Act I: Before.
When I applied to Seattle University (SU), I applied as an English/Creative Writing major; I loved theatre, but when I said I also wanted to be an actress, I really meant a movie actress. Sure, I also picked SU because I liked the theatre program, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to pursue it as a major.
Originally, I thought I might minor in acting, maybe do other theatre electives, but I was hesitant because while I thought I liked acting (which I’d never even done before), once I saw the curriculum... I wasn’t into it.
Theatre History? Stage Management? Costume History?
I was curious, but I didn’t want to be graded on these things if I wasn’t even sure I’d ever use them, or if I wanted to take a whole quarter in each.
But acting... I really wanted to get into acting, so even in my first quarter as a freshman, I managed to get in the class. I fell in love, but it wasn’t until the end of the year that I finally decided to audition for the Theatre Department.
Act II: The True Beginning?
When I auditioned, my advisor just signed me up as a major and said that would be easier than doing a minor and last minute realizing that I’d chosen the wrong thing. I was hesitant, but I went along with it. Then, just because this class was only offered once a year, I decided to take Costume History in the Spring.
I remember my professor started the class by saying that taking this class would change the way we watch movies. It would change the way we see period pieces, and it would impact the way we see clothes in general.
It wasn’t just acting that I was interested in, but getting in the character's’ shoes to find out their world and every part of their story. I wanted to know how what they wore also spoke about who they were.
When I realized that costumes could tell you a story visually, I also realized that it’s not “acting” and it’s not “writing” or “clothes.” What I liked, was storytelling in any way I could manage it. I realized I loved what plays could say about the playwright’s time, how the set was just as much a part of the story, and how it takes a whole team of people to make that work of art happen.
Act III: There’s More.
As I talked to other students I learned that a lot of us got into this world because we were interested in acting, but the major forced us to explore other areas of theatre, so some of us found our theatrical passion elsewhere.
I took two acting classes and auditioned a bunch of times, but I wasn’t in any of the plays except for a twenty-minute one-act. Honestly, I’m not that mad about it. I still think I like acting, but I also really like costumes. I can’t see a show anymore and not think about the costumes.
Also, even though I didn’t act that much, I worked in the costume shop for four different shows as a student and would have done more if my schedule had allowed it.
And that’s another issue in itself.
Before I got involved, I didn’t realize the time commitment that putting on a show requires. For us back at the costume shop, it’s a lot, but once the show opens, we’re done. The wardrobe team takes over, and we have our little celebration.
I worked in wardrobe only once, and quickly realized how much of my time this would absorb, including evenings. My conflict was also that I had declared the major just a little late, and I was studying for another degree at the same time. I’m already not that great at time management, but this almost killed me.
We had work to do, we had a show to put on, but there was always more. And it wasn’t just me, we were all students. We all had separate responsibilities.
This is when I learned that if you want to do theatre, you really have to love it. You can’t do it “just because,” because this is a way of life that has to be fed by your passion and love for it.
Act IV: So What Do I Do?
When I left Ecuador, I didn’t see a future in theatre for myself in my country; it’s only now that I can see how it is growing, and how I can help it grow. But, do I have the passion for it?
Honestly, and this is hard to admit, I’m not sure. I’m head over heels in love with it, but here’s an important detail:
You can’t just be in love with the theatre.
You have to be in love with the process.
It’s just like writing, that way. Writing, my first love, is also the strongest love/hate relationship I’ve ever experienced. Just like writing, even when it gets hard, it has to feel for you like this is all worth it.
So, is it worth it?
Will it make you happy?
I just graduated from studying theatre, but it somehow feels like my journey with it is still beginning. I can’t answer these questions for you. I’m still asking myself, am I in love with the process? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?
Truth is, no one is going to tell you if theatre is going to be worth it for you. You’ll have to figure that out all on your own.
Act V: The Secret.
I can only tell you this one story and hope it helps:
There was one day, right around when I had to start taking Stage Management and was having a rough time in my personal life, that I went to talk to my advisor in her office.
“I really don’t think I can commit,” I told her. “I don’t know if I have the time or the energy, and there are just some classes I don’t want to take.”
She looked at me like she could see right through me like she knew I was just scared that studying this would be pointless because I hadn’t decided if I liked it for real or not. Then, she just told me:
“Look, why don’t you give it another shot? You haven’t gotten involved in any of the productions yet, right? Just try one. Get involved in any way that you can—if you don’t pass the audition, get involved backstage. Just try to be there for one of the productions and then if you tell me you want to drop it, I’ll do all the paperwork with you.”
I think about this moment a lot because, after that, it was the first time I started working in the costume shop. After that, I knew that even if I didn’t end up acting, I loved that community. I loved being a part of something great. I loved how much could happen in about two and a half hours.
So, if you’re not sure about it, the least you can do is find out why some part of you is drawn to the theatre.
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