Author Topic: Is college a necessity?  (Read 3580 times)

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RachaelBaciocco

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Is college a necessity?
« on: Mar 21, 2013, 11:11 am »
Hello!

So I have been thinking a lot about my future in theatre, and as of right now I am almost 100% set on being a stage manager.  I have absolutely LOVED everything I have done with stage management so far, and I think I would really enjoy doing it for the rest of my life.  In another post, I was tring to find the right school to go to for stage management, but I was wondering if going to school and majoring in it is actually necessary.  From what I've seen and heard, the best way to really learn and study stage management is through experience.  Is that true?  So if I didn't go to school for it and I just started out stage managing or working my way up through a theatre to eventually stage manage a production, would I end up learning the same things?  Or would I miss a lot of information if I didn't go to school and learn about it at a college?  I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to pursue this career by going to school or if I just want to go out and see what happens.  I already have several people who said they would never hesitate to write me a recommendation letter, including the artistic director of a local theatre, a college professor, and the directors I have worked with, so I am off to a decent start I think, especially considered I was never actually taught how to stage manage, I just learned from books and research.  I just need to hear other stage managers' thoughts on this decision.  So what are your thoughts?  School?   Major in Stage Management?  Just go for it?  Any opinion is welcome! =)

Thanks,
Rachael Baciocco
message me with any advice! =)

MatthewShiner

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 21, 2013, 11:19 am »
You don't need a degree to be a stage manager.

But, a good general education in theater - with emphasis in design, tech, basic acting, basic directing, theater history, general production, literature . . . is going to help you be a well rounded stage manager.  To be a good stage manager, a resource/project manager - you need more then just a passing knowledge of the different design departments, different areas you are managing - and will help you feel in the gaps of your knowledge until you gain more practical experience.

Regardless, a good college education will help you be a more well rounded individual.
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

Jessie_K

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 21, 2013, 11:41 am »
Going to college/ university is also a good way to make connections.  Several of my professors worked for various summer stock companies and were able to facilitate internships for students.

yomanda

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #3 on: Mar 21, 2013, 02:45 pm »
There has been some discussion on this topic in the past.  You can find one such example from 2 years ago here.

bex

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #4 on: Mar 21, 2013, 04:43 pm »
Similar to what Matthew said-

I don't think that I learned the nuts and bolts of how to stage manage in a class in college. I learned how to make a run sheet, how to take good blocking notes, when to speak up in rehearsal vs when to keep my mouth shut, how to deal with an actor having a melt down, all of that by actually being a stage manager. That's not to say that my stage management class didn't help with those things, but I would say that 80-90% of it was learned by SMing shows in college, and interning at various theaters. I'm still learning things with every show I work on now.

HOWEVER.

What I DID learn in college was all of the stuff that seemed at the time to be a waste of time. Why do I have to take Advanced Acting? Directing- do I really need that class? UGH SCRIPT ANALYSIS WHYYYYYYY?! One theater history class wasn't enough??
It was those classes that I didn't enjoy at the time that taught me things I would have found more difficult to learn "on the job." The most invaluable, for me at least, was all of those darn acting classes- I HATE acting, but having to take it and do it and read about it gave me not only an appreciation and respect for actors, but also makes me better able to communicate with them, to give them notes, to understand what the director means when s/he is giving notes, to be able to tell when an actor's preferred process isn't going to mesh well with the way the director is working. The director wants things "more Brechtian," that actor studied Meisner technique, blah blah blah. Yes, I get better at that by doing it, but not having that baseline vocabulary to start out with would be killer.

Same with theater history- yeah, you could SM a commedia piece without knowing anything about it, but how much better would you be if you know the difference between the Dottore & Arlecchino starting out? If you already know what to expect in terms of physicality, blocking, combat?  It'll be a lot easier to SM a Shakespeare piece if you've studied how to analyse the language already.
You will have to sing for your supper & your mortgage, your dental coverage & your children's shoes, over & over again while people in desk jobs roll their eyes the minute you start to complain. So it's a good thing you like to sing.

katrina123na

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #5 on: Oct 27, 2015, 02:22 pm »
On a slightly related note, what would you guys say about grad school? Do you think it is more valuable to keep being formally educated, or to go out into "the real world" to get experience?

babens

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #6 on: Oct 27, 2015, 03:14 pm »
I think that varies greatly for each individual and their circumstances. Did you decide early on in your undergrad program that stage management would be your focus and build up a resume in both your program and outside work during the summers, or did you come to stage management later in your undergrad career and could use the advantage of some more time in the safety of an educational setting?

I personally recommend that it's generally a good idea to take a year or more after finishing undergrad to experience the outside world. You may find that you'll be able to dive right into the professional world and won't need to worry about grad school. Others may realize that they could benefit from going back to school.

KMC

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #7 on: Oct 28, 2015, 02:24 am »
You will probably get different answers to this question, especially from folks who have spent a good portion of their careers in academia (either as students, staff, or faculty) but IMHO advanced degrees are not required for anything in theatre, unless you want to teach theatre at a collegiate level. 

Ultimately folks in the real world care about your ability to execute and do the job; this is where the rubber meets the road.  A piece of paper doesn't certify that you can do the job.  There are a lot of people with MFAs waiting tables, and there are a lot of extremely successful people with a bachelors or no degree at all.

From a financial side - what kind of debt load you are going to take on to earn a graduate degree, and what is the opportunity cost of foregoing two-three years of experience and earnings to stay in school?  Is it worth it?  Will your income be higher because of your advanced degree?  If so, how many years will it take you to recoup the missed earnings for 2-3 years at school and pay off the debt+interest of your graduate degree? 

Let's spitball and do some quick math.  This is by no means scientific, but it should clarify my point above.  Let's say you would earn 25k/year out of school stage managing and filling in the gaps with non-SM work.  Then let's say your MFA is a three year program costing $40k total (inclusive of stipends for teaching).

With these numbers:
$ 40,000 - Cost of degree
$ 75,000 - Lost earnings ($25k * 3 years)

Total cost of MFA - $115,000 - how long does it take to recoup that money after your MFA?  Is the difference in pay between your MFA and BA/BFA enough to justify that cost?  Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.  Cost of course isn't the only factor, but it's a big one.



Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

David_McGraw

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #8 on: Oct 30, 2015, 01:25 am »
Disclaimer: I lead a graduate program in stage management.

I agree with KMC that you should do the math.  But know that graduate programs vary quite a bit in cost.  For instance, at my MFA program at the University of Iowa, anyone who is admitted into our program receives a full tuition scholarship and a graduate assistantship for all three years.  This policy was vital for my decision to teach at Iowa: I don't want stage managers starting/returning to their careers with so much debt that they are limited in the types of shows that they can afford to take.  The trade-off is that I only accept 2-3 students a year.  If you want a program of 12-18 graduate students, or one located in a major metropolitan area, you are likely to pay more.  Or you might be able to earn almost regular wages from a university if you are willing to attend a tiny program, but you might be functioning more as staff than student.

MFA programs vary so much that you should examine the range of specialities and, more importantly, the alumnae/i to see if a specific graduate school will help you on your career path.
« Last Edit: Oct 30, 2015, 01:44 am by David_McGraw »
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makena

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Re: Is college a necessity?
« Reply #9 on: Oct 23, 2018, 07:08 pm »
What college/university would you recommend for stage managing that gives you a full-on hands experience and preparation for working in this role?

 

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