The subjects of the arts are frequently regarded as being among the least important or ‘pointless’ disciplines. For years, they have suffered criticism for being ‘not intellectually challenging’ or ‘simply a hobby’ and as a result have been severely under-appreciated by society.
However, I would strongly disagree with this stigma of the arts being useless and argue that all creative disciplines are undoubtedly valuable. One area in particular which I hold the utmost respect for is drama studies.
A common criticism of studying drama is that it is rarely going to be of use as so few people will actually go on to have a successful acting career. It is often thought that the entertainment industry is elitist and cut-throat, meaning theatre studies is seen as useless. A letter sent in 2012 from the Department for Education to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre also suggested that drama is not a subject in the minds of ministers. It read: “Ministers do not consider drama to be core knowledge, as it is more a question of pedagogy and therefore outside the remit of the [primary] curriculum review.”
Drama goes far beyond simply the A listers who earn millions to star in a blockbuster film; the skills you acquire in the process of learning to act are utterly unmatched in any other discipline.
However, I could not disagree more with these ignorant views. Drama goes far beyond simply the A listers who earn millions to star in a blockbuster film; the skills you acquire in the process of learning to act are utterly unmatched in any other discipline. Who said that the goal even has to be a future career in the arts?
Drama is a powerful, creative and challenging subject which incorporates so many different aspects of life. It requires you to develop your communication skills, creativity, critical thinking, and awareness, all whilst working in a team – no other art form is more collaborative. Employers are increasingly recognising the innovative skills developed by theatre studies, however the benefits of the discipline go far beyond simply career advantages.
Arguably, the biggest value that comes from studying drama is the huge confidence boost that it gives you – your communication skills can skyrocket. Acting is demanding and it constantly forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. You learn to interact with others in a positive way and realise that public speaking is not really intimidating. This disciplinary approach can absolutely transform a person and teach them how to deal with nerves in a way that no other subject does.
Drama also gives you a much better awareness of others – one that cannot be found by simply reading textbooks. Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda affirms: “the arts have the ability to engender empathy and to see world views beyond our own.” By playing different roles, you get to experience someone else’s life and empathise with their situation. Such an understanding is unique to drama.
Acting is demanding and it constantly forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. You learn to interact with others in a positive way and realise that public speaking really is not threatening. This disciplinary approach can absolutely transform a person and teach them how to deal with nerves in a way that no other subject does.
Jaz Phillips, second-year Theatre Studies and English Literature student at the University of Warwick, stresses the subject’s relevance to politics: “I think it’s definitely given me more of a critical understanding of the world around me, especially in the current global political climate. It’s interesting to see how much politicians owe to performance.” She also praises the subject for making her more confident and helping with the other half of her degree, English Literature.
Performing under pressure, for example to an audience in a show, has also been proven to improve your memory, concentration, and professionalism – not to mention the physical benefits that come with being more active. Through examining a character’s posture, controlling dynamic movements, and choreographing various scenes, many people notice that their co-ordination and physical awareness improves.
Personally, I started going to a weekly acting class when I was nine as a means to boost my confidence because I was so shy. Years later I can say that drama has truly transformed me as a person. I would not be who I am today without it, and the interpersonal and presenting skills you develop from it last a lifetime.
Acting, by nature, provides you with so many incredible opportunities that no other subject does. I was given the chance to perform in stunning venues in London and in school to crowds of people. How many subjects allow you to showcase your progress in such a way?
There are so many aspects of everyday life which the majority of people find daunting that don’t phase actors. For instance, I have no problem speaking in front of an audience of hundreds of people – I dare say I actually enjoy it! Other things such as job interviews, meeting new people, having to improvise and think on my feet, and being comfortable on camera have also all become relatively straightforward for me due to acting. Drama has taught me how to harness my nerves and put on a show, as it were, and I credit the subject for shaping so many of my character traits today. Notably, it has made me a ‘people-person’ and I can often spot when a person has studied drama.
One drama teacher on Working Performance (Blog Spot) claims: “Drama matters to me, more than any other subject I have studied, because it has had the greatest impact on the skills and knowledge that I use on a daily basis. When I used to work in retail and when I worked in elderly care, it was the skills I had gained through Drama that were of most value to me, like understanding the power of eye-contact and being able to keep myself composed even when I was nervous. These were the tools which helped me be successful in employment and in life.”
Acting offers a perfect outlet as you can pretend to be someone else altogether and escape from the chaos of everyday life.
Despite all these infinite advantages, I would argue that at the end of the day, drama is a fun and refreshing subject. No matter how much natural talent you have, there are always so many skills for you to learn at any level – you don’t have to be the next Meryl Streep or Leonardo DiCaprio!
Acting offers a perfect outlet as you can pretend to be someone else altogether and escape from the chaos of everyday life. It has been proven to positively affect mental health and I have the utmost respect for people who impressively take drama to high levels. I find it shocking that this invaluable discipline is not compulsory for children to study from a young age at school. If it were, I can guarantee that we would have a much more socially adept and creative society.