Top 5 things not to say to a Drama student

Over the years, I’ve heard no end of criticism and “jokes” which dismiss and demean the creative arts. It can be quite disheartening, but one thing I’ve learnt is to take everything with a pinch of salt – we know how hard we work, and that’s what matters!

Here are just a few things that I advise you never to say to a Drama student. Or if you are a Drama student, a few things that I’m sure you are tired of hearing:

1. “It’s an easy subject.”

This one baffles me, and clearly comes from the mouths of those who have never dabbled in the dramatic arts. So much blood, sweat and tears (quite literally, sometimes) goes into putting on productions and we spend so much time in the rehearsal studios near to assessment week that it becomes our second home.

Trust me, you can go a bit mad seeing those same four walls all the time! Drama tests your resilience, your academic skills, your creativity, your friendships and your patience – amongst other things.

It is, by no means, an easy subject.

I will say, however, that it is entirely possible to find something easier if you enjoy it, and this could be where the confusion stems from. Just because we enjoy our subject, it doesn’t mean we don’t find it intense and challenging!

2. “All you do is play games.”

Tell that to students who are stressing over essay deadlines, lengthy portfolios, technical theatre design and looming performances!

So, admittedly, we do play a lot of games. From warm ups and improvisations, to practitioner-specific activities. Yeah, we even play ‘Splat’ and ‘Stuck in the Mud’ from time to time. But saying that playing games is all we do is a massive overstretch.

Sometimes they are necessary for students to get their energy going, first thing on a Monday morning, as a fun five minutes away from the stress of rehearsals. Everyone needs time to unwind.

3. “What do you actually do?”

Quite a lot.

That’s the short answer anyway.

At the University of Worcester, the Institute of the Arts offers two Drama courses; Drama and Performance BA (Hons) (3 years) and Touring Theatre MTheatre (4 years). Across these, modules are offered in a range of specialisms, from singing, to public performances, to performing for young audiences, exploring sexuality in performance, and choreography, all the way to applied theatre in sectors such as hospitals and court rooms, playwriting, site specific performance and historical subject matter.

So, there is plenty for us to be getting on with. All of these modules entail practical and theory based elements, testing our abilities in performance, academic writing, time management and commitment to our chosen subject, amongst other things. So there are endless amounts of transferable skills and subject areas on a degree like this! Although we may only have lectures 4 or 5 times a week, the amount of hours that have to be put in outside this are ridiculous – plenty of times I’ve been in rehearsals long after an acceptable bedtime!

4. “You’re too smart to do Drama.”

This is one of my personal favourites that I’ve heard from teachers, careers advisors and even friends over the years.

It is usually disguised as “Don’t you want to do something a little more… academic?” and comes from a lack of understanding of how much graft and research it takes to come out with good marks on a Drama course.

We still have to write essays, academic blog posts, keep progress journals and eventually write dissertations (either this or create a Final Performance Project supported by written work!). It’s not like we just say a few words on stage and get a degree out of it. If only! Our essays are usually made much more difficult by the fact that the world of Drama is ever-changing, and not all styles of performance and practitioners have endless research sources available – some of it is simply too new!

5. “Do you have back up plan?”

The silliness in the question, for me personally, is the implied assumption that nobody will ever be successful in the performance industry. But who do you think it is who makes the films that you watch at the cinema or on your TV at home, or performs on radio shows that you listen to in your car, or dances onstage in those musicals that your Mum and Grandma love so much? It is creative artists! It is performers! It is Drama students!

This one also makes me laugh, because surely a back up plan is a wise, necessary thing to have, no matter what industry you want to go in to? Not everyone who wants to be a doctor becomes one, not everyone gets their dream job as a lawyer, teacher, psychologist, etc, etc, etc. So it’s a good idea to have a back-up. Whether that is in your current field or not.

For example:

My Plan A: Directing theatre (with the help and transferable skills of my time as a Drama student!)

My Plan B: Owning, and baking cakes for, a theatre/film themed cafe.

Are the two related? Maybe very loosely, but that isn’t what matters. They are two things that I could (potentially) see myself doing, and that is the whole idea. You have to aim for what you want, so surely if you want to be an actor/performer/dancer/director/lighting & sound technician/fill in the gaps then you need to do the appropriate degree; which in this case, happens to be Drama.

That is not to say Drama is the most trying subject of all time! Everyone finds different things challenging, and this is applicable across all subjects and departments.

Just think carefully next time you question what actually happens on a creative course, it just might be harder than you think.