The Theatre Course That Makes the Show Go On

Let me just say: there is so much more to theatre than performance. By extension, there is so much more to a theatre degree than acting classes. When I tell new acquaintances that I’m pursuing a theatre degree, they always assume I’m an actor. (Can I act? Yes. Am I an actor? Uhh…).

The Phoenix Theatre at the University of Victoria

As a self-directed Theatre Major at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, I have the freedom to choose which classes I want to take during my degree. One of the core courses in the Phoenix Theatre is THEA 205/305/405, a series of progressive courses on theatre production and management. In second-year, every student is required to take Theatre 205, in an area of their choice: Set, Lighting, Costumes, Props, Stage Management, Marketing, or Front of House.

Depending on which area they choose, 205 students may:

  • operate the follow spot for a mainstage
  • hang and focus theatre lights
  • build sets
  • work in the box office
  • organize audience appreciation events
  • manage props
  • coordinate hair and makeup, and
  • learn/operate sound and lighting software

These students are part of the reason the Phoenix Theatre can put on four shows in two semesters; 205 students are the glue that keeps the Phoenix together!

At the beginning of the year, students choose their top three interest areas, and instructors interview them if their top choice area has more applicants than spots in the course. (Yes, there are interviews to take a class!) The Front of House Management area was lucky enough to get yours truly as a student. While it wasn’t my first choice, I did learn a lot of very useful skills throughout the course, including how to use Theatre Manager software for selling theatre tickets, how to balance an inventory and prepare a Front of House report, as well as principles of management and event planning.

My other Front of House Manager, Rose, and I in our official Phoenix badges during the run of 7 Stories in March

The amazing part about Theatre 205/305/405 is that students can take 3 years of progressively more difficult courses in the same area for credit; for example, if a student loved being a wardrobe manager backstage in Costumes 205, they could take Costumes 305 in the next year and deepen their technical wardrobe construction skills and take on a more advanced leadership role.

Many 305 and 405 students take on almost employee-level responsibilities; the freedom to influence posters and ads for the Marketing team, authorization to work in the sound/lighting booths, and even keys to specific rooms in the theatre.

Instructors and students are on a first name basis, and it’s not uncommon for professors to take their students out to socialize! These close relationships can lead to references and opportunities outside of class and even outside of the Phoenix.

After my time in Front of House Management, I decided this year to take a Theatre 305 in Marketing and Communications. So far, we’ve learned about consumer loyalty models, the differences between PR and communications, and how to produce a communications plan for marketing a theatre show in Victoria. This week, we’re even learning how to use Adobe InDesign to create ads for theatre programmes at the Belfry Theatre.

Even though THEA 205/305 can be incredibly intensive, I think the course is a huge asset of the department. The skills I’ve learned so far in Theatre 205 and 305 have prepared me for a job in communications, box office, and Front of House. The value of THEA 205/305/405 is reflected in how few theatre students feel the need to utilize the Co-Op program–for many, they receive tons of job experience in the theatre building!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to receive relevant job experience as a course credit; wherever I end up after my time at the Phoenix comes to an end, I will be better prepared for my theatre career as a result. So, here’s to THEA 205/305/405 – for proving that a theatre degree really is so much more than acting!

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