According to Research, Drama Degrees are Easy…
They are not.
All the current or graduated university students will know the feeling; you see the drama kids in their “theatre blacks” pottering around campus, loudly and jovially lugging whatever obtuse set pieces they require for this term’s performance of Woyzek. And secretly, you wish your lives were as easy as theirs, because all they do is make stuff up, right?
As an English Language AND Drama student, I feel I am most qualified to discuss, and indeed enlighten others about Drama degrees, especially in comparison with what you might call “normal” degrees.
It is not all about standing in the centre of a stage, obnoxiously bellowing out one of Shakespeare’s sonnets for the thousandth time.
No, being a drama student is beautifully encapsulated in the struggle to produce professional(ish) theatre, in an environment where you feel anything but. You spend every moment questioning “is this too GCSE?”, and your only reassurance for a bad grade is “art is subjective, you can’t really mark art!”
There are very few opportunities for concession in a Drama degree, it’s do or die — you can just about extend the rehearsal process a few days, but if you wake up with a cold and perform badly, that’s it, no take backs.
There’s also a lot of dependence on other people, which if you know me, is not something I take to with ease. Trusting others to fulfil roles within a group, whose work will eventually metamorphosise into a grade at the end of the term, is one of the hardest things you can ever do.
To add to all this, when it comes to essays, you could say that most drama kids find themselves up shit creek without a paddle. Academic writing? What? Why? How? What is this referencing you speak of? When you’ve been taught to think so creatively, it sometimes comes as a challenge to be utterly dedicated to boring long words, and absolutely no use of personal pronouns (even though our personal opinion obviously matters, gosh!).
Oh, and have you tried for a career in the arts?…No? Didn’t think so, because why would you aim to be part of one of the most competitive industries on this planet? Did you know, as of 2013, your average actor earns less than £5,000 a year? Even when they’re part of Equity, a union which promises fair wage for working actors (Guardian, 2013). There are thousands of out of work (and working) performers pouring you drinks at the bar, bringing pizza to your table, and delivering a chipper “have a nice day!” with your morning coffee. The dream is near unachievable — which makes the getting there a whole lot harder.
In all honesty though, and without quips that might offend drama students who read this, a Drama degree requires more man-hours and effort than, in my opinion, many other degrees. Every waking second is spent thinking about how you can find the creative path of your assessment pieces, all the while trying to include everything your lecturer says they like, in the hopes of gaining that all-important first class grade. Then, when the essays come, it’s a scavenger hunt for material on this dramaturg or that artistic director — and some of them don’t even give interviews in English!
A Drama degree certainly can be easy, if you choose not to dedicate yourself, but believe me when I saw it’s a hard degree to get a good grade in, and it’s a terrifying prospect when you do dedicate yourself.
So please, when you see those drama kids struggling across campus with a table or a broken wheel chair — help them, they’re probably struggling under the sun in all those black clothes.
With thanks to Naomi Gilad