“Theater” can lead to a lot of careers, part 2

As many other posts here, this one was inspired by a teacher in the EdTA Open Forum, who asked for ideas on how to re-think his Theater 1 class. My response is below.

From what I’ve read here (in the Open Forum) over the past few years, it seems that most high-school theatre classes are primarily focused on acting. Of course some schools also have tech programs, but, for the most part, it seems tech mostly comes up when it’s time to do a show. We didn’t have a theatre program in high school, although we mounted two huge shows each year. However, in college, theatre majors all had to take classes in everything; even “we techies” had to take acting, directing, mime, and similar subjects. Most of “us techies” had no interest in these (and in some cases it was torture), but we had to maintain our GPAs, so we trudged along. A couple of one-semester classes, stage management and theatre management, even opened a few of my classmates’ eyes to directions they never considered.  

If I were to do a Theatre 1 class, I would start with an introduction to all facets of theatre, presenting them as possible careers in the entertainment industry, including a discussion of Broadway, regional theatre, touring shows, Vegas, Cirque du Soleil, and similar venues. I would also point out the similarities between live theatre, TV, and the movies: all three need writers, actors, directors, designers, builders, painters, producers, marketing and finance people, lawyers, and so on and on and on. In fact, many actors have been, and still are, active in all three: live theatre, TV, and the movies.

More recently, computers and technology are used more and more in theatre. We need people who can program and run automated lighting and sound equipment, projections, robotics, and similar items, In my case, I used SketchUp, a 3D modeling program, in my design work for fifteen years and it made my workflow far more efficient. In fact, my first job out of grad school wasn’t even in theatre: it was in the architectural department of a major computer company, and I got the job because I could draft – a skill I honed as an assistant set designer or set designer in school.

So, yeah, after forty-odd years doing this, I would approach the class as an intro to all of theatre as possible future career directions in entertainment. Of course I would not attempt to teach each subject in any depth, but I would have the students understand at least how each one fits into the overall picture. The kids can certainly do quizzes or projects as they go, and a final project might be to prepare something in their individual area of interest.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post on this topic: https://setdesignandtech.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/theater-can-lead-to-a-lot-of-careers/