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Kids show on The death of The Starving Artist

The Death of “The Starving Artist”

For decades, the notion of “The Starving Artist” has plagued optimistic young students with the desire to pursue theatre as a career. But the reality is that “the starving artist” is a myth. The truth is, that people who choose to study theatre go on to find great success in a very broad and diverse number of career paths.

In 2008, Tony Wagner published a book called “The Global Achievement Gap.” In this book, he talked about the need for transformation in public education. He discusses the uselessness of rote memorization and other outdated teaching methods. He asserts that education is no longer about what one knows, but rather, about what one can do with what one knows. In the decade and a half since this was published, these sentiment rings truer than ever. And no other school subject teaches these 21st century skills than theatre education.

When a child studies theatre, they are learning far more than just putting on pretty costumes and reciting cute lines. Theatre boosts confidence, improves public speaking skills, promotes collaboration, builds memory and fosters empathy. Good theatre students walk away with skills in organization, problem-solving, and quick thinking. They are imaginative, trusting, and trust-worthy. They go on to become adults with excellent communication skills, flexibility, and self-awareness. They know how to negotiate compromise. Their minds are expanded, and they grow up with a deep aesthetic appreciation for the arts. And every theatre student knows how to meet deadlines! All of these skills make theatre people strong contenders for jobs in any market.

A 2016 article in Forbes magazine detailed the numerous ways in which acting and theatre programs give young people advantages in the start-up world. Another Forbes article in 2012 discussed the ways in which a theatre background sets students up for success in the corporate world. One of my favorite theatre professors in undergrad used to say: “A good stage manager can manage anything from a Fortune 500 company to a grocery store.”

It’s time to get rid of the notion of the “starving artist” and rather, focus on the myriad of ways that a theatre education prepares students for success in all facets of life. I have been teaching theatre for 22 years. My current and former acting students have gone on to careers on and off Broadway, in television, and major motion pictures; but that’s just the top 1% of the most talented and hungry acting students I’ve had the pleasure to teach. The other 99% have gone on to become psychologists, engineers, chefs, and successful professionals in just about every other career path you can think of.

Kid’s acting classes provide life-long lessons and foster skill sets that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Children who participate in theatre and drama bring skills to the table that other do not. Theatre education is, therefore, essential education. For students who perform in children’s theatre productions, the world is their oyster. So the next time your child comes home bouncing with excitement about their school play, take a lesson from the world of improve: Always say YES!!!