Wednesday, August 06, 2008

more from the book

Here's part of the Tear Down the Grad Schools section:

You may have less to learn than you think.

Who knows? Maybe you're a genius.

Making mistakes is the only way to really learn things. So get out there and start making mistakes, the bigger the better. Get your early years behind you as quickly as possible.

You know how you sit back (even if you're 23 years old), and think back on what an idiot you used to be? You want to do that now, towards the beginning of your career, not at 35 after you've spent three years in grad school and five years out fighting.

Make your mistakes early enough, learn from them early enough that you have time to adjust and re-orient yourself and still be young and brave enough to stay in the game.

The worst thing about grad school for a theater artist is how it teaches you to think about the job.

You don't get grades in life. It's strictly Pass/Fail. And Pass usually just means you get to keep doing it, you get to stay in the game and try again.

Fail is going broke and being humiliated and embarrassed and having someone dismiss you or laugh at you in print and wanting to wriggle out of your own skin.

But you never get a B+. In the real world, that's a Fail.

Going to school for three years to learn how to act is like going to school for three years to learn how to play poker or to learn how to seduce a woman.

You get better at playing poker by playing lots of different people for real stakes and you either know how to seduce a woman or you don't. No intense study is going to help, it's just going to make you creepy.

Going to school to be a playwright, or any creative writer is completely pointless and probably damaging. That's all that's worth writing about that.

Going to school to be a director is probably helpful if you plan to spend your career directing classical work, Shakespeare, Chekhov, etc.

Maybe.

Going to school to be a designer might be a good idea, I don't know enough about it. My guess is you should just buy a stack of art books, go to the museum a lot and get a job in construction and learn how to dry-wall and weld and actually build things.

Just about everyone should get a liberal arts college degree, it's helpful if you need or want a straight job and it's good to have that baseline of knowledge and experience. But grad school for theater arts is sending a call-girl to Etiquette School, teaching a riverboat gambler Game Theory.

You're just wasting everybody's time.

5 comments:

JRS said...

I've always told my friends that directing for Stolen Chair was the ideal grad school: the learning curve doesn't get steeper and "tuition" is all funded by the government and private donors :)

Philucifer [aka Charlie Willis] said...

Yeah, I'm with you both on this one. It costs a lot less money to put up a season of indie shows as your sand box.

But, of course this assumes that when you step out of your liberal arts program with that piece of paper that cost you anywhere from 5-6 digits to get, that you've actually been taught the skills necessary to take over as your own life-long teacher.

John said...

Yeah, like I said, I think most people would do well to get a liberal arts degree, but not everyone. Some of the most successful and happy people I know figured out what they wanted to do with their lives early and just started doing it.

Every undergrad theater program should dedicate the last semester to the business of the craft, bring in working actors, have the students working in local theaters, talk about survival jobs and how to survive them, etc.

3.14 said...

haha you just put into words my first month after graduating!

I was like "I want to go to grad school for acting... woo!"...
and then I sat down...
and really thought about it.

The first thing I thought was:
"but... I hate actors"

The second thing I thought was pretty much along the lines of the last sentence in this blog --
except after time I also inserted [MONEY].



... finish writing this book,and publish it, dammit so kids can start reading the truth...

John said...

Oh, wait until I get started on the money side of it.

It occurred to me a few years ago that a lot of these programs are actually perpetrating a fraud, like an actionable crime.

Promising people, implicitly or explicitly, a career in the American theater and then charging them vast sums while all the while knowing that what you're charging for will have no effect on their chances of making money once they leave?

There's obviously a lot of bad faith at work, but I think it gets close to fraud.