“Don’t Wait for Permission:” Pursuing a Passion for Theatre
If there’s one piece of advice that students could take away from Brittany Tomkin ’12 and Sarah Kane ’12 at their Connect to Careers in Theatre talk, it’s that you don’t need to wait for permission to pursue your dreams.
After graduating, Tomkin knew she wanted to write for sitcoms. Once she had taken comedy classes in New York and built a network of fellow filmmakers, she began creating comedy sketches with her writing partner.
Her final product—the web series Myrtle & Willoughby—premiered in early 2018 and has been shown in festivals including ITVFest, HollyShorts Festival, and the Austin Film Festival. “We decided not to wait for someone to give us permission,” she said. “We made the project ourselves, we self-funded it. It was just really rewarding to do it. It’s not about making it big—just showing people that you made something that you feel good about.”
While creating comedy is her passion, Tomkin also works as an associate producer at Ventana Productions. She credits Hamilton for helping her find her way toward her current career.
“So much about being at Hamilton is learning to think for yourself,” Tomkin said. “A lot of other colleges are focused around rigid structure, but Hamilton is very freeing. You get to explore your different interests and hone in on what you’re really passionate about. This really prepared me for being out in the real world and finding what I wanted to make a career of — comedy writing.”
While Kane also credits the College for cultivating her passion for theatre and neuroscience, she didn’t have a clear path to her job as the director of theatre productions at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, Calif.
Growing up in Silicon Valley, Kane felt a pressure to pursue a STEM-related field. “For me, there was a huge guilt factor. I spent my whole life studying math and science, and suddenly I ended up as a drama teacher. For a long time, I felt like I had abandoned my talent for STEM.”
Kane was inspired by comedian Jim Carrey, whose father wanted to be a standup comedian, but decided to go for a ‘safer’ career as an accountant—he was later fired. “I remember thinking that if you’re going to fail at something, why not fail at what you love, instead of failing at your backup plan? Don’t feel guilty about doing the things that you love.”
Starting out in the theatre and film industry isn’t easy, but Tomkin and Kane stressed to their audience that there’s no one right way to do it. “There’s no singular path to breaking into the industry,” said Tomkin. “There are so many ways that you could go, whether it’s making your own stuff, helping out on film sets, or pursuing courses and workshops in your interest.”
Both Tomkin and Kane were double majors—and both know the value of combining their different career interests. “There’s always an interesting way to find out how your passions intersect,” said Kane. “For me, I was interested in theatre and dramaturgy, which led me to where I am now. There are so many specific jobs out there that you might not know exist. There’s a world of possibilities, but you won’t find it unless you try.”