Most of the students you see onstage during college productions aren’t going to make it to Broadway or Hollywood. What makes student actors so admirable isn’t that they’re talented, although many of them are; they’re dedicated, ambitious, open-minded, and brave enough to drop curse words and take off their clothes in front of their peers. You don’t have to be a drama major or even an experienced actor to join their ranks. In fact, no matter how stage-frightened you think you are, participating in theatre can provide you with some invaluable, lifelong lessons. I’ve compiled the following five reasons you should participate in theatre based on my own experiences (and I’ll try not to let my drama major bias show too much):
1. You learn to appreciate “the little guys”: When an average viewer sees a professional theatre production or a feature film, she doesn’t think about the brilliant individuals behind the scenes. Theatre is an inherently collaborative process; from the director to the stagehands, each and every member of the team must learn to work as a cohesive unit. Working on a production is valuable practice for future collaborations, and you’ll never watch a film or play the same way again.
2. It’s a confidence-booster: Being able to stand up and act in front of an audience sounds mortifying at first — until you actually do it. Simply knowing that you can perform, no matter how well, is something to be proud of. Compared to acting, other forms of performance — public speaking, class presentations, monitoring meetings — will seem trivial. Acting forces you out of your comfort zone and into challenges you never imagined you could conquer.
3. Campus-wide fame: Not everyone attends college productions, even though they should (I know, my major is showing), but a pretty substantial portion of the student body does love attending plays. Think about the most charismatic, well-known people on campus; I’d bet my second major that a sizable number of them are drama kids. Performing for your peers and professors sounds like a lot of pressure, but they’ll actually admire you for doing something they’ve probably never dared.
4. It sharpens your critical thinking skills: Reading a play well requires patience and a questioning mind; you’re examining an entire cast of characters, their desires, motivations and fears, through words on a page. Bringing those characters to life entails an additional layer of comprehension. As an actor, you integrate everything you know about a character with your own thoughts, emotions and memories, then express those ideas through gesture and sound. It’s a lot to think about — which makes acting an incredible learning device.
5. You learn how to have fun: As stated in Number Three, drama people tend to be well-liked. They’re the people you see belting showtunes as they skip across the campus green, the students who manage to make class presentations entertaining. From improvisation games and warm-ups to cast bonding, drama people love making their craft fun. There’s a reason it’s called a Play, after all.