How to answer condescending questions about your program
Look, let’s face it: If you’re in a program that’s not commonly associated with financial success, like Theatre, you’re going to get a lot of unsolicited comments and questions from people – most of them condescending, a lot of them downright passive-aggressive. Actually, I think this applies to nearly everyone in university, unless you’re in Accounting or Engineering or something.
Here are some examples, and some potential responses to consider. (This is from the perspective of theatre, because that’s what I know best.)
“What are you going to do with your degree?”
Ugh. This one. It’s like the umbrella question of non-threatening judgement. Vague enough to seem like they’re just interested and not attacking you, but what they’re really saying is “your degree is going to be useless and you have no idea what you’re doing with your life, do you?”
I mean, no. I am nineteen. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my whole life. In fact, going to university at all is the most constructive and ambitious thing I’ve done so far. What are you going to do with your life in 3 years with a huge rack of debt? Who knows. You’re not better than me. Stop being smug.
“Do you even write essays and have tests in Theatre?”
Uh, YES? I’m still in university, not a communist feel-good cult.
“What kind of classes do you have in Theatre?”
Various theatre history classes, acting classes, directing classes, production classes and theatre design classes. You know, classes about theatre.
“Oh yeah, my friend from [insert random hometown] likes acting.”
Ok? Good for them?
“I bet Fine Arts gets you really in touch with your emotions.”
Sure. Also, I’m gaining valuable skills and knowledge in the field I’m passionate about and want to work in.
Really? Really? Why History? Why Sciences? Why anything? Next question.
“You know, it’s really hard to make a living in the arts.”
Wow. I have not heard about this before. Please, tell me more.
“Actors deal with a lot of rejection.”
Your MOM deals with… I’m sorry. Your mom has nothing to do with this. I bet she’s a very nice and considerate person, unlike you.
“Well, you can always at least do community theatre.”
Yes. Thank you. I am spending thousands of dollars and 4+ years on my education so I can barely use it at some cowtown’s dinner theatre. Finally, someone who understands.
“I’m glad you’re heading into theatre design rather than acting. It just strikes me as more versatile, like you can adapt it to other things.” “Like what?” “You know, like interior design.” (That’s a direct paraphrase.)
…I don’t even know what to say to this. I’m pretty sure I just didn’t reply when this was said to me. It’s the kind of thing that just makes me want to pinch the bridge of my nose and count to 300.
I like theatre design not because of the aesthetic design part, but because of its ability to contribute to and enhance a production, a story, an experience. In the words “theatre design” the part I care about is theatre, and design is just the aspect of it that I’m interested in and good at.
If I wanted to do something like interior design, why would I not study interior design? If I wanted to do something other than theatre, I would not be in theatre.
“Have you been in any plays recently?”
No. I have school and homework and there’s not that many plays to be in all the time. Also, I’m not exclusively (or even primarily) an actor.
“That must be so much fun.”
Look, I work hard. There’s a lot to learn and theatre is really stressful most of the time, for various reasons.
But yes: I’m having tons of fun. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Photo credits: Faculty of Fine Arts