On September 8th 2014, I graduated from the University of Lincoln with a 2:1 BA (Hons) Drama degree. I have worked hard over the past three years to achieve this yet, even as a graduate, I am still bombarded with the age old bullshit that it is a ‘Mickey Mouse Subject’ and unbeneficial for the likes of finding employment post-university. I apologise to those that may have been offended by my use of strong language in the previous statement, but this is a topic that I have very sensitive and passionate about so I can more than likely guarantee that strong language like this may pop up occasionally as this post continues. You have been warned!
Although it is very clear to me that the kind of people that refer to Drama as being a waste of three years’ worth of higher education and thousands of pounds worth of money are those that they themselves have probably never been involved in Drama or taken their lessons further than Key Stage 3, it still angers me when they think it acceptable to mock a subject that they do not fully understand. Some would assume that Drama students spend their entire three years learning how to act and that they prance around studios pretending to be leaves blowing in the wind or, even more frustrating, being trees (though I cannot deny that there have been times when people I have studied with have been cast as trees in big budget productions…)
I should probably mention the reason behind today’s initial frustration and my reason for choosing to write about this topic in the first place. A friend of mine, who is currently still studying Drama at Lincoln, shared an article by The Tab. The article itself speaks about the Top 20 worst degrees for employability. Regardless of the fact that Drama itself wasn’t featured within this particular list it is well known that the performing arts industry is very difficult to break into, hence a lot of people assuming that its a waste of time to study, etc. The status that my friend shared with this post reads:
‘drama’s a mickey mouse subject’ still more likely to get a job out of it than half the ignorant pricks that tell me this – Anon, 2014
By the time I’d come across this post on my timeline there had been a few comments already posted giving their opinion on the subject, agreeing that they thought it to be a ‘Mickey Mouse Subject’ and that employability is low for not only Drama but other arts based courses, such as Media and Film Studies. I decided I would contribute, posting:
For all non-drama people, I would love to see you learn a whole script for a 2hr+ play, learn all the movements and cue lines for not just yourself but everyone else on stage, perform the play for 3+ shows EXACTLY THIS SAME each time you do it, as well as knowing all of the theory behind the type of performance it is, the backstory to your character and those around you and be able to bring forward the emotional intensity FOR EVERY PERFORMANCE and during the rehearsals, on top of that writing a 1,500+ word essay for said performance. Oh yeah, and you have to do that three times each semester for three completely different things. Then I’d like to see if they then call it a ‘Mickey Mouse subject’.
Although I knew that this post would spark some controversy and debate, I felt pleased with myself having posted it. However, the comments that followed this just further infuriated me:
Touchy this one^^^^^ Lol can you do this speach on video so we can see if ur acting is any good – Anon, 2014
whilst i respect the arguement put forward by the “drama” people i think if i said learn physics in 2 hours and ill learn your drama i suspect i might get a higher mark than you would expect. Its all about your point of reference, everyone can say “id like to see you do it” […] as i am so ignorant can you please educate me on how a degree in drama is harder than a degree in say, maths, physics, chemistry, medicine ? As I am so ignorant Ofcourse. – Anon, 2014
Not only were these posters rude, they are also extremely small minded and judgemental, particularly comparing Drama to a subjects that are completely different to each other. I don’t deny that subjects such as those mentioned above are difficult and involve a lot of attention and time to study them, but comparing them to Drama is ridiculous. Drama has it’s own difficulties and challenges like every other subject and any student would say that their subject is hard. But comparing subjects to others is not the way to go around things.
There is a lot more that goes into studying Drama at degree level than just ‘acting’. As I posted on the original Facebook post mentioned above, there is a lot of research and self-study involved that covers the theory side of all the modules that I did during my time at University that are used towards essay writing, presentations and performance. It’s not easy to learn three completely different scripts simultaneously over a semester and also know all of the theory behind the piece/playwright and/or era. One cannot develop a character over night and have them be believable and/or relatable to the audience. The actor must know their back story, intentions, relationship with other characters, physicality, mentality, strengths and weaknesses, voice, authority and status. And what about the infamous world of female students having to play male characters? That only adds further to the things an actor has to think about when developing their character over a rehearsal period – of which the majority of rehearsal time is un-timetabled and done during the students’ own free time. Rehearsals are long, gruelling and stressful times for Drama students, especially when they’re having to juggle rehearsals for two or more performances, of which are all performed within the same two week assessment period. Not only this, but all essays are due in around this time too and also trying to have a social life, so forgive us for saying that studying Drama at University is hard.
Another thing that a lot of non-theatrical people don’t realise is that studying Drama is actually beneficial for the workplace as students are able to gain several transferrable skills, such as: communication skills, confidence, being able to work in groups, presentation skills, clarity in speech, analytical skills, punctuality, keeping to deadlines, organisation, and many more.
Drama students are so often undervalued and underestimated and other people’s ignorance and small-mindedness really does get the better of me. I am not saying that Drama is the most difficult subject to study, but it’s not. I can see why those studying academically recognised subjects are put under a lot of pressure and stress for their subjects, but the fact that they chose to study those subjects at University clearly shows that they are more than capable of putting in the work necessary. Heck, I would have studied Physics had I a) been any good at the subject at school, and b) enjoyed it. And that’s the big point here, I enjoyed my course and that’s why I chose to study it. Anyone applying for University, regardless of the course they choose, will expect it to be hard. But courses should not be batted against each other with claims that others are more difficult than others. Each have their own difficulties and each have their rewards.
I don’t know where my degree is going to take me in the future, but I don’t regret the last three years of my life. Even if I am one of the 5% of students who find themselves on Jobseekers Allowance, as stated in the original article that sparked this whole discussion off, I at least know that I am one of the small percentage of people who go the Job Centre as a whole who actually wants a job. And I have found a job. Yes, I could have got it without a degree, but it’s a start. Everyone has to start somewhere.
I guess the moral of this post is to not judge someone by the course they choose to study and not to undermine them because of it. Chances are, if you do undermine their choices, you probably don’t know half of the things that are involved in their course and that you yourself still have things to educate yourself on.
Until next time,