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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My kid wants to study theatre and I'm not sorry about it.

 photo Notsorrytheatre_zps9aac70fc.jpgGet into a conversation with a parent in which one or both of you have a child who is a senior in high school and the topic at hand inevitably turns to college. "What does your child want to study?" "Where does she want to go to school?" My daughter Annie plans to study theatre and I'm not sorry about it.

When Annie first started talking about majoring in theatre performance and making the stage her life's work, I was excited for her. She has a passion for it. She doesn't just memorize lines and spit them back out. She studies her craft. She reads books on the techniques of acting, seeks critiques of her performance, works tech to learn another side of production. You can see in her eyes and her smile how theatre makes Annie come alive.

But when people started asking me what Annie plans to study in college, I kind of felt like I had to apologize for her career choice. After all, studying theatre isn't exactly a "responsible" choice like studying finance or medicine or education. I would deliver my answer of "theatre" with a slight smile and a quick roll of the eyes, as if to say, "You know kids and their unrealistic expectations." I thought that was how people expected me to react.

My husband and I have talked to Annie about the realities of a career in theatre. Jobs may be scarce and may not pay well. Waiting tables to make ends meet is a real possibility. Grad school may be a necessity; apartment sharing will definitely be. But this is what she wants to do. She is willing to make those sacrifices. No one goes back to school to study theatre. Now is her time.

And so, somehow in the course of Annie moving from her junior year in high school to her senior year, I've lost that obligated, apologetic feeling and the eye roll that came with it. I think about all the joy that the arts -- theatre being one of them -- bring to people. Without people invested in creating that art, that joy would be lost. I look around my own community and see adults working in the realm of theatre -- on stage, back stage, in promotion and development. I can see a future in that for Annie.

Does everyone who goes to theatre school end up winning a Tony or a Golden Globe or inking a deal for a network television show? Of course not. Just as not every finance major ends up being president of a bank and not every med school student wins the Nobel Prize for medicine.

Those who do end up with those career superlatives have certain things in common: they work their butts off; they seize opportunities when presented; they don't take no for an answer; and they do what they do because they are passionate about it.

My daughter is passionate about transforming herself into characters on a stage for the purpose of entertaining, and sometimes educating, people in the audience. And you know what? I'm not the least bit sorry about that.


Ellen aka Ellie said...

Rambling comment ahead...

My son has an MLIS, a master's in library and information science. He majored in English as an undergrad. He studied what was interesting to him, and he didn't treat college like a vocational school. I encouraged him. He had a passion for writing and literature.

Where we lived at the time, this was considered a waste of education as he wasn't pursuing a business or computer degree.

Now that he has his master's he did pursue library work, but jobs were hard to find.

So he works in an office, and he has health insurance, not yet doing what he'd like to do, but who knows where his path will take him. No education is wasted.

I have three friends who work in theater--a working actor, a church creative director (they are brothers), and the CA's wife is a professor in theater in Chicago. There are all different ways to use such a degree, and these people are all stars.

My nephews all played baseball through college. One was in the minors and is now coaching at a college level. The other is currently in the minors now. They may never make big money, but like your daughter they are WORKING to live their dreams. How many people can really speak that as a truth?

I went to college to be a teacher. I am thinking about retiring. But because my degree was in a vocation, so to speak, I'm not even sure what's out there!

Go Annie!

Unknown said...

I don't think you SHOULD ever give a fluff response! SOme people do what they are led to do and some do what makes money, then there are others that do a job that is the best they could get.
I think you get the degree that matches with your personal goals and go from there.
Case in point- my husband always knew what he wanted to do, he got those degrees and still has that job to this day. He will retire in this field.
Me- I studied finance, left a great job in the mortgage industry to get certified in public special education, left that field 2 years ago to pursue- food media. I had NO idea what I wanted to do when I was 17 and a high school graduate.
So when I hear there are kids that want to pursue their passion to make it work as a career- I say rock on!
If it works then fantastic. If it doesn't- use that experience to build on and remake yourself. That's the great thing about life. We can constantly reinvent ourselves :)

Tricia Meyer (sunshinegirl) said...

I admire you for this. My 14-year-old has for many years said that all she wants to do is be a performer. I remember feeling the same way when I was her age and then being devastated when I started auditioning for colleges and realizing that "The best" at my high school was only "mediocre" compared to the rest of the country! I've tried so hard to avoid her getting that same slap in the face and having to readjust her expectations for her whole life.

So I have downplayed performing as a career for her. I've been encouraging her to consider things like broadcasting and public relations and other "backup" careers if acting doesn't work out. Maybe I shouldn't be doing that? It's just so hard having felt the sting before and not wanting the same thing to happen to my baby. But maybe she is just a whole lot more talented than I was?? (most likely!!)

I appreciate this perspective and am really going to take it to heart. I think I've always been less concerned about theatre being a "real job" than the fear of how she will feel when she gets rejected (and there is a lot of that in theatre). But really, there's a lot of rejection in EVERY job market...and in life in general.

I think I need to get my thyroid checked because I'm crying over ANOTHER blog post this week!!!

Good work, mom. It's impressive.

Unknown said...

Love this! Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer said...

My son is a senior in college, about to graduate with a theater arts degree. He loves theater. He LOVES Shakespeare! LOVES him! Its his passion, his life, not mine. I am very proud of him.

kimybeee said...

My kids are agricultural education and animal sciences majors. I may as well say they are studying to be cannibals the way some people look at me when I say it. But that is the kids area that lights a fire in them both.

Go for it annie, I can say I knew you when!!

Momza said...

This has been a topic of conversation alot in our home lately surrounding the choice of majors in college and the costs associated.
My son-in-law graduated college with a Chemical Engineering degree just 2 years ago. He is already making a 6-digit salary.
In the same amount of time, for the same tuition costs, students graduated with degrees in Fine Arts, which does not result in the same salary/earning potential over a life time, generally speaking.
In light of this reality, I wonder why colleges cannot reduce their tuition costs based on the degrees earned, you know?
A 4 year college that turns out Pre-Med, Pre-Law, for the same cost as someone who wants to major in "Flute Performance" for example, seems ridiculous. Any thoughts?

Amy said...

I back here today to respond to each of your comments, but there was so much that I wanted to say, I decided to continue the conversation in a second blog post. Stay tuned and thanks so much for reading.