I always received the same reaction throughout university when asked what degree I was studying. Hesitantly, I would reply: “Drama and Theatre Studies,” and prepare to be met by the familiar awkward pause followed by “Oh, so you’re going to be an actress, then?” I knew the response before it had even left their mouths and yet it still created that same level of annoyance within me and made me ask myself the good old question: why do people only associate drama with acting?
And yet, ironically, I was one of those people before university. At secondary school, my sixth form career interviews were filled with my adviser persuading me to study something more academic at university. She pointed out that unless I wanted to become an actor, there really was no point in studying drama as if there were no other options. Looking back, it’s surprising just how misinformed she was, ignorant to the plethora of jobs associated with the arts. Being young, impressionable and somewhat clueless as to where else a drama degree could lead, I agreed to study “History and Sociology” at Manchester Metropolitan University, confirming my place on results day.
Nevertheless, on what should have been one of the most exciting days of my life, I was feeling deflated instead. Drama had been my passion for most of my life; I got my first taste aged 11 when I played the lead role of the Warden in my year 6 production of Holes. Wearing my mum’s brown knee-high boots, straw cowboy hat and stick-on rose thorn tattoos, the adrenalin of performing was overwhelming and became an addiction that unbeknown to me, I would never be able to kick.
Like a bad break up (when you don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone) I knew I’d made one of the worst decisions of my life. I impulsively rejected my place at Manchester Met leading to an unexpected gap year, working full time in a retail job whilst I swam through limbo trying to figure out how to study drama when I didn’t want to be an actor. Cue Google that, after hours of research, informed me that being an actor was barely the tip of the iceberg. Studying drama could lead to producing, directing, dramaturgy, stage management or aspects of media to name just a few. Understanding how many opportunities studying drama could open me up to cemented my decision to study it the following year at a different university.
I often wonder where I’d be if I had stuck with studying “History and Sociology” in Manchester. I know I wouldn’t be happy, not deep down inside anyway. Drama has always been part of my life and I’m so grateful I came to my senses and decided to rekindle our relationship. My experience has taught me just how misinformed people are at the many opportunities drama can offer and, if my own school’s careers advisor is clueless (and it’s her job not to be!), then how ignorant must so many others truly be? The answer – very.
I’ve learned to stifle the exasperated sigh when answering what I studied at university, I’ve learned that the assumption of me wanting to become an actor comes with the territory. However, if this is the worst consequence of studying something that I have long had a passionate, deep love affair with, then to say it’s been worth it is an understatement to say the least.Back to Journal