By Lauryn Hanley, TPA Student Employee
For the past year, I’ve been having a quarter-life crisis about my future, my dreams, the meaning of life—average about-to-graduate anxieties. I’d been debating whether to enter the workforce or study Classics in graduate school, to work in arts administration or arts education, or pursue a career in something—anything—to do with the arts.
With all of these possibilities laid out before me like a choose-your-own-adventure book, it was fitting that I left to attend Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) the day after I submitted my grad school applications. I’d done all I could for exploring one possibility, and now, it was time to explore the other.
Volunteering for APAP opened up the world of performing arts and arts administration to me. For the first time, I got a taste of what the world was like beyond the realm of Texas Performing Arts, Austin, and everything else familiar to me.
The first thing that struck me was the fact that I’d chosen two of perhaps the most job-insecure industries: academia and arts. But despite all the hours I’d wondered about the employability of my hard-to-market Classics major, I knew that this trip, my attendance at APAP, and—most importantly—my involvement with TPA, would prepare me for exploring a career and a life in the arts.
At APAP, I had the pleasure of attending many panels. One of my favorites was “Reconsidering the Glass Ceiling: 20 Years On,” which was a cool combination of a panel Q&A and a group discussion. We discussed the experiences of women in the arts, how to promote female artists, and how to find women mentors to help you navigate the industry. My other favorite was “Effective Strategies for Campus and Community Engagement.” In this panel, they discussed the steps panelists and attendees have taken to increase student involvement at their own campuses by being easily accessible for students, and even by creating courses that use theaters’ seasons as part of the syllabus. If I go into arts administration, this is one of the areas I’d likely look into, along with arts education and arts integration for schools.
My fascination with the performing arts was reinvigorated by the assortment of “Showcases,” which included some performers I’d heard of, and many I hadn’t. Meeting TPA alumni working in the performing arts in New York made me realize that doing this type of work in that city was possible with patience and hard work.
As we toured the Roundabout Theater Company’s Steinberg Center, we heard about new artists breaking into the New York theater scene with production fellowships. New York City Center’s beautiful, history-filled theater and commitment to classic Broadway, contemporary dance, and everything in between, had me itching to see another show.
Outside of the official APAP trip, I had the pleasure of going to the long-beloved Drama Book Shop, which will soon be leaving its location on 40th St. at the end of the month due to soaring rent prices. I browsed the multitude of plays, libretti, scores, and books on every aspect of theater. I sat down to read amid the other artists, fans, and theatergoers as the shop’s workers began to put away books and empty shelves around me. I also bought a Drama Book Shop t-shirt and had the honor of petting their resident drama dog, Chester.
Of course, no trip to a performing arts conference in New York would be complete without standing in the freezing cold for $40 rush tickets to Mean Girls, Avenue Q, and Puffs—all of which were delightful to witness.
I still don’t know what I’ll decide for my career path or where I’ll be living after I graduate in May, but my experiences at APAP and meeting TPA alumni in New York were invaluable as I look into the possibilities for working in arts administration and education.