Why Theatre?

Why study Theatre and is it practical?

Here's what one of our graduates said:

"My theatre degree/training from Grand Valley has been an integral & valuable part of the creative individual & leader I am today. As I think about how useful my background in theatre has been in my career, the list is extensive. My training in theatre molded me into most importantly a team player, who values the individual/teammates over all else. Theatre is truly only accomplished & fruitful when it is an attempt of collaboration of the skills of many, coming together to work towards the goal of expressing the vision of a director or creative team. This is my main focus in my role, as I have the responsibility of instilling & maintaining the vision of what our marketing, brand, "voice," creative, etc. looks/sounds/feels like as a church. When I value the individual - people feel appreciated, respected, and ultimately valued; if this is achieved by my leadership approach and effort, great things happen & tasks get accomplished. Something else that comes with my theatre training is the desire to also strive to push others to flex their creativity in our work together, and that we are all always learning new tricks to the trade and new things about ourselves as artists. A bonus to all of this is that those I lead, develop into leaders, and develop other leaders like them, as well." - Chris Teller

Music, Theatre, and Dance image

Why Theatre?

There is no weakness in having a theatre background. There is only strength. Here are just a few skills that a theatre degree gives in business (author unknown):

  • Advanced critical thinking and problem solving skills: taking a script and translating it into a finished production is a colossal exercise in critical thinking. You have to make tremendous inferences and intellectual leaps, and you have to have a keen eye for subtle clues.
  • You’re calm in a crisis: You’ve been on stage when someone dropped a line and you have to improvise to keep the show moving with a smile on your face, in front an audience. Your mic died in the middle of a big solo musical number. You just sang louder and didn’t skip a beat.
  • You understand deadlines: Opening night is non-negotiable.
  • You have an eye on audience perception: You know what will sell tickets and what will not. This is a very transferrable skill, and lots of theatre people underestimate this, because they think of theatre as an ART, and not as business. Theatre is frequently one of the few academic departments on campus that teaches selling to the public.
  • You’re courageous: If you can sing “Oklahoma” in front for 1,200, you can do anything!
  • You’re resourceful: Producing any show on a budget teaches how to get a lot of value from minimal resources and to stay on budget.
  • You’re a team player: there are truly no small roles, only small actors. The show will fail without everyone giving their best, and even a brilliant performance by a star can be undermined by a poor supporting cast. Working together teaches you how to leave your ego at the door and how to collaborate.
  • You’ve versatile: You can probably sing, act, and dance. But you can also run a sewing machine, a table saw, rewired lighting fixtures, did a sound check, use a paint brush and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty for the benefit of the show.
  • You’re flexible: You’ve worked with some directors who inspired you. Others left you flat, but you did the work anyway. Same goes with your fellow actors, designers and stagehands. Some were amazing and supportive, some were horrible and demoralizing. You’ve worked with them all and learned something from every one of them.

The major in theatre prepares students for careers that require skills in communications, creativity, and problem-solving, or for careers in the entertainment industry. It provides professional orientation and background within a broad liberal arts framework. Students may use the major as a preparation for graduate or professional work; the required courses provide basic training in essential theatre areas, and students planning to pursue more advanced work should take well-chosen electives in areas designed to increase specific skills.

All majors are required to participate in productions sponsored by the School of Communications; academic credit is given for all such involvement. Also, students may pursue internships with professional theatres, locally, regionally or nationally, as managers, publicists, technicians, and production assistants.

Versatility in a number of areas is the single most important factor in obtaining work. Grand Valley theatre students have successfully completed programs in graduate schools and professional conservatories. They have found work in schools and recreation departments, repertory theatre companies, modern dance companies, and arts organizations as performers, technicians, teachers, designers, directors, and administrators. The combination of critical and problem-solving communications skills with the self-confidence and responsibility coming from performance experience provides excellent training for many non-entertainment fields. A complete list of placement and careers of recent theatre graduates is available upon request.

GVSU Theatre students can participate in many organizations in and outside the Theatre program such as ReACT!, Bard-To-Go, Performance Studio Series, Greenshow, GV Shakespeare Festival, Alpha Psi Omega, S.T.A.G.E., Opera Theatre, Spotlight Productions, Student Senate, and many other opportunities to enhance your education.

Read about our Alumni and our placement record!


Grand Valley State University is a four-year liberal arts school with an average enrollment of more than 24,000 students. We're located on the banks of the Grand River in the village of Allendale, minutes away from Michigan's second largest city of Grand Rapids.

Click here to visit our academic information page.

Click here to read about guidelines for Shakespeare Scholarships.

Whether your interests lie in theatre, the world of film & television, the multidisciplinary arts area, or in some combination of these, GVSU has a lot to offer. We're the fastest- growing university in the state, and our graduates have found their degrees useful as general liberal arts experiences, or as preparation for advanced study and work in post-graduate professional training programs. No auditions are necessary for students to enter the Theatre program at GVSU.

GVSU is unique among Michigan's schools for several reasons important to drama students. First and foremost, we have the lowest student-to-faculty ratio of any state university. This means that all our theatre classes are taught by  faculty who are readily available for consultation, academic advising, and independent studies or projects. In addition, our program is entirely undergraduate, which means that GVSU can guarantee that students won't be crowded out by grad students. On the contrary, they'll receive hands-on experience with equipment, facilities, and opportunities for performance & production from the very first semester they arrive. Finally, GVSU offers well respected overseas programs and theatre-related career specialty programs that are critical for success in today's entertainment industry: film & television, advertising, and public relations to name a few.

Of special interest to theatre students is the range of area cultural activities of which the University is a part. Grand Rapids, Michigan's fastest-growing city with a population of more than 700,000, boasts professional organizations such as Opera Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Ballet Company, The Grand Rapids Symphony, Broadway Grand Rapids, Dog Story Theatre, arts museums and galleries, two improv companies and numerous community theatres which perform year-round to more than 80,000 people.


Kindertransport photo

Mallory Cailalud-Jones and Cody Robison in Kindertransport

International Theatre Institute by Hans Echnaton Schano


The Theatre
The theatre is something wonderful. And it has gone through so much. It survived from Ritual to Sophocles, from the antique Persian theatre to the present, from Shakespeare all the way to Brecht, Sartre and the many others, through all the cultural developments and revolutions. Sometimes it might have been swept along by political waves to become an instrument of propaganda for good or for bad, for one side or the other; but ultimately the theatre has not been here to take sides, but to ask and show what it is all about. It gives us a chance to look at ourselves and the effects of our doing. Music, epic, tragedy, comedy, they all live in us. They are part of our lives and the theatre is the medium to explore and research them, to give us a live, close up perspective of what moves us. 
Today we live in times of success-oriented pressure. Everything has to bring immediate results. If it doesn’t make us money or bring us fame right away, it is not good enough for now. So why not at least let the theatre be the place or the event, wherein body and mind, artists and audiences, can come together to celebrate the event of human renewal, where we are also allowed to observe, to contemplate and to reason without the immediate goal of achieving instant effectiveness. Where we may not have all the answers right away, but where we and the audiences become partners in watching and questioning all the aspects of our existence as we represent it, and so allow us to slowly but profoundly approach the area of real understanding instead of constantly having to jump to premature conclusions. 
The duty of the theatre as cultural institution is not to tell someone what they have to think or what they must do. But it is maybe, to eventually support each other in our quest for a better understanding and hereby also in the finding and making of intelligent and reasonable decisions, without however trying to exert undue influence. The theatre asks for your patience and your involvement with the work of author, director and performer. It invites you to dream and to dare, to feel and to think, and to behold your very own vision of how things could be. And it hopes that you will take that vision home with you, and if it is in accordance with rightness and reason, that you may also achieve to make it come true. 
Yours in theatre
Hans Echnaton Schano

The Tempest performance photo

The Tempest, 2017

Bard To Go performance

Bard To Go, 2017

Cabaret November 2017

Cabaret, November 2017

Page last modified October 29, 2018