When I was a freshman, I came into college not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Now that I’m a senior, nothing much has changed. I will be graduating with a theatre degree with no intention of pursuing an acting career and psychology and art minors with no immediate plans on attending graduate school. I still don’t know what I want to do. What has changed is my outlook on the skills I have to offer, more specifically, transferable skills.
There are few things more detrimental to the actor than being on autopilot. No matter what day you’re having, when it’s show time, it’s show time and you have got to deliver the very best you have. Sometimes actors and actresses perform in the same show twice a day for one or more years and even if they have said the same lines a hundred times before, it must sound fresh and new every performance. They are able to do this by striving to be in the moment, having a constant awareness of what is happening around them and listening and responding to the subtle changes in inflection and movement of the other characters.
One of the most critical transferable skill you can learn in life is to be an active learner rather than being on autopilot. Active learners are present, mentally as well as physically, are engaged in being investigative, asking questions and formulating their own opinion. Those who practice and build this skill in the classroom have a real advantage in the professional world.
One thing that still amazes me about live theatre is that if a set piece crashes to the ground, if a prop breaks or if somebody is ill or injured onstage, “the show must go on.” With so many elements creating a composition, something is bound to go wrong every performance and usually it does. During these events, it is absolutely essential that the actors continue on and make sure that the story is being communicated to the audience.
Another transferable skill is being able to adapt to changes, being flexible and open to new ideas. Like most things, this comes with practice, and a good way to develop this skill is to accept when things do not go according to plan. When faced with an unexpected challenge, take a deep breath and focus on solving the problem, instead of focusing on your own disappointment. Sometimes these problems are blessings in disguise and teach you a new way to respond to a difficult situation.