I was recently turned down for a long term theatre position that I feel I was well qualified for. The specificity of my questions prompted the interviewer to reveal more specific information about the job than she initially let on. It became apparent to me that what was advertised as a fully immersive position within their company might actually turn out to be more of an office assistantship for their full season. Nonetheless, I was still interested, and even when her decline came through over my email, I wrote that “I very much hope to work with you in the future” – which is the truth. This company occupies a slot of high esteem in the Bay Area Theatre and seems, at least from the audience side, to have effortless and strong production values.
I do feel that her impression might have been different if I had only briefly mentioned my college theatre career, instead of going into a detailed explanation about it in response to her first question, “tell me about your B.A. In theatre and social change…”. I have noticed for some time now that the presence of my college theatre career in interviews, and in the professional world, is a tricky dance. I feel that it makes me seem younger if I spend a significant amount of time talking about those four years. However, I loved that time in life, which gave me excellent preparation for the arts world and a lasting group of friends from the department. How could I or anyone balance the two together?
I remember a stage management interview shortly after I moved to the Bay Area, where the potential supervisor had attended UMass Amherst, and noticed that I also had been in the Five College area. The artistic director, also speaking with me, was familiar with the region, but not in as in-depth away. We spent a little too long talking about student hangouts in Amherst and what I, and she, had done there – and I didn’t get the position. Ironically, I ended up befriending their eventual stage manager and attending that same show. I knew fairly immediately after the interview that the focus had been off and it was not my best performance.
With this interview, I’d thought I had turned the focus away from my college theatre enough, mentioning it in the cover letter, where the position specified a B.A. In theatre, and then moving on to Bay Area theatre experiences. (Funny that B.A. could also mean “Bay Area in Theatre” – but of course it does not.)
My college theatre career now occupies 3-4 lines on my resume, coming towards the lower end of nearly 5 years of professional experience. I wonder if I should reduce it down to 1-2 lines. I don’t want to eliminate it completely, and I’ll probably always credit the B.A. In theatre and social change somewhere in the document.
The truth now is that I’m a professional, not a student, and my representation needs to continue to reflect those higher standards of working across the arts.