Don’t forget about drama

The start of the new year is approaching and students are packing up and preparing to return to campus. Posts on social media show my fellow scholars preparing their textbooks and tools for learning the many crafts that drew them to Baker University.

While scrolling through the pages and noticing the lack of interest in drama, I realized a sad truth: the number of students involved in theater in college continues to decline. Knowing the benefits that come with participating in the dramatic arts, seeing the decline become a trend is sadder still.

Because I was a bit of a loner, it always took a little extra courage for me to get out and try something new, but after taking a forensics class in high school with a teacher who encouraged me to take drama, I realized just how beneficial theater can be for anyone. Since joining my high school drama department and becoming involved in theater here at Baker, I have learned how to better speak in public and relate to others all while expanding my social network and spending time with amazing people.

When I asked around some of my classes why students have no interest in theater, their responses were that they’re too scared to audition or aren’t the acting type. In my experience, these seem to be the biggest culprits behind the depleting numbers, though both are easily overcome.

The word “audition” evokes fear into the heart of even the most professional performer, but after experiencing a few I’ve found that in the end they’re always rewarding and well worth the nerves. Knowing the people around me are just as nervous as I am always helps remind me that it’s OK to be nervous and provides a calming support group before an audition. With a sense of accomplishment after every one, I’ve realized that auditions are a great way to improve my public speaking skills and conquer my fear of performing in front of others.

Once I joined theater at Baker, I realized that like those that said, “acting is not for me,” I had more fun behind the stage than on it. What some students who avoid theater don’t realize is that you don’t have to be the next Matthew Morrison or Pam MacKinnon to be an integral part of the theater department. Behind the stage are jobs like lights, sound board, make-up, set design and construction, backstage crew and even stage managers for well organized individuals seeking work in management positions.

Just as theater improved my ability to speak to people I didn’t know, it helped me work with and understand people I otherwise would not have. Whether it was stepping into the role of someone drastically different than myself or working with someone I’d never spoken to before, theater was constantly introducing me to new and unique individuals. With each introduction I learned more and more about my peers and developed lasting friendships with people I never imagined I’d talk to.

Along with social benefits, theater has been a tremendous help in teaching me to better manage my time. Regardless of whether I was on stage or not, theater was a demanding commitment that required dedication and perseverance. As well as learning lines, attending rehearsals and practicing or memorizing outside of rehearsal, I had to learn to balance my everyday responsibilities with an activity that is not as easy as it looks. Developing time management has proven to be one of the most useful skills since arriving at college, and future participation promises to help even more.

As a fan of the Department of Music and Theatre here at Baker, it would be more than thrilling to see more students step out of their comfort zone, try something new and breathe new life into a form of student expression and development as beneficial as theater.