistry). The people who help others most, love the most (regardless of job titles). The best way to love others is to understand them, so empathy may be the #1 skill that embodies “real love.” It’s essentially the ability to listen with the mind and heart—and to deeply understand and identify with other people’s perspectives, and it’s priceless. I think this is the better part of charisma (i.e. not the shallow stuff like Denzel Washington’s visual symmetry or James Earl Jones’ voice). For me the best place to learn empathy was theater. When Bill Clinton said, “I feel your pain,” many like me were not impressed; nevertheless, I think he may really have meant what he said. Another trait I mentioned previously was story telling. Reagan and Clinton were both masters. Stories connect us to each other, give us historical context and add value to every human endeavor. They express deep truths and connect our otherwise meaningless lives together into something significant.

      While I agree that acting teaches us improvisation, project management, how to working within time and budget constraints, how to play well with others, how to understanding the human condition, how to get over ourselves and do what needs to be done, how to work hard, how to make tough choices, how to presentation ourselves, and how to make the most of what you have, I think great people must also be able to express great truths, and the only good presidents are great people. To be a great president requires at least modest acting skills–and everything mentioned above–but also charisma, real love, empathy and story telling.

      Thanks for your great thoughts!

      • Vérité says:

        Sorry about all the grammatical mistakes–I wish I could edit it. Clearly I hit “Post Comment” prematurely. Once upon a time I taught writing, but alas, I’m teaching math & physics right now…more science than art ;-)

      • You’re making me feel better… did you see all the comments from English Majors correcting the grammatical mistakes in my post? Oy! You’re in good company, my friend!

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  171. PS says:

    Well written, Tom. Great days at Jud Tech!

    • Thanks, PS! I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat more when I saw you and the Mrs. at homecoming. I would have loved to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on life. I still fondly remember driving into Chicago on numerous occasions to pick you up from your graduate classes and grab dinner in the city. Great days at Jud Tech, indeed.

  172. J. Majors says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. We always called my daughter’s Degree in Theatre “The Degree in Basket Weaving”. However, I knew that someday the skills learned at Johnson State College in Vermont would serve her well. She now works at a 5-Star Luxury Resort in Oman, those skills have come to help her many, many times. The hospitality industry can be brutal, back-stabbing, and some guests are downright nasty. You always have to put on the “air” of being courteous, professional, and understanding. She does it well. She presents extremely well, and she makes us very proud. Thanks for this list, she sent it to me!

    • Thanks for sharing your daughter’s story. As a customer satisfaction and service consultant, I know some of the nightmares of which you speak. I can totally understand how your daughter’s experiences and education have prepared her for being successful in the hospitality industry, which (you’re right) can be brutal.

  173. David Fuller says:

    As a theatre major myself (technically combined “Communications/Theatre”!), I wholly concur with this! I think you missed one point though. When I interviewed for my first “real” sales job 16 years ago, the interviewer asked me what it was about a Theater major that I thought qualified me for the job. Using my improvisation skills (a point you made!), I immediately responded, “If I get off a bad phone call or am having a bad day, no one on the other end of the phone will know, because I will not let bad experiences from 30 seconds ago affect me – they will simply know me as happy, helpful Dave” (or something to that effect). In other words, my acting skills will ensure that no one ever knows that I am personally having a bad day. No customer wants to talk to a miserable or unhappy sales rep; sales are based on relationships, and people like talking to happy people (well, usually they do).

    In any case, I got the job, and have been in sales ever since.

    And if you look at my website you can see how I am STILL applying my theatre skills and experience to something else I love: Astronomy. That effort is turning out to be rather successful too, as I am making mythology videos using green screen to teach others how to find things in the night sky for live presentations at informal places of education, and the YouTube videos continually get high marks from beginners in astronomy.

    • Dave, my friend, you just stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. In 18 years teaching people about customer service, I have relentlessly reminded sales and service professionals that they are actors whether their job description says it or not. My co-worker likes telling CSRs that when they pick up the phone “It’s the nine to five show starring YOU.” Thanks for giving me a witness that I can share with my clients.

      • David Fuller says:

        Tom, thanks for that, and you’re absolutely right. One other thing that is important to note is that being in theater can knock the shyness out of people; well, at least the outward appearance of it. Again, I am a perfect example. I still consider myself a shy person, but very few people describe me that way (only those who know me best actually do). People say, “But you’re so outgoing! So extroverted!” and I just smile and know that the character of “me” that is “outgoing” and “extroverted” is winning Academy Awards for his work on that front.

        Today I can get up in front of 10 or 10,000 people and speak; learning that nervousness is merely adrenalin *that actually helps you* is an important, learned understanding of oneself and one’s own physiological reaction to being in front of an audience. USE that adrenalin to be better, rather than thinking that those nerves are making you worse while “feeling” like “everyone is staring at me.” Knowing how to channel that positive physical response to one’s benefit is a skill – and one learned in THEATER!! :-)

  174. Cara Winter says:

    Dear Tom,

    Thank you so much for your post.

    I was an Acting major at New York University, and subsequently went on to a professional career in theater. I acted, produced, wrote, directed, SM’d, costumed (and in-between jobs, temp’d…) from 1997 – 2007. I’m currently on a hiatus from acting – working as an office manager, raising my 4-year old son, and writing (plays) in my spare time.

    As with you, my years in theater school (and then, in professional theater) gave me confidence, and taught me the value of collaboration, active listening, improv, patience, persistence, and making ‘something out of nothing’. And I’ll bet that two years of intensive Shakespeare study gave me a deeper understanding of human nature, than a psychology class ever could have!

    Now, virtually every day (when trying to, once again, convince my 4-year-old to put on his shoes; or attempting to calm down an investor who’s worried about his bottom line)… I find myself using some skill I learned in acting school, or figured out on the fly, in front of an audience.

    In the past, when applying for a ‘real’ job, I’ve kept my theater background …in the background. It’s on my resume, but I’ve never shouted it from the rooftops. But your post has really encouraged me to mention my background, for some of the truly UNIQUE and VALUABLE skills I have, came from my time in the theater. …I might even use some of these talking points in my next year-end review!!

    So, thanks. A really great post.

  175. Heemers T. says:

    Reblogged this on Muses of a tiny oddball and commented:
    This is amazing! Wish all those who doubt read this :)

  176. Ann Parry says:

    Very well put! As a tv host with both a background in theatre and business, I agree wholeheartedly!

  177. Peter M says:

    Very nice post. After two theater degrees (BA and MFA) and a career in a related field I think I might add one addition thought. You touched on it with #4, but specifically Collabaration. Any successful theatrical production is a clear demonstration of “the sum of the parts” adage. Individual contributions intertwined in a way that creates something greater than any individual could acheive. That is a lesson I apply daily. Thanks for the great thoughts!

  178. Ruth says:

    You’re an alumnus. ;)
    I figured you’d want to get that right.

  179. Carlen Gilseth says:

    Excellent! I will share this with my high school theatre classes.

  180. Lynn Seeling says:

    Great post! Here’s my story. I attended a small college in rural MN, one of only five declared tech majors and the only female. I specialized in stage management and props. I spent years “apologizing” to short-sighted (or small minded) employers for my “useless” degree. Then I came up with a way to frame it for myself:

    * I know the meaning of a deadline. When the curtain goes up, you better be ready!

    * I know the meaning of hard work and long hours. I can commit to a project and work round the clock to see it thru.

    * I’m a project manager. I can take a nebulous idea like “I want this set to look like Spring smells!” and figure out how much lumber, how many nails, how big a crew and what kind of schedule will be needed to pull that off.

    * I have a solid background in history, the great philosophers and and finest literature. I know the English language; can write and speak “the speech clearly”. I know group dynamics, can read body language, subtext and nuance.

    * I can develop and manage a budget, create a marketing campaign, promote, advertise and sell a product, run a box office and record a voice-over.

    * I know how to take a risk, attempting something I’ve never done before. I can imagine; I can design; I can research and execute. I can turn a doughnut into a Baroque carving, make a toilet float into a brass lamp – some 2×4, paper towels and little Elmer’s Glue into a 18th century table.

    * I can lead a team and be a team player. I know diplomacy and tact. I’ve counseled and cajoled; I’ve coached and curried favors. I’ve dealt with prima donnas and wallflowers, temper tantrums and tornados.

    * I’m Radar O’Reilly. I’m the Artful Dodger. I’m a Jack of all trades. I can swing a hammer, wield a paint brush, wire a spotlight, tape a sound track. I can stand in for the dance captain, turn pages in the orchestra pit, pull lines on the fly rail, call cues from the booth. I’ve carried “The Book”.

    * I’m a quick study. I can think on my feet and prioritize on the fly. I can tamp down my fears and perform under pressure.

    * I know how to take a bow.

    I say “Theatre majors unite and stand up against the tyranny of the business major!”

  181. Paul Orsett says:

    John,

    I am a high school theatre teacher and would LOVE to get your permission to let my students read your “10 ways” blog.

  182. Trish O'Brien says:

    This could also be called “Things My Parents Were Too Shorted-sighted to See (Even Though They Saw Me Doing it!)”

  183. Jennifer Ondrejka says:

    Thank you, Tom! Your essay speaks to all of us who pursued “impractical” majors–theatre, music, philosophy. . .in my case, all three :-)

    I acted and did some tech work for about 10 years. The ensemble company I worked with had a mission to challenge ourselves and the audience to a greater understanding of the human condition. The greatest epiphanies in my life have come from seeing great plays or exploring great roles.

    Unfortunately, I could never support myself by acting. I did that by working advocacy and programs for people with disabilities. That was enjoyable, but not intellectually challenging.

    I loved your essay and all the great comments from people who “get it”. I’ve had people remark on how lucky I was to have one part of my life where I could make a difference for the world and one part for fun. They were right –they just didn’t realize which was which. .

  184. Fabulous post, Tom!
    Have you seen this one? It’s similar in content and excellent, too:
    WHAT THEATRE MAJORS LEARN:
    THE ADVANTAGES THEATRE MAJORS
    HAVE FOR ALL JOBS
    or….
    What Can You “Do” with a Theatre Major?
    Plenty!
    25 Special Advantages YOU Have.
    By Dr. Louis E. Catron

    http://lecatr.people.wm.edu/majorslearn.html

  185. baki says:

    Reblogged this on The Movable Type and commented:
    Definitely something to think about. Passion and discipline in your field of study can take you farther than academic achievement. And success is within reach with or without a major.

  186. Vérité says:

    Reblogged this on The Constitution Club and commented:
    What if The Best (worldly) preparation for politics isn’t a political science, marketing or law degree, but…a degree in performing arts? Wayfarer’s post is getting lots of traffic and comments (including a few by me). It’s an interesting and provocative idea to think that being a theatre major actually prepares one for a variety of “roles” in life. I’d love to hear what you all think about it!

  187. Hi Tom –
    I’m going to join the throngs that repost this, with your kind permission. I’m starting to collect stories of folks who have started with performing degrees (theater/music/opera/dance/MT) & have successfully (and happily) transitioned into another field. I feel like the journey gets a bit of a bad rap in the larger circles, but those of us who have made the transition are pretty happy and fulfilled…and have carried forward a lot of things we learned as performers.

    Thanks for the brilliant illustration.
    Lee Anne

    http://indirectroutes.org

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  191. Hi, Tom if it wasn’t for me reading this post that you put I would have croaked. I come from a place where alot of my people in my inner circle tell me that theater is a waste of time. This is something that I want to do with a passion and all I hear is negativity on what I want to do with my life. I am 22 years old and have not yet reached my goals. Everytime I try to say what I want to accomplish people would tell me why I shouldn’t do it. I just want to say thank you for posting this because if it wasn’t for you I would be giving up and listening to all the criticism. Your words mean alot to me!

  192. Wow… great way to put it all. I’m about to be off to college and really want to do theatre! It is what I love! Your blog is making me realize that doing what I love will lead me to where I need to be. Thank you so much for that.

  193. Pingback: Theater!!!!! really? « Ways to Live

  194. Peg says:

    I see the truth in this when I watch my brother and his wife. They both have theatre degrees.

  195. Tom Schulz says:

    I’m sharing and posting this. Thanks! I have been teaching theatre (yes, same spelling) in the International School system (Jakarta and Singapore) for 17 years now, both at the Middle and High School levels. Although a very small minority of my students end up pursuing a career in theatre, they never forget a show they were in! You’re right on about what we learn from doing theatre. I especially liked the finish, “Study what you love. Follow your passion. It will serve you well wherever life’s road takes you.”….Too few parents really understand the power of this and put all kids of unreasonable pressure on their children to study something which will ‘secure their future’…as we know..no such thing! Joseph Campbell called it ‘following your bliss’….

    Tom Schulz
    Singapore American School

    • Tom, thank you for taking the time to write such a nice comment. All the best to you in your teaching and to all your students who are following their passion for the stage there in Asia!

  196. gemmonay says:

    Reblogged this on Carpe Diem and commented:
    Oh, I just love Theatre :) (haha yes, I did that with the “re”)

  197. One of my theatre professors lamented “waste of talent” when I left the profession to pursue a master’s degree in elementary education. Not at all; I use that background every day of my working life and beyond. Thank you. Your post is Spot(light) on!!

    • Thanks, Sara! I appreciate you adding your own story to the mix!

    • Vérité says:

      I’ve received theater awards and I’m now a middle/high school math & science teacher at a private school. Teaching and theater synergize especially well. I think a number of us have discovered that theatrics and pedagogy have more than a few points of commonality. (NOTE: Maestra_S, below, is also a teacher.)

  198. Maestra_S says:

    Tom, I realize I am quite a bit late reading this post, but I happened to randomly search for theatre arts stuff and this popped up. This brought tears to my eyes. I was actively involved i theatre in both high school and somewhat in college. Unfortunately, I had scholarship money that would pay for a completely different college major and choose to pursue that area. I am a teacher and am about to start my 6th year teaching. Based on my experience, I have been asked to teach a theatre course at the high school where I teach (and coincidentally attended as well). I cannot tell you how excited I am for this opportunity to revive the love for theatre arts and more importantly honor the memory of my theatre director. She retired the summer before my senior year of high school and passed away my freshman year of college. I will definitely pass on your article to my theatre students.

    • Please don’t worry about being late to the post. It seems to me that you stumbled upon it at just the right time! Thanks for your kind words and for letting me know how much it meant to you. All the best to you with your class. If you think about it, please let me know how it goes!

  199. josh says:

    Tom! Great post…I ws a theatre major in college but dropped out of theatre life for a while…say 10 years a while. After finally puttin down the bottle, and rediscovering God, Im hittin up an audition this week!

    • Way to go, Josh! Congratulations on a new start. I went about 15 years from the time I graduated with my degree and got back up on stage in a production. It was so awesome. I knew that I was home.

      Break a leg at the audition! Let me know how it goes.

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  201. Kim Z Dale says:

    I love this. I actually was a business major (then an MBA then an information security major), but I did a lot of theater in college, before college and since college (20+ years ago ). I still consider myself a playwright even though I can count my productions since having kids on two fingers.

    My experience in theater has strengthened my business skills for all the reasons you describe. One more thing I’d add is that people consider it quirky, which makes me memorable in interviews or networking events. I feel that standing out as a “theatre person” has helped me get jobs and promotions.

  202. Scot Crum says:

    Hi Tom,

    I know I’m way late to the party but just ran across a link to this. I gotta say how so true you are. I started out a theatre major just out of high school, dropped out, changed plans, life happened. As I got older I started regretting not finishing my BA in Theatre so I went back part-time to finally finish it.

    Your article resonated with me because after I’d gone back to school, I started making strong connections to business and couldn’t help thinking that theatre should almost be a required course of study for business majors. I’d never thought that when I was a 20 something but the connections were so obvious several years later when I had returned.

    Deadlines, budgets, promotions and collaborating with a bunch of college kids for my senior directing project. (which was a far better reward than anything I’ve ever done in my job)

    Oh my God you are so right about learning to observe others in Acting 1&2. As you learned in acting, when two people are having a conversation, one person is trying to get something from the other. There’s always a reason, even in real life. One day when my boss was talking to me, just after I learned this, I couldn’t stop thinking I wanted him to just shut up, cut to the chase and tell me what he wanted…enough with all this chit-chat. It was weird, I don’t usually think that.

    There’s a couple things I learned from my scene painting professor that I will never forget: sidewalks are not just gray and how to paint a straight line without using masking tape.

    Great piece, thanks.

  203. Reblogged this on thespistravels and commented:
    THIS.

  204. Amy C, teacher, mom, theatre nerd says:

    I’m a middle school Theatre teacher. I’d love to use this in my classroom–haven’t decided exactly how, but maybe as a reading assignment answer for those who don’t buy that a Theatre class has anything to offer them. Would that be okay with you? I would, of course, credit you appropriately.

    • Permission heartily granted, Amy. Thanks for giving me attribution. Let me know how it goes!

    • Scot Crum says:

      Amy… a middle school theatre teacher, how awesome! it was my junior high drama teacher (wow, does that date me?) who turned on my love for theatre and made english something fun and interesting and got me to come out of my shell…!

  205. Don’t forget 11. Learning to deal with disappointment daily.

  206. Reblogged this on Just sayin' and commented:
    This is an older post, I know, but I just came across it via my theatre’s blog page… sound advice, right here.

  207. kelly hadous says:

    Hi Tom, I enjoyed your article. it’s so true that the theater is really just about life, there’s nothing fake about it. I studied acting in NY and London, and worked as a securities trader. Now my business, http://www.wintheroom.com coaches people to develop and hone their communications skills. The great thing about all of this is that I’m still learning.

  208. Leigh Aberanthy says:

    As a Theatre major from a small liberal arts college who is now a Project Manager, I wholeheartedly agree with all your points, and have made many of them myself in job interviews!

  209. June says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am currently a Business major at USC and debating whether or not to switch to Theatre. I really agree with all of the wonderful points you have made, as well as those in the comments. Thank you again for helping me see through the fog. I think I will be doing it next semester!

    -June

  210. Pingback: How Theatre Prepares Ones for Success » Oasis Arts

  211. Lora says:

    I want to share this article with my readers but my Blogger blog
    has stopped updating my feeds, it’s showing that I haven’t posted in a
    month on my friend’s blogrolls (I post several times a week!). When I fix it I will certainly link back to this site.

  212. flat says:

    Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

  213. Phyllis Shier says:

    What a wonderful post! Thanks, Tom. My lovely daughter will graduate from Ohio Wesleyan this year with a major in theater and, like graduates from any program these days, is concerned about her future. She is a wonderful, well-rounded person who just completed a semester at the British American Drama Academy and I am VERY PROUD of her and of her accomplishments! I’ve sent her your post and I know it will be very uplifting to her. Thank you!

  214. What an insightful post! It helped me recognize the full value of the Theatre major I completed back in 1985. Since then, I’ve become a counselor in private practice – a religious teacher and presenter – a developer of websites – a mother of 5 creative and compassionate children – a songwriter and playwright – a business owner – an editor and publisher – an author of articles on psychological topics – a writer and director of many different plays and programs. People ask me all the time “How do you do everything you do?” Until your blog, I never realized – so much of the answer to that question is the theatre training I received early in my life – for all the reasons identified in your post.

    After high school, I wanted to learn about human beings, so I was trying to decide between a Theatre major and a Psychology major. I finally concluded that Psychology was the study of people from the outside – but theatre is the study of people on the inside. The compassion, understanding, and insight generated from embodying the stories and mannerisms of other human beings proved indeed to be unparalleled preparation – for counseling, teaching, performing, parenting, and other tasks I’ve shouldered these past 30 years. Till now, I had not given credit where credit was due. Thank you for your wise and insightful words. It helped me make sense of an often paradoxical, but rich and fulfilling life experience – in and out of the theatre.

  215. David Hill says:

    EVERYBODY knows you’ll never get a job with a theatre degree. Oh, except me, of course. 20-some years of freelancing in NYC and most of my work at least tangentially connected to the varied skills I picked up as a scenic design student. And now I am in film and TV working right through this current recession/depression. Glad I ignored Conventional Wisdom.

  216. eng-actor says:

    I just came across this post on facebook and I wholeheartedly agree!

    I came to college studying mechanical engineering because that’s what everyone says I should have done, but I was always drawn to theatre (and looked at the college websites and picked up the pamphlets and such, but I didn’t have the balls). In the recent past I was always too shy/anxious or couldn’t get past the expectation that my family had for me (who said I shouldn’t do theatre because I hadn’t done much theatre…? ha). Engineering felt so rigid but I kept going. I also took design classes but they were much to rigid as well. My creative side was dying away (not to mention I was getting depressed…).

    I started taking theatre classes last year and although I was terrified at sucking, I loved them (mostly because I didn’t suck too bad). Because I hadn’t done too much serious stuff in high school and earlier, I hadn’t learned the bad habits that a lot of people had with acting. I changed my theatre minor to a major and I feel that everything I’m learning is so practical (even in the stage crew practicum where I had to show up and sweep and mop the floor before performances, or in costume design where I’m actually learning how to sew).

    As far as the deadlines go, sure actors may be ready with their lines and such, but in every other instance (such as returning email or turning in assignments) the majority of theatre majors and professors I know are consistently late.

    I’m currently in a Meisner class which is perfect for me because you don’t have to act, just BE, and be observant.

    I still have a lot of performance anxiety, but it’s getting better. For my first set of auditions I got called back for an improv class (which calls back anybody…), for my second set of auditions I got called back for the lead (!) and a supporting role in twelfth night (viola and maria), but I choked in the call backs (anxiety), but I know that I can only improve.

    While I will graduate (in a total of 5 years) with a BS in mechanical engineering, a BA in theatre, and a minor in design, I hope to use the theatre the most (I am not a techie… I act). While I might be behind other theatre majors, I think my drive in knowing that I hate engineering pushes me to learn even more.

  217. Ken Martin says:

    As a theatre artist and chair of a theatre program, I tell countless parents a variation of this information. But nice to have it in writing, from someone who currently isn’t in professional theatre. Thanks so much.

  218. Reblogged this on The African Renaissance and commented:
    Theatre is indeed an empowering thing!

  219. Scot Crum says:

    Hi Tom,
    Do you realize it’s been over a year since you wrote this article and you’re still getting comments? Not too many writers can make claim to garnering such interest in a written piece for an entire year.

    Kudos to you!

    I too left a comment several weeks (i think–dunno its way up there someplace) ago myself and continue to get emails every time someone leaves a comment. I was going thru my email tonight when I ran across yet another one…and of course I had to read it. That’s when I looked to see the date you first posted this piece.

    Wow.

    I guess there are quite a few of us out there who will always know and cherish the difference between theater and theatre and feel forever connected to that place where magic happens. We all know we made the right decision to study theatre even if we’re not doing it as a profession…and its nice to know we’re not alone.

    (what’s that Apple commercial with Richard Dreyfus…something about the crazy ones?)

    Kudos again, –Scot.

    • Thanks, so much, Scot. I am continually scratching my head at the legs this post has, especially since it was a random 10 minute jot made in a plane on my iPad while on a business trip. It’s now found its way to the home pages of several high school and university theatre departments – including the University of Iowa where I was long ago accepted into the MFA program in acting, before I chose a different path. What I haven’t shared is all of the parents I’ve run into on planes and in business lunches the past year who, in random conversation, moan about their teenager wanting to major in theatre. I seem to have been providentially placed in the role of champion for theatre programs everywhere!

      Thanks for taking the time to revisit the post and for your kind words. Indeed… here’s to all of us crazy ones!

  220. Pingback: What do you want to do? « PogoWills !

  221. Browse says:

    A well written counter intuitive piece to a often negative,stereotypical thinking about theater majors. This inspired me to write a post about my thoughts on liberal arts studies http://pogowills.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/what-do-you-want-to-do/; I had to create a link to this article on my post, if you don’t mind.

  222. I loved, loved this article. Can I share it on my blog? Agree with so many points, especially the Presentation Skills. I was the shy girl in high school who was afraid to ever contribute, Studying Theatre in College has definitely changed that. I’m more outgoing, more confident and not afraid to speak in presentations anymore.

  223. Jon M. says:

    I haven’t felt proud of my theatre degree in 15 years. In fact, I often deride it in a light hearted way. Because even though I received my BFA from a very reputable acting school, NO ONE IN L.A. EVER GAVE A CRAP. My ridicule is surprising because I happen to make a good living off acting (mostly commercials) and writing/producing (Spanish TV and low budget films). I’m not the “next Robert De Niro” that I once dreamed of becoming, but my career has afforded me a house, and a nice middle class life in the suburbs for my beautiful wife and two amazing kids. Yet I constantly make fun of what a waste of time theatre school was. Well, after reading your column today, I will think twice before I do that again. Truth is: being a theatre student from the age of 10 has served me in countless ways. It is a difficult business (and maybe that’s where my derision originates) but as a theatre teacher of mine once said: “If you can see yourself doing anything else, do it! Be a dentist!” I didn’t listen. And I’m glad I didn’t. I love my life. And a lot of it, I owe to being a theatre student. I met my wife in theatre school by the way. Guess that should make my kids happy that I went to theatre school, too, since their life depended on it. Great article. Thanks.

  224. Tom, thanks so much for posting this article. I am a retired theater professor from a small college (Presbyterian College in South Carolina), and I spent my entire professional career emphasizing to my students the very points you made in your post. A former student of my shared this on Facebook. .She says, “Amen to every thing this man (Tom) says, and Bravo to Dale Osborn Rains, who prepared me for life as a teacher and writer in more ways than he knows. Shout out to all my fellow Alpha Psi Omegas as well–no production works with only one cast/crew member. :)”

  225. Boomdeeadda says:

    I found your post by way of my friend Alys, also a theatre major. I’m so happy she shared it. I was a CSR for a major communications company for many years and as a ‘front line’ employee it was so important to have someone with these skills to support and lead the team. Perhaps corporations should rethink their training to include some theatre mythology , it all makes so much ‘common sense’.

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  228. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this post! I am always looking for ways that a theatre major is helpful after graduation, but so many articles and links I find are all about how business, or nursing, or graphic art degrees are what’s needed in order to find success in the ‘real world’. Of course, theatre majors know differently, but it’s nice to finely find something that can justify our course of study, whether any of us decide to pursue professional theatre or not. Very encouraging, and helpful. Thanks!

  229. Pingback: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success | Jeff the HR Guy

  230. Tom, I’m co-chair of Brookline High (Massachusetts) Friends of Performing Arts. We are planning a forum for our performing arts students and their parents entitled “Careers for Performing Artists”. We came across this blog post and would like permission to print it and use it as a handout. Of course, we would credit you! Would you kindly email me directly with your response?

    Thanks very much–

  231. Aleyna says:

    Thank you for this inspiring post! I’m a high school senior who has only been doing theatre since eleventh grade (moved schools; my old school didn’t have theatre), and as graduation is quickly approaching, I’ve realized that I absolutely have to do theatre in college. I was going to double major in writing and psychology, but theatre is the better, more fun psychology program, isn’t it? Even though I really love acting and have become quite good at it, my ultimate goal is to be a writer (perhaps for the stage, but who knows), and for me theatre is really just an extension of literature- literature brought to life, maybe. Doing theatre has really helped me with character development in writing, because it forces you to take the character you’re playing and figure out who they are, what their quirks are and where they stem from. I’ve always thought that empathy is the most important virtue a person can have, so I guess it’s only fitting that I’m drawn to theatre and literature. I can’t wait to (hopefully!) join the ranks of successful theatre majors!

  232. Joseph says:

    Tom, my first post on here was over a year ago. When someone posts to this, I get a message to my email. It is amazing how many people have been inspired by you. That should make you feel really good! I’m the TD of a large high school in Tennessee which (for the first, almost, 60 years) has not had theater classes. There has been an after school club which has been their “Drama Department”. I’m happy to announce that someone (I’d like to credit the club sponsor and, maybe myself, for pushing it) decided to add theater courses for next school year. I’m so excited that Far more students might have the chance to experience the Wonderful, Wacky world of theater. The last play I directed there, I included the addy to this site in my director’s notes with the hope that parents could see, and understand how theater could be a major factor in their children’s life. Thank You

    • Joseph, Thank you so much for your encouragement and for taking the time to come back and share your own story. I’m so excited to hear that your students are going to get an opportunity to take theatre classes. I’m afraid far too many schools are moving the opposite direction. Thanks also for sharing my post in with your students’ parents. All the best to you and the kids in your program!

  233. Lynna G says:

    Reblogged this on Morning Star Studio Workshops and commented:
    I have to reblog this

  234. Pingback: Everyone’s a Critic (and, Appropriately, Should Be) | Wayfarer

  235. Fahim says:

    Theatre major, here, have been out only 2 years now, in NYC. Still acting and doing theatre, but this article really reminded me of how many other skills and interests I have. I’ve surprisingly held jobs I never thought I’d be able to get, but my ability to improvise, write, connect with people and come up with creative solutions can really be applied to any type of work. It’s also nice to see all the comments here, and discover all the diverse, unique and fulfilling lives we’ve all had. A theatre degree truly made us all compassionate and productive people. Thank you for this post, and I would like to be able to share it!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Fahim. You are certainly welcome to share the post and extend the conversation. I only ask that you provide attribution and an address or link back when you do. All the best to you!

  236. Sarah Donn says:

    Nice post! I completely agree with you. My time in theatre definitely prepared me for success. I recently graduated with my Master’s in teaching. There is no way I could have ever seen myself in the role of teacher if it hadn’t been for the skills I learned in acting classes!!!

  237. Seth Hunter says:

    I just want to say thank you for this. Im an aspiring theatrical designer who is stuck in a retail job but this has lit the fire under my butt to follow through with my dreams! Thanks again!

  238. Mary Wagner-Webb says:

    Tom,
    I have been a technology sales person for the last 20 years, enterprise software sales. I am asked several times how my degree helped me with my career, especially since it is a Theatre degree. A degree far from the world in which I live in now. I tell them, that no degree could have prepared me better!

    I need to think on my feet, speak in front of large and small groups of different backgrounds, interest, etc. I need to punt when demonstrations go poorly. I need to stress the positive and downplay the negative. I need to look good, even when I feel awful. I need to be “on” at the drop of a hat (or a phone call). I need to be able to study people and determine their needs and emotions. I need to do ‘what it takes’ to get the job done, from technical to presentation. All things that I learned several years ago.

    In the technology market, one constantly needs to study to stay current. But the basics, I learned over thirty years ago while earning my BA.

    I could not agree with you more.

  239. Pingback: Tired of defending my theater major | Drafting Kelundra

  240. Alekcis Ewane says:

    Hey my name is alekcis like in alexis but the “kc” replaces the “x”. i just graduated from high school, and my plans are to make it in the performing arts buissiness. During my whole senior year i’ve been SO scared (sometimes even feeling abnormal) because what i love to do seem so unusual. But reading your article just made me build this life inside. I wanna go to college and major in the performing arts because this is what i always wanted to do so, i’ll drop the fears. This is how much this article did for me. To be honest you may not even realise how much you (your article) just helped me. “Carpe Diem” (seize the day) my english teacher used to tell me. People like you brings in the positive energy to the arts. And lastly, the first thing i learn from your article is life is all about finding your balance and be happy. Happiness and comfort is what it is all about. So thanks for such an amazing writing.

    • Thanks for your kind words and encouragement Alekcis! You clearly feel passionately about the performing arts. Whether you make in “the business” or find yourself pursuing a different path, I’m certain that your education in the arts will serve you well. All the best to you!

  241. Hi Tom! This is Brittany Jewell from Just Jewell (http://just-jewell.blogspot.com). I’m a current Theatre major and would love to reblog this onto my blog. I’d like your permission before I do so. May I?

  242. Sue says:

    Well done Tom an awesome post and I totally agree, just wish I had gone into the theatre side of things when I chance

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  244. Erin says:

    This was wonderful! I graduated with a B.M. in Vocal Performance from a small liberal arts college about 6 years ago. I entered with every intention of being the Prima Donna at La Scala in Milan… that, needless to say, is not my current life. Instead, I’ve just graduated with my MBA and am working as an analyst. I do feel a little odd having it on my resume, as it seems to be a complete 180 from my current place. But I’ve found that it’s a great coversation starter in interviews and it allows me to explain how it will and has made me a great employee. In business school I was known for my ability to present and improvise when necessary. When asked how I pulled it off, my response was always: if I could do it in Italian, then I should be able to do it in English. Thanks for the reminder.

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  246. Abigail says:

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this blog post! I’m in the midst of my college search and though theatre is my passion I’ve thought about leaving it at the wayside and going for a more “practical” degree. To read this at this moment is a total Godsend. Thank you!

  247. Pingback: To Be or Not To Be A Theater Major | The Prospect

  248. patricia contreras says:

    thank you so much for this post! Very motivating and very true! I am an aspring actress studying theater in college and sometimes find myself douting my major but like you said, i gotta do what I love! I work with customer service as well and notice it is a little easier to handle these things as a theater major because of what weve experienced.

  249. Halane Cummins says:

    I will be sharing this with my high school drama students! Thanks for sharing.

  250. Pingback: Theatre is Ultimate Fitness for Your Brain! | Wayfarer

  251. ljsimcox says:

    Tom,

    I ran across your blog from a repost on FB and enjoyed it very much, nodding along as I read. It’s all true! I, too, have a theatre (with an e) degree from a small, Midwestern liberal arts college. After graduating, I lived the typical nomadic life (tours, summer theatre, temping) and went on to earn a MFA. I taught for a few years. Now I am a romance author and have said time and again that my former life allowed me to ‘click’, completely naturally, right into my current profession. I’ve been lots of places, worked with all kinds of people, learned to do stuff on the fly with little money and a lot of imagination. Now I just open my head, put my fingers on the keyboard and all of that experience turns into books about life and adventure. Theatre rocks. Great post, Tom!

  252. Emily says:

    I have had no acting experience at all, except for a small production my Sophomore year in high school. It turned out to be a lot of fun in the end but throughout the entire project, I was very awkward in acting and still am. I just cant seem to stop thinking about what others will think as well as just not being able to get into character. Would you recommend an awkward newbie in acting to pursue a degree in theatre?

    • Here’s what I would tell my daughter if she asked me the same question: If you want to try majoring in theatre, then by all means try it. It’s very common for students to switch majors multiple times and try different things. Try it and see if it works for you. It may turn out that acting isn’t your forte, but you could develop a passion for directing, stage managing, costumes, technical direction, or etc. All the best to you! Let me know how it works out.

  253. Pingback: This blog is for all the nervous parents of theater majors out there . . . | The Producer's Perspective

  254. Sam Spicer says:

    Great post! My colleague Janet Borggren sent this link my way because I’ve often cited a few theatre mantras in my day. I was a lighting design major at IU and it still has bearing and relevance.

  255. Mike Meskill says:

    Hi Tom,

    I have presented 3 ‘master classes’ on non-production careers in theatre using your post as the basis for one half of my class.

    This past summer I taught a class for theatre students and professionals for an event my company did in Madison, WI. The class has always been well received and I’m always happily telling people where to find the original blog post by you.

    My last presentation was recorded (well, prerecorded before I did the real thing) and I’d like to share the link with you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMoJCbQ-qBs&list=PLl-Ao0hIFwH9E0AOKMp6IqPm3QGgOlW1e&index=5

    The first couple of minutes are me explaining where the topic came from and giving credit to you for the idea and the list of 10 things. I might have some of your personal background a little wrong as it is based on the information I gleaned from the post…hope you forgive me for any errors. The rest of the presentation is the use of your 10 items combined with my experience in theatre and business.

    Thank you so much for getting this topic out there. I feel that it is doing a lot of good to help

    Mike Meskill
    International Service Manager
    Electronic Theatre Controls

    • Mike, Thank you so much for your follow up and the providing the link. I had a chance to watch a little bit of it and look forward to taking in the whole thing. I’m humbled, and grateful that you found my post worth turning into (half) a class. I appreciate your honesty and integrity in checking with me and with following up. You’re a class act. All the best to you.

  256. Megan says:

    Reblogged this on One Day at a Time and commented:
    This blog! Ahhh, love it. Read her thoughts on why being a theatre major was an excellent choice :)

  257. Pingback: “Here I am. Did You Call Me?” | Wayfarer

  258. karen says:

    Indeed. I majored in theatre too and as such my training aided my professional career. Business is theatrical and therefore the skills learned have allowed me to be flexible, focused and fierce and friendly. Great post.

  259. Claire says:

    Hi Mr. Well,
    I’m trying to convince my parents that a theatre degree is in fact useful, and found your points helpful. My current major is Special Education, and I’m not in love with it as much as I thought I would be. My parents say that if I switch my major, I cant continue to go to the same university, but I have made myself a home there and don’t want to leave. (I have no idea what I’m going to do!) I dont even know what exactly I’m trying to say with this post, as you can see I’m very confused. If I were to not go into business, would a theater degree still be useful, maybe thats what I’m asking…. Thank you very much for posting, and I look forward to reading your blogs in the future.

    • Thanks for your question and comment, Claire. I understand how confusing it can be to try and figure out which path to take. My best suggestion for you is to take the time to skim through the hundreds comments at the end of this post. You will find personal testimony from people in many different careers who started out majoring in theatre and who give witness to how it was the right choice for them. I can’t tell you that being a theatre major is a guarantee of success. I can tell you that what you learn in theatre will be of practical benefit to you no matter where you end up on life’s road. I wish you all the best. Let me know how it goes.

  260. Becky says:

    Perhaps you should credit this list to the original post http://artsbridge.com/how-can-a-theatre-major-prepare-you-for-success/ Come on. Give credit where it is due.

    • Becky, If you will look at the dates of the posts you will see that my original post (on which you posted this comment) was published January 16, 2012 while the post to which you refer on Artsbridge.com was published on October 24, 2012. At the bottom of the Artsbridge.com post they credit me for the original post. I’m sorry, but you are mistaken.

  261. Steve Cassells says:

    Tom- As one of your old Judson professors back during the Ice Age, I was pleasantly surprised to find out what had happened to you after all these years when the drama teacher at my current college, Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, WY, just sent this blog around to the entire faculty and staff to read. Nice writing. Great thoughts. You done good, young fella!

    • Steve, It is so great to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to write. I knew that you’d left Judson but was not sure where you wound up. What great memories from back in the day working with you and Jill in Wilson Hall. Give my love to your family. Cheers!

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  263. Karen Johnson says:

    Tom — My son, a freshman at Spring Arbor University, is currently a Communications major. Aside from what drives him as a Christ-follower, he loves the stage, whether is is acting, playing in the band or singing in the chorale. These are the things that he is passionate about. When he was young, his interests and talents led us to believe he would be an engineer as he loved to design and build. He is very creative. However, once he got a taste of theater in middle school, he realized, as did we, that he had a knack for it. Each year, he was handed bigger parts, ending with the lead in, “The Music Man” his senior year. Nathan is a young man who has dealt with physical challenges all his life. With approximately 30 surgeries at U of M behind him, he is still not done. However, all through these set-backs, he has had a great attitude. He has been an inspiration to all who know him and he has learned over and over that those surgeries and his physical issues aren’t what define him. He loves to bring joy to people. He has a great sense of humor. He has never let his situation deter him from anything. He is very comfortable in front of people, no inhibitions. All along, we have been his biggest fans. We loved to see him take the stage for whatever purpose. Now that he is in college and the thought that whatever he studies matters in his “success” for the rest of his life, however, I wonder if we have subconsciously allowed him to think that a degree in theater would not be smart as he states that it is, “too risky.” To be honest, I have been led to believe that too. I came across your blog (probably a God-thing) and your thoughts are helping me to feel otherwise. I plan to send this to Nathan and discuss it with him. Thank you for sharing.

    • Wow, Karen. Thanks for sharing your story. If you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to weed through the pages of comments at the bottom of the post. There are plenty of “Me too!” comments from people of all walks of life and career paths who started with a degree in theatre. I’m careful to remind readers that I’m not saying that a degree in theatre is a guarantee of success, but it is a great preparation for it. With one daughter just out of college and the other one in her senior year (one art major, the other a communication major), I’m hearing their stories of friends with every kind of “safe” degree who still can’t find work. In today’s economy and job climate, being able to present yourself well, communicate clearly in an interview and improvise might be a safer bet than simply having a bachelor’s degree in engineering, business, psych, or what have you. All the best to you. Please let me know how it goes!

  264. andyhen says:

    Tom, your post rings true to me as a professor of theatre at a small liberal arts college. We’d love to use it on our theatre website – the message is right where we are headed with our theatre major, and articluates so well the question “what do you do with a theatre major?” Can we use it?

  265. Hola! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead
    and give you a shout out from Kingwood Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the good job!

  266. Pingback: 6 Things Being A Theatre Major Taught Me | cassyclayman

  267. Pingback: 12 Truths Successful Creatives Know About Making a Living (That You Don’t – Yet) - Make Creativity Pay

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  269. Pingback: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success

  270. Pingback: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success

  271. bitsybetsy says:

    Awesome! :) Gives me hope for the future!

  272. bitsybetsy says:

    Reblogged this on bitsybetsy and commented:
    This is a great article on how theatre prepares you for life. I’m really glad this is my major!

  273. Pingback: The Medium of the Message Matters | Wayfarer

  274. jan saenz says:

    Theatre brat turned writer/stay-at-home-mom here. Great post! I use my theatre degree every single day (and I haven’t stepped on a stage in years). I wouldn’t change my choice of degree for anything. And if my kiddos decide to major in it someday, I’ll cheer them on all the way…….but only with the insurance that they have a solid minor. ;)

  275. Kathy says:

    What kind of advice would you give someone who is just now entering the theatre world. I’ve taken two acting classes at a community college & loved it! I’ve never been In a play or any performance, however, but I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that Acting and theatre is what truly makes me happy and what I want to pursue. In my case should I major in theatre or Acting, or would it be best to get more training and knowledge under my belt by taking more classes, auditioning, before I take that big step and major in it? I’ll accept advise from anyone, thanks!

    • Thanks for posting your question, Kathy. If you were my daughter, I would suggest that you take a few more classes and get involved in a production or two before you make your decision. There’s no hurry to declare and getting a little more experience under your belt will help you know if it’s really what you want to do or if you’re making a snap decision. All the best to you!

  276. Pingback: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success | Neets Notes

  277. Jenna says:

    Reblogged this on This Marvelous Life and commented:
    This… this is perfect.

  278. Pingback: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success | THE BOLT

  279. Sarah Bosse says:

    If only folks interviewing for jobs and writing their resumes had your skills of pulling together the positive lessons they have learned and skill they have gained throughout their lives, through experience, education, family life…. H.R. would be INTRIGUED! Job landed!

  280. lizpurull says:

    Tom I have kind of a loaded question for you. What would you recommend to a young woman in her 20’s (okay fine 25) who has a degree in Communications – Media Studies from 2011, traveled the world for 3 years, is thinking about returning to school for Business (because I am one of those smart kids who thinks it’s the only way to make money) but has this itching desire to study Theatre Design and Technology? On the one hand I may be believing this lie that Communications was a mistake and I need to do Business in order to make it in the world, but there’s this underlying passion of mine to also immerse myself in the Theatre world and learn how to someday manage a production or theatre company. I also have this quirky passion to do screenwriting and throw myself into learning the art of story, but at 25, I have absolutely nothing to show for that.

    And there’s only one catch….I have never, ever, in my life studied theatre, performed, or done anything theatre related besides Speech and Forensics.

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