Here’s a list of skills, traits, and qualities of personality that are usually well-developed in individuals who have engaged in theatre study. Take special note of them. They are more extensive and important than you may recognize. As you think about them, consider how many of these advantages are unique to theatre, and that offer more advantages in day to day life than most other disciplines.
Oral Communication Skills
Many students find that theatre helps them develop the confidence that’s essential to speaking clearly, lucidly, and thoughtfully.
Acting onstage teaches you how to be comfortable speaking in front of large audiences, and some theatre classes give you additional experience talking to groups. Furthermore, your work as a team has taught clear, precise, and well-organized oral communications are best. Oral communication skills are so important to some employers that they often send management trainees to special workshops.
Creative Problem Solving Abilities
Most people expect theatre students to exhibit creativity in such areas as acting, design, playwright or directing, and many companies recruit creative thinkers. Employers are not always aware that theatre experience also helps teach creative problem-solving techniques that are applicable to many jobs. If you have any experience in theatre tell them!
For one example, tech theatre work such as building scenery, hanging lights, making props, running the show, is a particularly good way to learn how to think on your feet, to identify problems, evaluate a range of possible solutions, and figure out how to get things done in a allotted time frame.
The same is true of almost every aspect of theatre. Directing, Design, Acting. Play-writing & Management.
The point here is creative ability and using creative processes to solve problems. These skills can be directly applicable to virtually any job.
Most major companies believe that a creative problem-solver will become a good employee.
More than “Get It Done”
Theatre students learn that just “getting it done” isn’t enough. It goes beyond that. In theatre we learn that merely “getting the show on the boards” is pure bush league and totally unacceptable. Whatever your theatrical job, tech, performing, research, management, it has to be done right.
Motivation and Commitment
Being involved in theatre productions and classes demands commitment and motivation. These are qualities that theatre instills in some measure and that everyone’s success comes the task at hand. Few other disciplines help you develop motivation and commitment to this extent.
Many theatre students learn to transfer that attribute from theatre to other activities such as classes and jobs. For employers, that positive attitude is essential.
Willingness to Work Cooperatively
Your work in theatre companies teaches you how to work effectively with different types of people, often very different types!
Theatre demands that participants work together cooperatively for the production to success; there is no room for “we” versus “they” behavior; the “star” diva is a thing of the past. Your colleagues will usually let you know when you violate the team spirit of a production.
In theatre, it’s important that each individual supports the others involved. Employers will be pleased to know that you understand how to be a team player.
The Ability to Work Independently
In theatre, you’re often assigned tasks that you must complete without supervision. Crew chiefs, Directing, Set Building, Prop Master, Characterization outside of rehearsals. It’s left up to you to figure out how best to achieve the goal. The ability to work independently is a trait employers look for in their workers.
When being a part of a show theatre forces you to learn how to budget your time. You need to schedule your time very carefully while you’re busy with rehearsals, work calls, and the other demands that theatre makes on your time. Good time management skills are enormously important to employers.
Personnel managers call people who approach work with initiative and enterprise “self-starters,” people who do what needs to be done without waiting to be asked, without needing to be told.
The complexities of a theatrical production demand individuals who are willing to voluntarily undertake any task that needs to be done in order for the production to succeed. In theatre, we’re all self-starters. We learn how to take initiative, to move a project from initial concept to finality and to do it well.
Promptness and Respect for Deadlines
Tardiness is never acceptable in theatre because it shows a lack of self-discipline, and more importantly, a lack of consideration for others. Being late for a rehearsal or a work call or failing to finish an assigned task on time damages a production and adversely affects the work of many other people. Theatre demands that you learn to arrive on time and meet scheduled deadlines.
That’s a job-skill. Employers appreciate workers who are on time and do their work as scheduled.
Acceptance of Rules
In theatre you work within the structure of a set of procedures and rules that deal with everything from shop safety to behavior at auditions, rehearsals and work calls. You learn that you must be a “good follower.” Theatre teaches you the importance of rules, a concept that’s valued in any organization.
The Ability to Learn Quickly and Correctly
Theatre in all capacities requires the ability to learn whether memorizing lines or learning the technical aspects of a production, the ability to absorb a vast quantity of information quickly and accurately is key . Work in theatre will show that you have the ability to grasp complex matters in a short period of time, a highly-valued trait to employers.
Note that part of this ability is another significant trait: knowing how to listen. If you don’t listen, you’re likely to make some major error that will damage the production. Listening is a skill for any job and an employer will respect your ability to listen and comprehend.
Respect for Colleagues
In theatre you discover that a successful production requires contributions from everybody who’s involved. Mutual respect is essential. Working on a production teaches us to respect and trust the abilities and talents of our colleagues. A prospective employer will appreciate the fact that you have learned the importance of respecting your co-workers.
Respect for Authority
Only one person can be in charge of any given portion of a production. The director. The shop foreman. The tech director. The designer. Theatre teaches you to willingly accept and respect authority. That’s a trait employers look for in their workers.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Theatre teaches you to be adaptable and flexible. A willingness to try new ideas, accept new challenges, and have the ability to adapt to constantly changing situations and conditions. In one production you may be a member of the prop crew; in the next perhaps you’re in charge of makeup, publicity or the box office; in a third production you might have a leading role.
A worker who is versatile and flexible is highly valued to most employers; both traits prove that you are able and willing to learn new things.
The Ability to Work Under Pressure
Theatre work often demands long hours. It’s important that everyone involved with a production be able to maintain a cooperative and enthusiastic attitude under pressure. The ability to remain poised under such tensions in an asset that will help you cope with stress in other parts of your life, including your job.
A Healthy Self-Image
To work in theatre, you must know who you are and how to project your individuality. But at the same time, it’s important to recognize the need to make yourself secondary to the importance of a production. This is a tricky balance that, although difficult to accomplish, is a valuable trait that employers treasure.
Acceptance of Disappointment and Ability to Bounce Back
Theatre people learn to deal with dashed hopes and rejection on a regular basis. Who hasn’t failed to get a role he or she really wanted or a coveted spot on a tech crew? You learn to accept that kind of disappointment and move on. You try again. Employers need workers who are resilient enough to bounce back from this kind of frustration.
Theatre demands that you learn how to control your life. You are forced to make choices between keeping up with responsibilities and doing things you’d rather do. You learn to govern yourself accordingly and employers will respect that ability.
A Goal-Oriented Approach to Work
Many aspects of theatre involve setting and achieving specific goals. In employer’s terms, you’ve learned to be task-oriented and capable of finding practical ways to achieve goals.
Being involved in a production or other theatre projects while also taking on other responsibilities teach you to concentrate in order to succeed. Acting classes in particular stress concentration, and once you have learned that skill as an actor, it can be transferred to other activities.
As you work in theatre you learn to dedicate your very being to doing your best to create a successful production. Giving 100% to a task is deeply rewarding. Employers respect workers who have learned the value of dedication.
A Willingness to Accept Responsibility
Theatre offers opportunity seldom given to other disciplines, the chance to take on sole responsibility for a special project. Being a production stage manager, a designer, a crew chief, a director or and actor you are always responsible for yourself and others under your scope of commitment.
In theatre you have many opportunities to assume leadership roles. You may, for example, assist a director or designer and lead other volunteers, serve as a crew chief, or even design or direct a production yourself. In the nurturing environment of theatre, you learn from mistakes so you become a better leader. Leadership training like this can open the possibility for comparable opportunities in a company that hires you.
Theatre training teaches you confidence in yourself. Your accomplishments in theatre show you that you can handle a variety of jobs, pressures, difficulties and responsibilities. You develop a “Yes, I can!” attitude. Of course an employer will treasure that.
Enjoyment in a Job Well Done
Non-theatre folk shake their heads when we tell them that we derive enjoyment from a job well done, and they ask how it is possible to have “fun” in a job that keeps you working night after night, sometimes until after midnight while giving up outside opportunities like going to a concert, movie or just heading out for a pizza. The answer is we ENJOY what we do and therefore it isn’t just work. That’s a valuable attribute.
So…You get the idea. It seems almost incidental at this point to mention that theatre training will of course also prepare you for a career in the theatre. While training you learn all the above mentioned skills as well as how to use your voice, body, mind and heart to make magic happen on stage.
Edited and altered from original 25 Life Skills Learned in Theatre by Dr. Louis E. Catron Appalachian State University