The Theatre Major: Real Work and Really Time Consuming

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“Oh, you’re a theatre major, so you don’t have any real work, right?” Wrong. Even though Florida State University is one of the best public universities for the arts in the south, theatre majors can be considered “underrated.” Because the arts have become something that’s “unnecessary” in the work force compared to math or science, it can fall under the “easy” major category–set aside for the students who are lazy and don’t want to work for A’s. Although this is the stigma that has stuck with anyone in a creative major, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Maybe that stigma has stuck with us because people see our class schedules filled with performance, stage makeup, painting, stage management and vocal lessons instead of the typical statistics or economics classes most students are found in. We theatre majors do have lecture style classes, of course. But even then, those courses aren’t sitting and taking notes for the two hours. In almost all of my classes you’ll find me up, moving and getting a hands-on approach to the material.

A theatre history course I’ve had to take this semester is lecture style, except our projects have been performance projects, re-making history or looking into a modern take on ancient theatre. My group rewrote and performed “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror to explain Euripides’ “Medea” (including full costume and makeup).

In my performance class, which some usually assume is the “easiest,” we have textbooks (You mean theatre majors have textbooks?) in which we read about different acting techniques and methods for our homework. During class, we learn how to apply those theories to the scenes we work on.

This performance class makes up two hours of physical and mental work three days a week. Some people may think that having six hours a week to just focus on your physicality can be considered easy, but it’s been one of my most challenging classes thus far in my college career. From intense yoga, to repeatedly reciting our monologues in a v-up position, to continuously jogging around the classroom until the entire class is in sync and almost silent in our movements, there can be a lot of strain in that time period.

As exhausting as the work can be (both physically and emotionally),  I can’t imagine my college experience any other way. I don’t know what it would be like to sit in my classes and listen to lectures every day; it’s weird to think of having classes where I’m NOT on my feet all day.

Most theatre majors also have back-to-back classes every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This might seem like every other major, but you can usually pick us out from the crowd. We’re those students walking to class in ballet tights under our shorts, a backpack and maybe one or two duffle bags with us as well. On top of textbooks, our classes require many other materials: safety goggles and a wrench for our technical classes, different shoes for our dance classes, props for our performance classes and different clothes for dance or performance. I’ve personally walked across campus with a suitcase full of props before–no shame.

On a usual, normal day after my classes I have about an hour to grab food and eat before our rehearsals pick up for the night. Rehearsals start at 6 p.m. and end between 10 and 11 p.m. When you’re involved in a production, whether you’re performing, stage-managing, assistant directing or you’re a technician, the time you’re there is pretty much the same. Every evening Monday through Friday, you’ll find us at the theatre, and of course during the majority of Saturday we’ll be there, too.

It’s hard to imagine my college career going differently: sitting in more “normal” classes, not missing football games or chapter meetings because I’m in rehearsal and not only working eight hours a week due to my schedule. I’ve been told by so many of my non-theatre peers how much this program takes over my life, and I’m constantly getting asked why I can’t just “skip” my outside of class theatre obligations.

College is the time where you can get involved in so many different things, but in an intense, limited-access major, your involvement can get narrowed down pretty quickly. You’ll always hear theatre professionals tell you “Don’t get involved in this career unless you can’t live without theatre.” And I’ve definitely discovered that despite the rigorous schedule, I won’t be changing my major any time soon.

Ashley is a New York native stuck in the Sunshine State. A junior studying Theatre and English at Florida State University and making art along the way.

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