All the world’s a stage, right? If the theater is calling you, there are many opportunities to get real in-depth drama experience by taking a gap year in the performing arts. You can get hands-on experience, learn a particular school of theater directly from the culture that developed it and live in a vibrant theater destination during your gap year.
There are drama gap year opportunities just about everywhere you might want to go. If you want, you can spend your entire gap year in one place really getting to know a particular type of drama, culture, and community. Or, if being a roving troubadour is more your style, you can divide your time between a variety of locations in order to experience several different types of theatrical arts.
Where to Go
Nearly every culture in the world has some form of theatrical arts to explore, so deciding where to go can be a tough decision. Here are just some of the popular destinations out there to Go Overseas for a drama gap year.
Head to the Bard’s homeland to take part in England’s long history of theater arts. In England, you can find a rich mix of traditional, modern, and experimental theater. While there you can participate in many theaters or performing arts centers or take advantage of one of several gap year programs. With so many local theaters throughout the country, your opportunities to audition and perform on stage are virtually endless.
With a vibrant culture of dance, music, and performance, Brazil offers an immersive experience for any performing artist. Go beyond Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach to participate in its dynamic theater arts scene. Theater of the Oppressed was developed in this city as a way to facilitate political and social change. It has since found popularity all over the globe, but you can find many opportunities to participate in this art form in its birthplace.
In between working backstage at an opera house and studying Commedia dell’Arte, you can immerse yourself in Italy's rich culture. Drama has a long and storied history in Italy. Nearly every major city has a school of performing arts and theater troupes abound throughout the country.
Learning first-hand the ins and outs of Noh and Kabuki theater might reshape the way you view the stage. Japan is a diverse country with many opportunities to participate in various types of drama. Coming to Japan will also be an excellent opportunity to study the language as you gain real drama experience. Whether you head to a big city like Tokyo or to a rural village in the mountains, you will find Japan to be an eye-opening experience.
In Kenya, there are opportunities to volunteer your time with youth drama programs that work in disadvantaged communities to bring theater to marginalized children. These programs focus on youth empowerment and education within the context of East African theater traditions. This type of opportunity combines drama with community service while fostering cross-cultural connections for everyone’s benefit.
Sydney has its opera house, but it doesn’t end there. Consider heading down under to take part in Australia’s active drama scene. When you’re not auditioning and performing, you can explore the county's cosmopolitan cities, the Outback, and its endless beaches and barrier reefs.
The United States
You don’t need to go too far from home to have a successful gap year in drama. Community theaters can be found all over the United States. Volunteering and performing at one of these theaters can be a great way to get experience the many different aspects of the business of theater. There are also gap year programs in some major destinations for actors, such as Los Angeles and New York.
Planning Your Trip
It probably won’t be easy breaking into the drama scene as soon as you arrive at your destination. That’s why you should consider a formal gap-year program that’s specifically geared towards drama. Most offer classes, workshops, and rehearsals that all lead up to an actual performance.
If you’d rather go independently, you’ll need to lay some groundwork first. Contact theater groups in your destination city and see what opportunities they might offer to help get your foot in the door. Do they need any volunteer ushers? Stage crew? Anything at all? It’s a good way to let them know that you’re eager and willing to help out wherever you can. Who knows what other opportunities might come out of it?
It will help to have a good understanding from the start of what you want to get out of your gap year. Perhaps you want to experience a specific type of theater that is not readily available at home. Maybe you want to pursue your love of drama in an interesting and exotic location. Whatever your motivations are, be clear about what you want and then go get it!
If you use a gap-year program you’ll likely need to budget a few thousand dollars for the program fee. These costs vary widely by destination and the length of the program, so keep that in mind when deciding where to go. Don’t worry if the program seems too expensive, as many also offer scholarships or you can look for external sources of funding too.
Visa requirements vary widely based on where you are going and how long you will be there. Short stays of only a few months will not likely require a special visa, but this is not always the case. Your program will likely provide you with specific information. US passport holders can explore the State Department’s website to find country-specific visa requirements.
Your gap year program will provide you with housing. If it takes place on a college campus you’ll likely be put up in a dorm. Other programs will set you up in a guest house with other participants. If you’ll be traveling independently, you’ll need to find your own housing. Check Facebook groups for expats, see what local classified pages have for short or medium-term rentals, or simply book a place on Airbnb.
Health & Safety
We don’t want you to literally break a leg. As always, use common sense to stay safe while overseas -- and invest in a basic health insurance plan just in case! Find out what the local health services are like where you go. You can learn more about health concerns in your specific destination at the Center for Disease Control’s website.