Why should anyone, who isn’t planning to go into the theatre arts professionally, take an acting class or an introduction to theatre class? The answer is simple: You learn real-world skills that are applicable to many disciplines. You can find many lists on the Internet from personal blogs to magazines like Backstage with their own beliefs of what these life skills are. In honor of Theatre in Our Schools Month, we provide our own list created by Jeremey West, Stuart Hall School Theatre Director.
- Oral Communication: This one seems obvious. There will be many times a person will need to communicate clearly: A job/college interview, speeches at functions & conferences (or the accepting of awards), leading a board meeting or peer review, interviewing potential employees for your company, defending a thesis or dissertation … this list is potentially never ending.
- Working Under Pressure & Meeting A Deadline: There can be a myriad of elements that need to come together in the last week before opening and, potentially, some of those can go awry. You’ve heard the expression, ‘’The Show Must Go On?” Well, that’s true. In my 26 years in the theatre – both professionally and amateur - I can tell you that I’ve never been a part of a performance that put off an opening because someone or something wasn’t ready.
- Teamwork & the Ability to Accept Responsibility: Everyone has ideas of how a project should go. We all want to get our ideas out there, but we have to know when to follow and when to take the lead. This is a skill that ONLY comes from experience in a group. Furthermore, we all pull together to do what is needed. Someone might have a hard time making that quick-change backstage and needs help. At times a task may not fall clearly within the purview of anyone’s exact job, but someone will have to do it.
- Resiliency: Probably no one deals with more rejection than the actor. Auditions, reviews, and difficult directors train the performer to deal with ‘no’ as an answer. This is not special to the theatre. Sometimes the company you want to work with won’t hire you. Sometimes the boss says ‘no’ to your proposals. Sometimes the person in the cubicle next to you gets that promotion or raise that you were gunning for … but you’ve got to keep working positively and effectively.
- Self Confidence: It has been quoted countless times that speaking in public is at the top of our fears as humans … even above the fear of death. Some cite it as the #1 fear in America. Being able to get up in front of a crowd of people and perform in a play – especially if something goes awry or is unplanned – and survive -- is a great builder of self-confidence.
The job – the REAL job – of educators is to prepare the students of today for the world of tomorrow. In our ever-changing world of technology, it’s not so much the information but the skills that they learn that will help them succeed. Theatre (and all arts) should be a part of this education for these reasons above and for so many more.