Theatre literature and history is a broad field of study that can help you prepare for a career in acting, directing or writing, among other vocations. Continue reading to learn more about formal training, career outlook and potential salaries for theatrical professionals.
If you love the theatre, studying its literature and history might inspire you to pursue any number of career paths. Formal degree programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and typically include training in acting, directing and writing. Depending on your area of interest, you may also critique and interpret plays, probe the historical significance of dramatic works or pursue topics in theatrical production.
As a graduate of a theatre literature and history program, you may write or direct scripts and screenplays for the stage, screen or television, become a literary critic, act professionally or teach drama and literature. However, you should be aware in advance that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a slower-than-average growth in jobs for actors, directors, producers and writers between 2012 and 2022. By comparison, college and university teachers, including those who teach drama and literature, can look forward to a faster-than-average increase in opportunities nationwide through 2022.
According to the BLS, authors and writers earned a median annual salary of $57,750 in May 2013. At that same time, actors and actresses were paid a median hourly wage of $22.15. After you've acquired some experience in the industry, you may also pursue a career as a director or producer. As of May 2013, directors and producers enjoyed a median annual salary of $69,480. If you would like to share your knowledge of theatre history and literature with others, you may also consider a career as an art, drama and music professor or English language and literature professor, who had median annual incomes of $62,830 and $60,920, respectively, as of May 2013 (www.bls.gov).
As a degree-seeking undergraduate, you can pursue a major or minor in drama or theatre arts with a concentration in theatrical history and literature, performance or technical theatre design. If you're captivated by historical plays, you might study how medieval, romantic and Renaissance societies were portrayed on the stage. If acting is your passion, your program may cover topics in dramatic structure and development, stage movements and voice training. You might also have the chance to write and direct your own plays, as well as those by Shakespeare and other famous playwrights. Coursework in screenwriting, stagecraft and literary criticism may also be found in a drama or theatre arts program.
Graduate-level programs in drama and theatre may lead to a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Areas of specialization associated with an MA or PhD program can include theatrical history and literature, drama theory or literary criticism. An MFA program is a professional course of study that may provide you with training in costume or set design, acting, directing or lighting technology. In addition to the credits earned in a master's program, a PhD program can require an additional 60 credits of coursework and typically culminates in a dissertation. Graduate coursework may include topics in American theatre, Greek comedy and romanticism, as well as in-depth studies of famous playwrights like Edward Albee, Henrik Ibsen or Harold Pinter.