Real World Skills I Learned From My Theatre Major

Why majoring in theatre is great experienceBy: Helen Voelker

There is a common misconception that a theatre major is a waste of time and money. Most people think that unless you are one of the lucky few that reach Broadway, theatre majors are destined for a life of waiting tables. As a former theatre major, I have experienced first hand that a theatre degree can prepare you for the real world in addition to being a blast and allowing you to do something that you love.

Here are some skills I learned in theatre that have helped me in the working world:

1. Confidence in Public Speaking. Speaking in front of a crowd is a daily occurrence in the life of a theatre major. Whether presenting about why Angels in America is important to society in class, a stage manager explaining to the cast why they can’t swing from the drapery, or an actor reciting a Shakespearean monologue. You have to get up in front of a group of people and use your voice with confidence. Learning this skill has been helpful for interviews, business meetings, presentations to investors, and giving speeches.

2. Project Management. Everything I learned about being a project manager I learned from doing theatre. A production is a large business project. In a nutshell a theatre performance is several teams of people working together toward a hard deadline on a very tight budget in hopes that the show will get a standing ovation and make your money back so you can afford to do the next show.  If those aren’t practical life skills, then I don’t know what are.

3. Working on a Tight Budget/The Value of Hard Work. Everyone knows that theatre business is not overflowing with money. Working with a tight budget means that you have to be creative with your resources and do more with less. It means long hours to get the job done because the show must go on. I remember pulling all-nighters so the paint on the set would dry, or so a costume would look just right. I gained a great appreciation for the hard work that goes into seeing a show open, having made due with a small amount of money to make it a success. Working for in the business world is not so different. In the real world you will be called upon to do more with less and to work hard. Gaining that appreciation early will put you ahead of the pack.

4.  Rolling with the Punches.  One of the best parts of live theatre is anything can happen. Someone could forget a line, the lights could break or your scene partner could completely miss their entrance, but the show must go on. You have to remain cool-headed and improvise while giving the impression that you are still in control. This sort of training is very useful when clients, bosses, technology or the forces of nature decide to throw you a curve ball in the working world.

5.  Handling and Understanding People. The theatrical community deals with a wide spectrum of individuals. From the bizarre to the businessman, theatre has all types. This is an amazing quality because you have the opportunity to work with and get close to people from all walks of life. Communication is key for the show to go harmoniously. This practice makes communicating in the work place less scary. I can walk into the CEO’s office ready to present my findings and then relay information back to the project team members in such a way that all parties are happy and have reached a mutual understanding. This skill is invaluable.

I have no regrets about majoring in theatre. I believe it prepared me for life in the real world just as well as a communications or business major could have. I hope that this post helps put parent’s minds at ease and inspires theatre students everywhere to study what they love!


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