A drama degree is much harder than you think

We do more than just pretend to be trees

The debate over what drama students “actually do” has been circulating for as long as most of us can remember

When watching a group of students freeze in awkward positions during peak time at Piccadilly Station, onlookers would be forgiven for muttering, ‘What are you doing that for?’

This is possibly the most frequently asked question to drama students, to which the ruffled and sarcastic response is almost always, ‘because it’s art.’

The question of what drama students do remains either a mystery or the culmination of stereotypes, like pretending to be trees whilst bursting into song and finding their inner Hamlet. With the arts gaining more respect in recent years, it’s time for the myths to be exposed.

The distinction between an acting course and a drama degree is one often blurred or ignored. The fundamental thing to remember is not all drama students want to make it on Eastenders – or is it Corrie if you’re in the North?

The point is,  whilst an acting degree may have you discovering bark and leaves through the medium of the body, a drama degree at the University of Manchester entails far more. Perhaps less people would have signed up for the course if ‘Week 1: How to be your best oak’ was at the top of the syllabus.

From analysing films to producing performances or being guided through a history of theatre, a drama lesson covers all sorts. You could be studying the use of a particular colour in a director’s films one week, then facing the general public in an outdoor performance the next.

What people seem to forget about drama is that it’s not just rehearsing a reaction to a fake slap or shouting ‘you ain’t my muvva!’

Whilst there are instances where stick work (yes, literally throwing sticks around the room) and playing catch with tennis balls come into play, drama is essentially academic. Aside from the usual patter preached by high school drama teachers – ‘It gives you confidence’ – valuable skills are also learnt.

The most transferable of these would be punctuality. Practioniters are not a fan of students walking into their stick lesson late. Analytical skills, research techniques, essay writing practice and competency in communication all make drama a worthwhile, diverse and interesting degree.

Other subjects may keep their superior attitude and remain unconvinced about taking drama seriously but I’d love to see a maths student try and perform infront of hundreds of strangers in Piccadilly Station. The same stereotypes of egocentric, baggy-clothed hippies stood on one leg (that’s the pine tree position) may still be heard around Manchetser, but it’s about time drama students starting getting some credit for what we do.

Other students may be spending £9000 a year learning how to save the trees, but drama students are mastering a finer art of becoming the tree.

Let’s be honest, if you can become the tree, you can become anything.