• John-Michael Scurio

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Musical Theatre

Q: What Can You "do" with a Theatre Degree?

John-Michael Scurio, center front, 1994 | BFA Graduate: The Boston Conservatory

A. Plenty!


Of course theatre majors can "do" theatre, stage, film, etc., but often without realizing it, as they are studying their craft, they develop a large set of highly valuable transferable skills that make them valuable well-rounded employees.


Are you a theatre grad? It is my hope that this blog-post helps you to recognize your special advantages and transferable skills.

My alma mater - The Boston Conservatory
25 SPECIAL ADVANTAGES OF THEATRE MAJOR GRADS

Here's a list of twenty-five skills, traits, and qualities that are usually well-developed in individuals who complete four years of undergraduate studies in theatre.


1. Oral Communication Skills

Many students find that theatre helps them develop the confidence that's essential to speaking clearly, lucidly, and thoughtfully. Acting onstage teaches you how to be comfortable speaking in front of large audiences, and some of your theatre classes will give you additional experience talking to groups. Furthermore, your work on crews has taught you that clear, precise, and well-organized oral communications are best. Oral communication skills are so important to some employers that they often send management trainees to special workshops.


You already have an advantage in this area.


2. Creative Problem Solving Abilities

Most people expect theatre students to exhibit creativity in such areas as acting, design, writing plays or directing them, and many companies do recruit creative thinkers. But employers are not always aware that theatre experience also helps you learn creative problem-solving techniques that are applicable to many jobs. For one example, tech theatre work--building scenery, hanging lights, making props, running the show, and so on--is a particularly good way to learn how to think on your feet, to identify problems, evaluate a range of possible solutions, and figure out what to do. The same is true of almost every aspect of theatre. Directing. Design. Acting. Play-writing. Management. And more. The point here is that your creative ability, what you've learned about using creative processes to solve problems, can be directly applicable to virtually any job you may have in life. Most major companies believe that a creative problem-solver will become a good employee.


Two for two.


3. More than "get it done"

Theatre students learn that just "getting it done" isn't enough. Not at all. It goes beyond that. You learn to do it correctly. In theatre, we learn that merely "getting the show on the boards" is pure bush league and totally unacceptable. Whatever your theatrical job--tech, performing, research, management--it has to be done right. The first time. You learn to take pride in doing things at your very best level.


Of course any employer would value that trait.


4. Motivation and Commitment

Being involved in theatre productions and classes demands commitment and motivation. These are qualities that college theatre faculty members and, in most cases, students, probably already possess. By example, we teach each other that success comes to those who are committed to the task at hand. Few other disciplines you study will so strongly help you develop motivation and commitment. Many theatre students learn to transfer that attribute from theatre to other activities such as classes and jobs.


For employers, that positive attitude is essential to success.

Musical: Broadway Bound

5. Willingness to Work Cooperatively

Your work in theatre companies teaches you how to work effectively with different types of people . . . and, quite often, it's very diverse! Theatre demands that participants work together cooperatively for the production to succeed; there is no room for "we" versus "they" behavior; the "star" diva is a thing of the past. Your colleagues will usually let you know when you violate the team spirit of a production. In theatre, it's important that each individual supports the others involved.


Employers will be pleased to know that you understand how to be a team player from your time in many different live theatre productions.


6. The Ability to Work Independently

In theatre, you're often assigned tasks that you must complete without supervision. Crew chiefs. Directing. Memorizing your lines. Putting together this flat, finding that prop, working out characterization outside of rehearsals. It's left up to you to figure out how best to achieve the goal.


The ability to work independently is a trait most every employer looks for in their worker force.


7. Time-Management Skills

When you're a student, being involved in theatre forces you to learn how to budget your time. You need to schedule your days very carefully if you want to keep up your grades while you're busy with rehearsals, work calls, and the other demands that theatre makes on your time.


Good time management skills are enormously important to employers.


Musical: Sounds of America

8. Initiative Human Resources

Managers call people who approach work with initiative and enterprise "self-starters."

People who do what needs to be done without waiting to be asked to do so, or without needing to be told. The complexities of a theatrical production demand individuals who are willing to voluntarily undertake any task that needs to be done in order for the production to succeed. In theatre, we're all self-starters.


We learn how to take initiative, to move a project from initial concept to finality -- and to do it well.


9. Promptness and Respect for Deadlines

Tardiness is never acceptable in theatre because it shows a lack of self-discipline, and more importantly, a lack of consideration for others who can't play their role, without you there to play your role. Being late for a rehearsal or a work call or failing to finish an assigned task on time damages a production and adversely affects the work of many other people. Theatre demands that you learn to arrive on time and meet scheduled deadlines. This is a widely needed job-skill.


Employers appreciate workers who are on time and do their work as scheduled.


10. Acceptance of Rules

The structure of a set of procedures and rules that deal with everything from shop safety to behavior at auditions, rehearsals and work calls. You learn that you must be a "good follower." Theatre teaches you the importance and value of rules, a concept that's highly regarded in any organization.


11. The Ability to Learn Quickly -- AND Listen

Theatre students, whether they're memorizing lines or learning the technical aspects of a production, must have the ability to absorb a vast quantity of material quickly--and accurately. Your work in theatre will show that you have the ability to grasp complex matters in a short period of time, a highly-valued trait to employers. Note that part of this ability is another significant trait: knowing how to listen. If you don't listen, you're likely to make some major error that will damage the production. Listening is a skill for any job and an employer will respect your ability to listen and comprehend.


12. Respect for Colleagues

In theatre, you discover that a successful production requires contributions from everybody who's involved. Mutual respect is essential. Working on a production teaches us to respect and trust the abilities and talents of our colleagues. A prospective employer will appreciate the fact that you have learned the importance of respecting your co-workers.


13. Respect for Authority

Only one person can be in charge of any given portion of a production. The Director. The shop foreman. The tech director. The designer. Theatre teaches you to willingly accept and respect authority. That's a trait employers look for in their workers.

Featured Act: The Five Tones (Barbershop Men's Group)

14. Adaptability and Flexibility

Theatre students must be adaptable and flexible. You need to be willing to try new ideas, accept new challenges, and have the ability to adapt to constantly changing situations and conditions. In one production, you may be a member of the prop crew; in the next perhaps you're in charge of makeup, publicity or the box office; in a third production you might have a leading role. A worker who is versatile and flexible is highly valued to most employers; both traits prove that you are able and willing to learn new things.


15. The Ability to Work Under Pressure

Theatre work often demands long hours. There's pressure -- often, a lot of pressure. It's important that everyone involved with a production is able to maintain a cooperative and enthusiastic attitude under pressure. Grace Under Fire! The ability to remain poised under such tensions is an asset that will help you cope with stress in all parts of your life, including your job.


16. A Healthy Self-Image

To work in theatre, you must know who you are and how to project your individuality. You know, quickly, that you are your own brand. That is your product. You're selling you, and your skills as a performing artist. But at the same time, it's important to recognize the need to make yourself secondary to the importance of a production. This is a tricky balance that, although difficult to accomplish, is a valuable trait that employers treasure.


Employers value leaders that put their ego aside and make decisions (especially the difficult ones) if it is for the good of the entire organization.


17. Acceptance of Disappointment -- And Ability to Bounce Back

Theatre people learn to deal with dashed hopes and rejection on a regular basis. Who hasn't failed to get a coveted role he or she really wanted or a spot on an esteemed tech crew? You learn to accept that kind of disappointment and move on. You try again.


All employers need workers who are resilient enough to bounce back from this kind of frustration.

18. Self-Discipline

Theatre demands that you learn how to control your life. Theatre grads are forced to make choices between keeping up with responsibilities (learning queues, memorizing lines, practicing choreography) versus doing the fun, social things you'd rather be doing.


You learn to govern yourself at an early stage in life. An employer will respect that ability.


19. A Goal-Oriented approach to Work

Many aspects of theatre involve setting and achieving specific goals. In employer's terms, you've learned to be task-oriented and capable of finding practical ways to achieve goals.

A disciplined, goal-oriented approach to fitness and nutrition

20. Concentration

Busy theatre students, involved in a production or other theatre projects while also taking a heavy academic load, must learn to concentrate if they are to succeed. Acting classes in particular stress concentration, and once you have learned that skill as an actor, it can be transferred to other activities; and areas of life.


21. Dedication

As you work in theatre you learn to dedicate your very being to doing your best to create a successful final product. There is dedication to that show, to your fellow actors, to the crew, to the producers, to your home theatre and to theatre as an art. Many theatre students discover that committing oneself to a given task is deeply rewarding.


Employers respect workers who have learned the value of dedication.


22. A Willingness to Accept Responsibility

Theatre students are often given the chance to take on sole responsibility for a special project. Being a production stage manager, a designer, a crew chief, a prop master, a director. You can expect employers to value this ability.


23. Leadership Skills

As a theatre student, you have many opportunities to assume leadership roles. You may, for example, assist a director or designer and lead other volunteers, serve as a crew chief, or even design or direct a production yourself. In the nuturing environment of theatre, faculty help you learn from mistakes so you become a better leader. Leadership training like this can open the possibility for comparable opportunities in a company that hires you.


24. Self-Confidence

Theatre training teaches you confidence in yourself. Your accomplishments in theatre show you that you can handle a variety of jobs, pressures, difficulties and responsibilities. You develop a "Yes, I can!" attitude. Of course, any employer will treasure that.


25. Enjoyment -- "This is Fun!"

Theatre people mystify civilians when they say we're having fun. Non-theatre folk shake their heads when we tell them that, and they ask how it is possible to have "fun" in a job that keeps us working night after night, sometimes until after midnight, doing something that calls for a grinding rehearsal or work schedule day after day after day, that makes us miss going to a movie or a concert or just spending time with our family and friends.


Q. That's fun?

A. Yes. It is.


We've learned how to find enjoyment in what we do; and in whatever we do. That's a valuable attribute as life's journey twists and turns. We can adapt that to other jobs, find ways to enjoy other activities, or special projects.


That positive attitude will mean a great deal to any employer.


Put simply, theatre grads rock the workforce and as an added plus, if you're a musical theatre grad, like me, then you can likely sing, too, which means you'll be an absolute hit after work hours when it's time for team-building with coworkers at the karaoke bar!


We all know that this economy is tough and seeking employment is even tougher! Know your skills, and better yet, how to sell them. Now, get out there and . . . S H I N E !

John-Michael, age 28, professional entertainer

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John-Michael, 49, Sr. Human Resource Business Partner, Corporate Headquarters, George's Inc. Springdale, AR

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