From Theatre Major to Copywriter: The Business of My Degree

Backstage theatre. Image courtesy of stock.xchng® 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?

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12 thoughts on “From Theatre Major to Copywriter: The Business of My Degree

    • Hi Jesaka,

      At the moment, no, though it’s something I’ve thought about. I have written philosophy-related articles for journals and magazines. Perhaps someday I’ll finish, or transfer my credits, but for now I have other priorities. 🙂

  1. I was a philosophy major…even better, I have an MA in philosophy and made a lot of progress towards a Ph.D. I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor ever since I left my Ph.D. program in January 2008. I like the fact that I can pursue my interests and through editing read things I wouldn’t otherwise have time to read.

  2. Paige ~ it’s so funny to hear that your journalism may not have been the smartest move. Whenever I’ve kick myself for not being where I thought I should be with my writing, I think “I should’ve majored in journalism!” I’m with you on the storytelling–and you are a great storyteller!

    Becca ~ I’m so glad you found the article! It’s great to “meet” another theatre major-turned-copywriter. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Thank you for this blog post – randomly came across you on Twitter.
    I graduated 3 years ago from my drama degree, and am about a year into working as a freelance copywriter.
    It’s good to know that someone else sees the connection – I see it every day.

  4. Great post, as usual Jesaka. I finally agree with my father that my journalism degree may not have been the smartest move, but I do believe it has taught me oodles about how great research leads to great writing and storytelling. So…make of that what you will. 🙂

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