Author Topic: School or work?  (Read 4928 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

liamproche

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 16
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AGMA
  • Current Gig: PSM-FGO
  • Experience: Professional
School or work?
« on: Feb 28, 2007, 12:30 am »
Hello everyone,
I need some advice.........I graduated, a little over a year ago from a small, community, art college with an A.A and an A.S degree in stage management (both 2yr. degrees).  Since that time I have begun working professionally instead of transferring to a university in order to get the B.F.A.  By now I have already started building my professional network as well as a pretty strong resume.  I've been thinking about returning to school in order to obtain the B.F.A in stage management, however I was wondering how vital this degree actuallty is. So far I haven't had much trouble finding work without it (knock on wood). I am still pretty young, and I realize that it would be far easier to put my career on hold now than it will be further down the line. I've put off making this decision for far too long now.  The deadline for most college theatre programs is rapidly approaching and I can't decide whether to focus my energy more on finding work for next fall, or applying to colleges.  Are there any advantages to having a 4-year degree? Or do employers focus more on professional experience? I have already spoken about this with a couple of "hardened veterans," and have recieved mixed responses. I feel the more opinions I have on the subject the better off I am in making the best decision. There are also financial considerations that come into play with going back to school. (It's nice to be getting paid for my work instead of paying someone else.) Any advice anyone would have to offer on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Liam

Jessie_K

  • Superstar!
  • *****
  • Posts: 528
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • International Stage Manager of Mystery
  • Affiliations: AEA, AGMA, SMA (on leave)
  • Current Gig: Queen of the Night
  • Experience: Professional
Re: School or work?
« Reply #1 on: Feb 28, 2007, 01:34 am »
I encourage you to get your full degree (BA or BFA).  It might not directly lead to more stage managing jobs, but will be important if you ever want to switch careers or move on to a graduate degree.

Yes, employeers often focus more on experience than education, but getting a degree in theatre/ stage management IS experience.  You will make contacts and get a chance to try more challenging projects in a safe environment.  Schools often have internship connections that would be difficult to get on your own.
You will also get opportunities to study abroad and study other subjects.  (Art history, music theory, languages, etc).
 
That's not saying you won't thrive without a degree.  Most early career SMing is trial by fire anyway.  You might do very well without formal education.  Getting your degree will help build a foundation, but it is not the only way to do so.


ReyYaySM

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 360
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Current Gig: Freelance
  • Experience: Professional
Re: School or work?
« Reply #2 on: Feb 28, 2007, 08:59 am »
Since you already have the AA and AS, depending on where you plan on getting your BFA, you should be able to have some of your previous course work count toward your degree, thus decreasing the amount of time you would be spending in school.  You can also try to work your schedule so that you can do professional work on the side (i.e. evenings and weekends, or even in the summers).  You might even be able to work out a way to get credit for it.  That way you'll be getting your degree but still keeping a foot in the professional world.  The tricky thing about that is neglecting either your studies or the show, which could ultimately lead to more trouble than good. 

Take a stroll through the boards and you may discover a few other topics related to this subject.  You may find this one on SM college degrees helpful.  Best of luck to you as you make your decision!

Rebbe

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 271
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: School or work?
« Reply #3 on: Feb 28, 2007, 10:38 am »
Ask yourself whether going back to school will make you happy.  Are you someone who loves learning, and being a student, or do you dread homework and quizzes?  I started a Masters program after about a year of being out of undergrad and working, and realized within a (very expensive) semester and a half that I liked the idea of being in school more than the reality of it.   

Also, I don’t know that you need to pressure yourself to make this decision now.  One of the best SMs I know started working in theater fresh out of high school.  After more than ten years in the biz, he decided to go to school for a degree in a completely different field.   You do have a college degree, even though it’s not from a four-year program.  If you decide to continue your education later in life, you’ll have a clearer sense of your goals, and have time to save some money for it.   

There are many different paths to a successful career as an SM.  If you like the one you’re on, if you feel it’s taking you where you want to go, I’d stay on it.  But trust your own instincts about which way to go, and know that neither choice is right or wrong, they are just different, and you can make the best of either.
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

ORTaurean

  • Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 57
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: School or work?
« Reply #4 on: Feb 28, 2007, 02:24 pm »
In my experience, getting a degree to be an SM comes from working in the field.  Actually going to school for one prepares those who haven't taken the leap you already have.  If you feel the need for a degree - why do you want it?  Because you plan to eventually get a masters and teach?  Or would you rather do - as you are now?  I have a masters in acting and halfway through, realized I didn't want to act anymore and that I wasn't ready to teach (my main reason for getting the degree.).  Now I have a great degree and a great theatrical education...I had all the basics in undergrad and all the basic theatre classes, grad school gave me a deeper understanding of history and production value, so I took a long road...but if you're doing what makes you happy and you plan to continue, I say find a great mentor to work with and then after that education experience has reached a conclusion (you'll know when it's time) then you can decide if you need the degree.

Every interview I've ever been on, as you seem to have noticed for yourself, have been more interested in experience than the degree.  I'm asked about my degree and get surprised looks when I tell what it's for - scared looks, like I lay leave to act somewhere...but then they see my dedication and ability, talk to references if they want and all is well.  I sell myself - not by my degree.

To me, theatrical degrees are for those who want to A) keep acting or involved in the theatre, but don't have the confidence to make it in the field, B) teach at a university of HS level or C)have enough dough to shell out of daddy's wallet to keep them busy for 4 years before reality sets in.

We're pushed so much for education (despite the No Child Left Behind) but we don't step back to realize if we're investing wisely in our post-secondary education.

Enough of my rant--make the decision that feels right to you.
Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
-Rosiland Russell

shatbox

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 26
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: IATSE
Re: School or work?
« Reply #5 on: Mar 03, 2007, 02:18 am »
I'm in the same boat as you. I would have an AA in Technical Theatre, but I haven't changed my major on paper from philosophy. All I ever wanted was to work in a professional environment. I couldn't find it at school so went looking for it.

I asked a very demanding teacher of mine for advice when I was in high school. He took off his glasses and looked straight in my eyes and said, "work hard". I understood what he and my family had taught me all along. Thus my mantra was born. "Seek those with standards and meet them. Exceed them. Then repeat. Set the standard."

My plan is to get some real world experience then go to school in about a year. I just have to have faith that I'm doing the right thing.
Seek those with standards and meet them. Exceed them. Move forward. Set the standard.
iacosta@phillytheatreco.com

TechGal

  • Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 53
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: IATSE
Re: School or work?
« Reply #6 on: Mar 05, 2007, 10:15 am »
This is a really interesting topic to me because I'm living it right now! 

I started my full-time college career (took 18 hours as a senior in HS) at a privet liberal arts university majoring in arts administration.  After one semester, I realized that even with my scholarship (which covered about half of my tuition) order to stay at that school I would have to take out huge loans, something I was not willing to do.  So, I decided to transfer to the local community college and get an AA in theater. 

The city I live in, Louisville, KY, has a wonderful theater community with lots of opportunities.  Now, I'm taking classes part-time and focusing on networking with the different companies and theater professionals here.  I haven't decided yet wether or not I'm going to go back and get a BA or BFA after I finish my AA in 9 months or so. It's Probably going to depend on what gigs I'm able to land and if I have the $$$ for more school.  Much like the pervious poster said, I too have only ever ascribed to highest standards of professionalism and desired to work in an environment that shares those ideals.

I have found that I learn best by actually working in the environment rather than talking about it in the classroom.  As a matter of fact, there are times when I get tired of being the most experienced person in my classes. I already have a decent resume built up for someone of my age having spent the last 5+ years working at the community and university level, and have high hopes of being able to get some great work.   If I'm able to start getting work that I like, I may very well put off more schooling for a while because I really dislike trying to balance shows, classes, and the necessary blue-collar rent paying job. 

Anyway, that's my little story.  It's great to hear everyone else's perspective on the school subject.  I haven't really ruled anything out yet and it is very helpful to hear how other people got to where they are. 

In the end though, I firmly believe that success in this business is all about who you know and lots, and lots of HARD WORK.

McShell

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 45
    • View Profile
Re: School or work?
« Reply #7 on: Mar 08, 2007, 05:29 am »
I agree, do what feels right for you.  I got an AA, then a BFA, but I've worked alongside people who took all kinds of educational paths.  Just a warning about the BFA... I got an AA, and it was still a mandatory three years for the BFA, regardless of how much experience I had, and a lot of classes I had to retake, because of their policies.  They took into account my work experience in admissions, and it raised my chances of getting in, but didn't give me college credit for it.  I think it varies by programs, but some of them are pretty strict about the three years.  However, it was a great experience, and I'm glad I did it.
The only thing I might do different is consider getting a BA instead of a BFA, but no worries.

sammy

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 15
    • View Profile
Re: School or work?
« Reply #8 on: Mar 31, 2007, 03:26 am »
If you want to make yourself better, surround yourself with the best... As I see it, "good stage managers are hard to find" will decide what you do next. I haven't met a person that can define what a good stage manager is without cloning someone they know or explaining the perfect personality, and people that work consistently for years (somehow) aren't always the best of mentors. If you want to be the best you can be, make sure you work for the best stage manager you have ever met, however you need to (internship, fellowship, STUDENT) as long as they are willing to guide you in the right direction. I have met quite a few staff SMs that started as interns, and it happened because their personality had the traits the PSM saw as ideal for the position (every SM I know has a different standard for this!) and they got along well. The key is getting in with a company that will eventually pay you more than $250 a week.. if you want to have one job, instead of two (or three, etc.) Something else to consider, do you and the SMs you work with know the full capacity of the job? Not to offend, but there is a significant difference between working in a 99-seater and a large lort/opera house. I learned the most about this job when I was put in a complete union environment and I wasn't allowed to touch a thing, respectfully. Blabbering, please forgive me, but I would be half in the dark if it weren't for my education - I started with a BFA in order to learn the construction of the other skills while practicing my instincts on what SMing was about. Then I got an MFA to hone in my SM skills with professionals, and, quite frankly, the best SMs I have ever seen. It will do you no good to get advice from someone that isn't good, and you won't know what is really good vs. really bad until you see the best at work (and in the office after). I am all for education. Working with the best professionals, as well as your counterparts (some would say competition, rightfully so) will teach you a GREAT deal about the politics, as well as the practices. I guess the bottom line is, either way will get you somewhere, or nowhere - it's all about who you surround yourself with, learn from, and learn with. Cheers to you, and best of luck!

KMC

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 962
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: Project Manager, Systems Integration
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: School or work?
« Reply #9 on: Mar 31, 2007, 11:41 am »
I think another thing that is often overlooked with a four year degree is the education you get outside of the theatre.  Theatre mirrors life, and in my opinion a well-rounded education is imperative.  There have been some other posts in different threads about people who have degrees in fields nowhere even closely related to theatre that are thriving as SMs. 
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

Tags:
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
6 Replies
3969 Views
Last post Jul 03, 2007, 01:07 pm
by PSMREL
10 Replies
6472 Views
Last post Oct 13, 2006, 03:12 pm
by fuzzy_7
22 Replies
13930 Views
Last post Jan 17, 2008, 08:01 pm
by Jessie_K

riotous