Tuesday, September 6, 2016

WTF Tuesday: How did a one time Theater Major wind up as a code monkey?

We haven’t done anything for WTF Tuesday for a while, but today, we have an actual living, breathing question to respond to. Following my Close Encounters post last month, B.C. of New Hampshire asks:

How did a one time Theater Major wind up as a code monkey?

Although several of my theater colleagues went on to enormously successful careers on stage, TV and movies (and even more to modestly successful careers, and some to pretty paltry careers), the odds of making any money as an actor, let alone making a living, are still slim.

Being an aspiring actor in New York typically means:
  1. waiting on tables,
  2. getting your hair cut just right,
  3. getting head shots taken and
  4. trying to swap shifts with someone so you can rush to an audition, where you’ll find dozens (hundreds?) of other actors, just like you, waiting for hours for their moment.
In fact, restaurant-goers should check Backstage to figure out when their favorite dining spots will be short-staffed.

Away from New York, an actor’s life consists of:
  1. trying to get to New York.1
But as usual, the truth is more complicated. I started college as a Physics major, but quickly proved that theatrical cast parties are more fun than Physics labs. I drifted through Computer Science and Psychology on the way to being a full-fledged Theater major.

In Theater, unlike perhaps any other field, your whole self, body and soul, is your instrument. You must learn to master all its complexities and subtleties. You spend a lot of time on introspection … on understanding just what kind of person you are, what your capabilities and sensitivities are. You do exercises to access your inner emotional life, and to try to adapt your personality to various characters you might be called on to play.

Naturally all this self examination and soul searching leads you to understand certain things about yourself like, for example, the fact that you’re not a very good actor.

That and the making a living thing.

1 West of the Mississippi, trying to get to L.A.

1 comment:

Bill Costa said...

Ah, physics major. That explains it as well. Physics majors and would-be physics majors as a group seem to have an affinity to computers. One of the best computer jockeys I've ever worked with was an ABD (All But Dissertation) PhD in Physics. He just retired this year. If I had to guess, I'd say a lot of students today that would have gone into Physics years ago, are going straight into Computer Science.

To me the common thread between success in Physics and programming is the ability to solve word problems.