Gutierrez: Why I’m a theatre major at a top-ten university

Pallas Gutierrez, Columnist

“Are you sure you don’t want to major in something real?”

Over the past two years, I have been asked this question countless times. Relatives, family friends, peers and even strangers — everyone wants to make sure that I know how unemployable theatre majors are. But here I am anyway, a first-year theatre major at a top-10 university.

I’m a theatre major because I want to make theatre professionally. I loved making theatre in high school, and I have absolutely loved the opportunities I’ve had since then. So why study theatre? Couldn’t I just go out and start doing it? Like any other field of study, majoring in theatre in college is preparing me for making professional theatre. Through Northwestern’s theatre program, I get to learn about all the different moving parts that come together to make theatre happen, to discover which of those I like best and to do it with a hundred other people who are learning and discovering the same things.

During my senior year of high school, some of my peers joked that if I wasn’t “good enough” to go to a conservatory, then I probably wouldn’t be able to make it as a theatrical professional. Conservatory programs require knowing what specific area of theatre you want to study, whether it’s stage management, design, directing or acting. I’m still not certain which of those things I want to do, and NU’s broad program allows me to explore and learn about all of them.

I have always been an academically-minded person. I think that the history and theory of theatre is critical to informing all our modern choices. Here, I can take theatre classes, but I can also study related topics through English courses on Shakespeare or gender studies classes like Gender and Performance. I’m not limited to a technical or artistic lens on theatre; I can look at it through many different disciplines.

Theatre is thrilling for me because it’s both work and fun. Hours of thought and analysis go into every choice made on stage and off, and when all that work is compiled together, everyone can play with their choices, making minor adjustments, trying out new ideas and having fun with the piece. There’s a clear artistic element of theatre, but there’s also logistics: Where do people exit so they have enough time to get back on stage for the next scene? How do we make sure everyone gets their microphone on before the show?

Theatre is very interdisciplinary, and as a result brings many types of people together. Playwrights, producers, directors, stage managers, designers, actors and stagehands all come from different backgrounds and have different ideas and skills, each contributing to the final product.

The challenges of theatre are exhilarating. There are so many things to take into consideration before even starting a production, let alone once work begins. Each job has its difficulties, which makes successfully creating even the smallest piece that much more rewarding.

The most important reason I am a theatre major, and why I want to be a theatre professional, is that I love it. I love every minute of it. Theatre is my home, and I want to keep doing it for the rest of college and my life. I have been a producer, designer, director, stage manager, actor and crew member, and I have loved each job. I love the collaboration, the challenges and how much thought goes into every choice.

And to anyone who still thinks theatre is easy, I invite you to come to any campus theater and program the light board, or help with a costume change. I guarantee you’ll feel differently — and that you’ll feel the same thrill theatre people are lucky enough to feel regularly.

A. Pallas Gutierrez is a Communication freshman. They can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.