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Ask Dave

Theatre Major Compromise?

Rachel is a sophomore in college majoring in theater. She plans to move to Atlanta next year for school but has to earn $8,000 a year to stay there. How can she come up with this money?

QUESTION: Rachel in Savannah is a sophomore in college majoring in theater. Her parents are paying for tuition, books and fees while she’s in college. She plans to move to Atlanta next year for school but has to earn $8,000 a year to stay there. How can she come up with this money?

ANSWER: You’re not in a place you can volunteer at a theater company if you need to make $8,000 a year to be able to be at this place. If the theater company is a paid gig and they will hire you to be part of their company as you go around the country doing some of that while you’re finishing up your studies, then you may have solved your $8,000 problem. But if they don’t pay, I don’t know how you’re going to do that and go to school and work. You might have to choose one of the three.

I guess what you’ve got to ascertain is does this theater company pay anything, and if they don't, in a sense this is an internship. It’s giving you access to your future contacts and maybe even some existing contacts. You might get a little commercial or something while you’re in school. That’s possible. That’d be cool. You’re probably more likely to get that in Atlanta than you are in Savannah just given the size of the metroplex, the size of the marketplace.

I like the move. I just want you to investigate how much time the theater company is going to take up. Let’s prioritize this. Priority number one would be to graduate with your degree in theater. Priority number two would be able to go to Atlanta and be in the market. Priority number three might be this theater group. If you’ve got to choose between work and the theater group but you’re still in the Atlanta area—you just have limited time and access to the theater group because you have to work to pay for your bills—then you’ll just have to choose that.

If you’re going into theater and going into acting, you already know you’re going to be in the world of extra jobs part of your life. How do you get the next Broadway star’s attention? “Uh, waiter!” You’re going to be doing some waiting tables and stuff in your life. That’s okay. It’s part of the price you pay in show business if that’s the business you’re going into.

I think you need to figure out what you’re going to do to work to get the $8,000. If this group does pay, maybe that’s solved. If the group doesn’t pay, then what kind of job can you do that earns you $1,000 a month on a part-time basis? There are certainly a lot of those. A good, high-end restaurant waiting tables would definitely be one of those. You could go that route. Then do you have time to still do the theater group? To go $8,000 in debt to go play theater with the theater group because you’re not working while you’re in school? No, that’s not on my list of things to do. I’m not going to tell you to go that route.