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What do you do with a theatre degree?

No idea…is there even a theatre program here?

A home for the theatre people / Spencer Reid
A home for the theatre people / Spencer Reid

Not going to lie, when I first thought about writing this article, I thought all theatre students were a little whacked in the head for studying theatre and had absolutely no hope in ever finding a satisfying career after graduation.

I’m not going to say that my perspective changed completely while writing this article – I still think theatre people are a little odd – but I will say that I now view theatre students in a much different light: these champs are passionate, hardworking people who are determined to do what they love, and there are actually opportunities out there to help them achieve their dreams.

For example, although Ryan Spence, a former University of Regina theatre student, states that the U of R theatre program “ended up being not fully what [he] envisioned it being,” he didn’t just roll over, die, and switch career paths.

Instead, he put on his big-boy pants and got accepted into Seneca (an acting school in Toronto), which will hopefully help him to reach his goals.

Spence says, “My dream job in theatre…is to be in a situation where I’m constantly working and making at least an average living doing it.”

Unfortunately, making a living in theatre is much easier said than done.

“If you’re someone who enjoys being financially secure, this isn’t the field for you,” says Spence. “It’s great to have money, don’t get me wrong, but if you have to be a miserable twit every day you have it and are making it, I don’t see it being worth it.”

Boom! I concur. Screw it if you’re poorer than most. At least you won’t hate your life doing something you loathe.

Ah, loathing. Did Spence loathe his time spent in the U of R theatre department before he moved to Toronto? Absolutely not.

According to Spence, he enjoyed the small class sizes and states, “I am not, and never will be, taking anything away from the wonderful time I spent learning and meeting the people I did in Regina.”

Aw, how sweet. However, despite his sentiments, the U of R theatre program has some problems.

Spence states, “There are great people already working in the program, but there aren’t enough of them. Professors get pulled away from time to time for other opportunities or other reasons, and what’s left is no one to take over or no other classes being offered instead.”

What a shame. That’s all I have to say about that.

Gabrielle Dufresne, a recent U of R theatre student who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in performance (aka: acting), also has some drawbacks about the theatre program.

“It would be helpful to know a little more, or to at least have an experience of, putting on your own show,” says Dufresne. “[Also], we used to have four productions a year, but because of budget cuts, they’re down to two. And, that’s just unfortunate.”

Mmm, yes, that is unfortunate. As the old saying by someone who’s probably cool goes, “practice makes perfect.” How can theatre students strive for perfection with significantly less practice? If you figure it out, please, do tell.

Nevertheless, Dufresne has big dreams to build on her degree from the U of R by flying to Scotland to pursue her Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) in Contemporary and Classical Speech at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatory.

Dufresne states, “I got my degree in performing so that’s what I want to do. People are always like, ‘So what do you want to do with that degree?’ Well, I’d like to act.”

Duh. Seriously, people, what do you think she’s going to do? Knit scarves? Heck no! That’s like asking me what I want to do with my Education degree….ummm…teach?

But, in all seriousness, Dufresne’s biggest dream lines up with Ryan Spence’s.

“The ultimate dream would be able to live completely off of doing what I love,” says Dufresne. “That’s living the dream. But, I would love to one day set foot on the stage of the Stratford Festival as a Canadian artist. That would be phenomenal.”

Now, as some of you (and myself actually) are probably asking, is this goal a little too lofty for a young lady from Regina, Saskatchewan? Shockingly, no.

In fact, with a BA in directing, playwriting, acting, set or lighting design, backstage work, production management, or stage management, theatre students can pretty much do whatever the heck they want.

Kathryn Bracht, a professor in the U of R’s theatre department states, “We’re a small department, but we have a lot of people who have gone off and done very interesting and wonderful things.”

Oooooooh and what are these “interesting and wonderful things?”

Well, while Regina offers the opportunity to start your own theatre company or join one of the existing ones – the Globe Theatre, Queen City Hub, Curtain Razors – according to Bracht, U of R theatre alumni have gone on to act in lead roles on the stages in Los Angeles, tour around the world with various productions, become the artistic director for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, act or direct at Persephone Theatre, work on productions in London, and teach fight choreography in London.

Bracht states that one of the U of R’s former wrestlers “came through the BFA, and she is a stunt woman in Vancouver…she put her two passions together.”

Now, that, my friends, is super cool. Ah, but take a deep breath, ‘cause the list of opportunities for theatre graduates continues.

According to Bracht, many alumni have also gone on to pursue an MFA (which you can actually get through the special case MFA that the U of R theatre program offers) become drama teachers, or work in areas such as film, TV, improve, stand-up comedy, musical theatre, and arts administration.

My goodness gracious, I am deeply and utterly shocked. Theatre students have already done and can continue to do great things with their theatre degrees. Let me scrape my gaping jaw off the floor. WOW. Apparently, the opportunities are endless for theatre grads. Huzzah! Hope!

Ah, but I’ve heard a rumour. Is the theatre program here at the U of R getting cut? This rumour stems from some juicy confusion that took place in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Bracht states, “What happened was we revamped our BFA program into a BA program, and, publically, what happened was it was announced that the BFA was cut, meaning that there was no program at all.”

Hold on one second. Let me get up off the floor that I was just rolling on while laughing my face off. Of all the things to screw up on, someone announced a couple years ago that the entire theatre program was cut. *face palm*

And, this screw-up affected theatre program enrollment. How hilariously sad is that?

“I think the year after that we lost a lot of students,” says Bracht. “A lot of students didn’t come because they thought we didn’t have a program.”

Well, at least this year, things are looking up for the program. According to Bracht, this year the program has one of the biggest classes of first year majors in acting that they’ve had in at least 2 or 3 years.

There ya have it folks. Apparently, you can do things with a theatre degree, the theatre program isn’t getting cut, and the U of R has a theatre program. Surprise!

About Destiny Kaus

Former carillon production manager/arts editor/arts writer.