Many students might have been asked, “How are you going to support yourself with that?” Freshmen are said to change their majors an average of five times before settling on a field.
Theater arts, often considered one of the least likely ways to make a living, has a high retention rate at Weber State University. WSU is the only higher-education institution in Utah that teaches musical theater as an actual major. It also offers a theater arts education program, a specific theater arts degree with an acting/directing emphasis, and a theater arts Design-Your-Own-Program that offers design or technical emphases — from scenic, costume and lighting/sound design to potentially dramaturgy and playwriting.
Graduating senior Tyler Banks, a costume design major, had a choice between WSU and Utah State University.
“Weber State theater students work every day,” he said, on why he chose WSU. “They actually get to design.”
WSU theater arts students get a broad-based education in the field, but they are required to do three different practicums in their chosen emphases and other areas.
According to senior Amanda Schaffer, she came to WSU because of “how much the faculty care about the students.”
Freshman Jaycee Drysdale, a theater arts education major, said she chose it because she’d seen WSU plays.
“Every time I’d come to WSU performances, I was so impressed with the quality,” she said, “from the direction, the costumes, the sets — it was flawless.”
Scott Nielsen, a junior in acting/directing, quoted casting director Michael Shurtleff when saying what is needed to be an actor (or anything else): “If you can see yourself being happy doing anything else, by all means, do it.”
Alex Garner found her way to her calling in theater, stage management, when in high school she was offered the chance to do it and realized it meant she wasn’t going to get offered a lead role. She has worked shows at both the Salt Lake Acting Company and Centerpoint Legacy Theater.
“I loved being involved in every part of the process, and this (stage management) allows that,” Garner said. She came up with a list of essential abilities: being an amazing communicator, leader and organizer, as well as being levelheaded and pragmatic.
“Those people who think art is about making it big don’t understand art,” Schaffer said.
Lindsea Garside, who started out planning to be a cardiovascular surgeon, then switched to vocal pedagogy and ended up as a musical theater student, said, “Theater arts people are just people who never lost sight of their dreams from childhood.”