I am a Thespian alum who is now a freshman at Emory University. I am double-majoring in playwriting and business (where I will follow a concentration in arts administration within the business school). My freshman and sophomore study years are at the historic Oxford College campus. Then I will study at the Atlanta campus along with my peers during our junior and senior years. The passion and energy in the university’s theatre department is astounding. Studying here is one of the biggest blessings and dreams come true of my life. Here are some tips for thriving as a theatre student when you first get to campus.

young people in theatre costumes on outdoor stage

Actors on the outdoor stage at Emory University. Photo credit Kay Hinton

College Life Takes Focus

In my first month of college, I quickly realized I could overload myself with obligations. I had to focus on my goals to keep a manageable workload. I was so excited about all the opportunities but realized I would only have time and energy to devote to one or two groups outside of my regular studies. By focusing on just one group I could work toward a leadership position and form deeper relationships with those involved. I chose the university’s Drama Guild which focuses on plays. This aligns with my goals as a playwright and arts administrator.

Connect in a Variety of Ways

During my first weeks of college life, I found out I could help with theatre marketing and continue to learn this skill. I got to help oversee the social media for the fall play, As You Like It by William Shakespeare, at the Oxford College of Emory campus. (Side note: The show took place on a nature trail that leads out of campus and was one of the most gorgeous productions I’ve ever seen!) Doing theatre marketing gave me a chance to get out of my comfort zone. Trying new things helps you find opportunities that align with your goals. And you’ll find where you fit in no time!

Strategize & Prioritize Your Time

To fit theatre into my busy college life I had to find small gaps in my schedule. For example, a 30-minute wait between classes became a mini-work session. You could work on a design sketch, or practice learning a new monologue, or study a play. Those 30-minute blocks add up quickly over time.

Your mindset affects how these bursts of work fit into your schedule. It helps to frame them as a reward after a long class or a tough homework assignment. For example, with my current class schedule, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I have a 5-hour gap between classes, which amounts to a ton of study time. I try to allocate 30 minutes at the start of each study session to work on the draft of my new play, and this makes the work of playwriting feel like a reward spread throughout my week.

On Fridays, I only have an hour of class in the morning. When I’ve finished my work for the day, then I take myself on a writer’s retreat! I get a coffee at the library’s coffee shop (Oxpresso), go to my favorite couch in the library, and write for hours. I’ve realized throughout my first month of college that to keep growing as a theatre maker, I have to build space into my schedule for the work that gives me the most joy. Reserving space for my playwriting not only helps me advance in my projects, but it gives me excitement and momentum as I move throughout my week.

Self-Care is Not Selfish

Don’t forget that you are human and that your mind requires rest! Set boundaries for how many responsibilities you take on outside of your classes. Choose a reasonable number of shows (or just one show!) per semester. Or focus your energy on a couple student-led theatre groups instead of all of them.

Make time to explore your new life: your city, your friends, and your home. Taking in my new surroundings was a sure way for me to give my brain a rest. For me, this kind of self-care involves wandering the stacks in the Oxford College of Emory library, which is open 24 hours! Whatever self-care looks like for you, remember to intentionally carve out time to energize and inspire yourself! To grow as a theatre-makers, we need inspiration and joy in our lives.

Dylan Malloy is a playwright and director whose first play, “The Rocket Man,” was adapted from a short story by Ray Bradbury and premiered in March, 2021. Connect with Dylan on Instagram @dylan_writes.

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