by Travis Brendle, Stage Manger – Actor’s Equity Association
“Mom, Dad…I want to be an actor.” This phrase has stemmed fear and uncertainty in many a household since the beginning of time. Looking into history, Actors were constantly lumped into a social category along side gypsies, vagrants and thieves. Looking into the present, many consider a career in the entertainment industry, as one of uncertainty. Growing up I was always told “Only 10% of actors are working at any given time, and that includes they guy serving your tea.” Many high school students who are gung ho about being an actor, technical, designer or stage manager decide to go to college to get either their BFA (Bachelor Fine Arts) or BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Theatre. After deciding to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Stage Management, I have learned of many different things that can be done with a degree in theatre. Just because one spends four years of college learning how to become an actor, technician or singer, doesn’t mean that each of the skills learned in their college career won’t be an asset to any job that they may apply for. Here are three examples of jobs that many of my friends and colleagues have, or have had, not utilizing their BFA in their original intent.
1) Sales: Actors, in their purest form, are salesmen. An actor’s job is to convince an audience that they are not only someone else, but to believe that everything they are saying is truth. One of my dearest friends went to a very good college with one of the best BFA Acting programs in the country and is now a pharmaceutical saleswoman in the Chicago area. In talking with her, she said that her degree came in handy in a more ways than she could ever imagine. In even the most basic of acting classes, she learned the importance of talking clearly, using vocal inflection to keep one’s attention, and most importantly, looking the person you are talking to directly in the eye. Since we are in the age of the iPhone and Facebook, many of the up and coming generation does not have the basic conversational skills that are required in the sales. Many actors are being employed by major companies to sell there products not only in the country, but overseas. In my opinion, actors are more personable, open to change and different cultures than their many of their business school counterparts. Many large companies are employing union actors to work in their overseas offices, where the importance of a good conversationalist is so important to ensuring the sale.
2) Teaching: The most compelling teachers are actors. If you think back to your favorite classes in school, the root cause of that love is not necessarily because of the subject, but often because of the educator leading the conversations. The best English teachers make the work of Dickinson, Steinbeck, and Twain jump off the page and come alive. The best history teachers lead you through the March on Washington, the invasion of Normandy Beach and John Glenn’s first lunar step as if you were there. And even that great Math teacher made proofs and algorithms make sense by making them relevant, often by entertaining songs, poems or games. Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (the composer/lyricist team responsible for Seussical, Once on This Island, and Ragtime) got their start writing the epic teaching tool Schoolhouse Rock. The best teachers are inherently storytellers, whether they were trained in it or not. And hey, the benefits and time off is pretty appealing, isn’t it?
3) Guest Relations: Down to it’s core, guest relations staff deal with (people) problems. Whether it be a concierge at a major resort, to a guest relations officer at major company, the people dealing with the concerns of their customers have a very hard job to do. With my BFA in Stage Management, I have had a lot of opportunity to solve problems. From dealing with irate designers to working with an actor who needs help memorizing their lines, a stage manager is the ultimate Guest Relations position. In my college career, I was required to take many communications classes. My interpersonal communication class taught me how to not only read people’s body language, but also how to use my body language to help communicate a point. My human resources class taught me how to effectively manage a group of people with very different job descriptions, while maintaining authority. My speech classes taught me how to speak effectively, clearly and succinctly. All of these classes, and the many more classes I took in my four years at CCM (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) gave me the skills needed to work with any and all people during any and all situations
As seen above, in getting a BFA in Theatre a student is given a wide and varied range of skills that will be a great asset in many job fields.
What other jobs could you see a person with a BFA in Theatre doing? I can’t wait to hear from you!