College application season is upon us and college auditions will begin in a few months for kids who have decided to pursue a degree in theatre. For many kids (and parents) choosing whether or not to pursue theatre in college is an agonizing choice that can cause headaches and conflict. For five years I ran a high school theatre program and coached and counseled many students and their families through the process of deciding.
I will start by telling you what I told all of my students contemplating the study of theatre and the pursuit of a professional career in the theatre. If there is anything else you see yourself doing that will make you happy and that you find fulfilling do it. Being a theatre professional is hard, really hard, and being a performer is the hardest of all. The beautiful thing about theatre is that you can do it for fun almost anywhere you land. Do not take the choice to study theatre lightly, make sure it is the right choice.
That being said, if you are like me, then there isn’t anything else, I always new that I needed to perform. Though I started my college career in music, I always new I wanted to be an artist and nothing else has ever been enough for me. If this is you, then studying theatre is the right choice. I was lucky, my parents were very supportive of my desire to study music and theatre and at no point did they try to tell me to study anything else (or even to double major). However, I know that is not always the case.
Here is what I wish parents understood about studying theatre in college. It is hard, it is a lot of work, and it teaches your kids skills that are not only applicable to other career paths, but that may also give them an advantage in finding a job outside the theatre when they graduate. Unless you choose a highly specialized degree, a college degree today is what a high school diploma was thirty years ago. You need one for entry-level positions that have nothing to do with what you studied. Because of this, your kid should spend college exploring what fascinates them. I know that most parents who will read this are already of the same opinion about this, but maybe my words here will help a student talk to their parents about why studying theatre isn’t such a bad idea.
Students, though I wish every one of your parents understood and would let you study your passion, but the reality is that isn’t the case. So here is what I suggest to you, double major. Find something that is parent approved that you don’t hate at a school that also offers a theatre program. Honestly, the more you know of the world the better artist you become, so studying psychology or biology and theatre isn’t such a bad idea. The other option is scholarship. If you get a full ride somewhere but in order to use the scholarship you have to study theatre, I think the conversation may change.
A Theatrical Prescription: A blog that investigates all of those questions you have about acting, auditioning, and the American theatre for which you never know where to find an answer.
Dr. Amy Osatinski
Dr. Amy is a Theatre scholar, teacher, director, designer, and performer. She is an expert in theatre and musical theatre and is skilled in helping performers put their best foot forward. Dr. Amy has taught, directed and performed in many places from educational, to community, to professional theatre and has a passion for creating theatre that delights and instructs. Dr. Amy holds a PhD. in Theatre from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MA in Education from the University of Colorado Denver. Dr. Amy currently teaches in the Department of Theatre at the University of Northern Iowa