While reading The College Calculation in the New York Times Sunday Magazine this weekend, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my mother last year. I had just made my final payment on my student loans, a feat that seemed unimaginable the year I graduated and moved to Seattle.
“Was it worth it?” she asked.
Her question surprised me; it made me think about my answer.
“Yes. No question.”
That was my gut response. I am the proud owner of a Bachelor of Arts in Drama Studies. That’s right, I was a theatre major. I left high school with scholarships in journalism; I had only dabbled in theatre while in high school. (Although I was a Fame kid and no one in my family would argue that!)
So, in college, I was an editor on the literary magazine staff but my heart belonged to the drama department and the plays I directed. And the dance shows for which I designed the lighting. It was four years of learning everything from welding scenery to lighting design to painting to eliciting the most amazing performances from my actors. I loved it.
And I haven’t been involved in the theatre since. While I am certain that I will write a play one day, I have said what I need to through the theater—at least for now. But make no mistake: I use my degree every day, even though I earned it many years ago.
The top three ways I use my theatre degree:
- Self-reliance. As a directing student, I was responsible for everything related to my productions: obtaining funding, assembling the cast and crew, scheduling rehearsals, and marketing. As a freelancer, it’s up to me to get the clients, schedule projects and market myself.
- Translation. I can speak creative, technical and business—and it’s served me very well in all aspects of my career. It’s skills I learned from working so closely with actors, dancers, musicians, scenic designers, lighting designers, sound engineers and the foundations and faculty who funded the proposals I presented.
- Fearlessness. Okay, I do have fears. But presenting my vision and interpretation of a play to the public helped me develop risk-taking muscles. When I presented my production idea for the last play I directed, my professor told me that I would either miserably fail or wildly succeed. On opening night, she grabbed my hand and gave me a hearty “congratulations.” People have said the same thing about starting my own writing business. So far, so good!
It’s entirely possible that I would be the person and writer I am today regardless of my major. Making college “worth it” is up to each student—you get what you invest in it (and I don’t just mean taking out student loans).
You can read how other people are putting their theatre degrees to good use with Build Your Own Stage: How to Put Your Theatre Degree to Work for You.
What about you? Do you have a degree that your parents or family thought was “useless”? How do you use it?