The Best Theatre Colleges in Every State
When it comes to the variety of college theatre programs, the United States is truly blessed. All over this country there are fantastic programs that are teaching young artists the crafts of acting, directing, musical theatre, design, etc.
While some programs have been doing it for decades, others are fast up and comers. With every new theatre program, comes the opportunity for interest in the performing arts to multiply.
So with this in mind, given the amount of annual research we do at OnStage into college theatre programs, we wanted to find the best in each state. Using a criteria consisting of tuition, facilities, academic rigorousness, performing opportunities, career support, location, among others, here are our picks for the best programs in each state of this great nation.
Alabama: The University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa, AL
Fast Fact: UA Theatre & Dance produces three musicals a year that offer students studying musical theatre performance opportunities. Two of the musicals are produced during the season. The third, SummerTide Theatre (UA Theatre & Dance’s professional production), produces a musical each summer in Gulf Shores, AL. Additional opportunities for musical theatre students include Bama on Broadway, internships and mentoring.
Alaska: University of Alaska Anchorage - Anchorage, AK
Fast Fact: Home to the student group, "Theatre on the Rocks" (TTR), a group of committed individuals who have a shared passion of theatre. TTR is a member initiated and governed club that exists to support the UAA Department of Theatre and Dance by means of concessions, bake sales, and increasing campus-wide awareness regarding theatrical events and performances. TTR will also function to further enhance and develop theatre opportunities on campus and in the community.
Arizona: Arizona State University - Tempe, AZ
Fast Fact: Facilities are incredible and include five top-of-the-line performance venues, eight dance and movement studios, six rehearsal and composition studios, three film studios/sound stages, four cutting edge digital media laboratories, and scenic, lighting and costume shops for dance and theatre.
Arkansas: Hendrix College - Conway, AR
Fast Fact: At Hendrix, in addition to an excellent staff of faculty, students also get to perform in the Cabe Theatre, a 242 seat, state-of-the-art theatre which lies in the middle of their picturesque campus.
California: California Institute of the Arts - Valencia, CA
Fast Fact: REDCAT is CalArts’ downtown Los Angeles center for the presentation of innovative performing, visual and media arts. REDCAT offers special opportunities for select School of Theater students, both as a performance venue for selected productions and as a forum for acquiring professional experience in design, production and management.
Colorado: University of Northern Colorado - Greeley, CO
Fast Fact: Aaron Young, a 2006 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado's Musical Theatre program, has been cast in the role of Sasha in an upcoming Broadway revival of the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof. Young is the 25th UNC alumnus to appear in a Broadway show following in the footsteps of Greg Germann, Patty Goble and Beth Malone.
Connecticut: Yale University - New Haven, CT
Fast Fact: In just under a half-century, Yale Repertory Theatre has produced well over 100 premieres, including two Pulitzer Prize winners and four other nominated finalists. Eleven Yale Rep productions have advanced to Broadway, and plays first produced at Yale Rep have been presented at many theatres across the country. Yale Rep productions have garnered more than forty Tony Award® nominations and eight Tony Awards; the theatre itself is also the recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
Delaware: University of Delaware - Newark, DE
Fast Fact: E-52 Student Theatre (est. 1923) is the original University of Delaware theatre group. Each semester, they perform three full-length productions that are completely designed, directed, and executed by undergraduate students.In 2014, they produced the first production of The Phantom of the Opera in the state of Delaware.
Florida: University of Central Florida - Orlando, Fl
Fast Fact: Unique MFA in Theatre for Young Audiences. It's designed for students who demonstrate the artistic and intellectual capacity and evidence of professional promise to pursue careers in professional and academic theatre. The Theatre for Young Audiences track works in close partnership with the Orlando Repertory Theatre, a professional theatre for family audiences
Georgia: Georgia College - Milledgeville, GA
Fast Fact: The Department of Theatre and Dance offers a complete program of ballet, tap and jazz dance instruction for children and adults throughout the year. This is an ongoing dance program that meets on a monthly basis, culminating with performances of the program’s award winning show, "The Nutcracker," in December. The program is directed by Amelia Pelton and assisted by Natalie King, who both hold M.F.A. degrees in dance. Instructing along with them are accomplished Georgia College dance minor students.
Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa - Honolulu, HI
Fast Fact: The program’s centerpiece is our yearly training residency, in which students have the exciting opportunity to undergo long-term, intensive training in a traditional Asian theatre form with renowned master artists of the genre, who provide rigorous training in semester-long movement, voice, and instrumental courses, as well as individualized instruction in the performance of specific roles and instruments.
Idaho: Boise State University - Boise, ID
Fast Fact: The Theatre Arts Department annually hosts the Idaho Invitational High School Theatre Arts Festival, a two-day festival of performances and workshops involving more than 300 high school students from all over Idaho. They also award the Thelma and Dean Brown Performing Arts Scholarship – an academic performance award for Theatre Arts majors. The scholarship may cover all student tuition and fees for an academic year.
Illinois: DePaul University - Chicago, IL
Fast Fact: The Theatre School has 28 full-time tenure-track faculty who are accomplished theatre professionals and continue their work while teaching our students. We also employ more than 60 adjunct, or part-time, faculty who are hired right out of the Chicago theatre community for their individual expertise.
Indiana: Purdue University - West Lafayette, IN
Fast Fact: Home to an outstanding sound design program. A new audio production studio and two new theatres in Purdue’s new Visual Performing Arts building opened in 2005. The audio production studio is a fully equipped digital recording studio featuring over 400 square feet of recording space with additional isolation booths, and a similarly sized control room, storage and an adjacent sound shop.
Iowa: University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA
Fast Fact: Students can enrich their experience at Iowa by choosing to live in the Arts Living Learning Community. Since 2010, the Division of Performing Arts and the School of Art & Art History have shared a living learning community that nourishes and inspires artists from all of the visual and performing arts disciplines. The community is open to first- and second-year students majoring in the visual, creative, and performing arts.
Kansas: Kansas State University - Manhattan, KS
Fast Fact: Home to the Ebony Theatre which was created to feature the work of African American playwrights or pieces specifically about the struggles associated in the lives of African Americans. Established at K-State in 1977, Ebony Theatre is one of the only collegiate theatre companies in the region devoted to this cause.
Kentucky: University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY
Fast Fact: UK Theatre & Dance just celebrated its 100th anniversary. The Department of Theatre & Dance's Education Abroad London Program provides students the opportunity to spend 3 weeks in the English capital seeing over a dozen shows and hearing from London theatre professionals, including actors, directors, critics and writers.
Louisiana: University of New Orleans - New Orleans, LA
Fast Fact: The only university in the country to have won two American College Theatre Festival National Play-writing Awards AND two National Irene Ryan Acting Awards. Their Nims Center Studios is a 30,000-square-foot facility often used for professional big-budget films (Runaway Jury, Ray, and Glory Road to name a few). There are opportunities to be a part of these productions while attending the University of New Orleans.
Maine: Bates College - Lewiston, ME
Fast Fact: The department offers both a major and minor in theater. The major in theater has two tiers: Theater Studies, a general introduction to all areas of theater culminating in a research thesis. Theater Makers, a more intense study of theater with emphasis in either acting, directing, playwriting or design leading to a creative thesis in your selected track. Students in this tier should are strongly encouraged to select a study abroad experience that supports their particular area of interest.
Maryland: Towson University - Towson, MD
Fast Fact: Home to the Bernadette Gietka Script/Resource Library which provides a student-centered space in which students may discover new plays or find costumes or props for scene work. The library is home to a collection of scripts, theatre books, rehearsal costumes, and rehearsal props that may be checked out by students.
Massachusetts: Harvard University - Cambridge, MA
Fast Fact: As the professional theater of Harvard University, the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) plays a central role in the TDM concentration. Students take courses with professional artists at the A.R.T., and have opportunities to participate in internships that immerse them in the work of the theater and engage them with leading practitioners from around the world.
Michigan: University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI
Fast Fact: Home to the BFA in Interarts Performance. This program for adventuresome students who have interests in both the visual arts and theater as well as a desire to create original performance pieces. In this degree program, students will be introduced to a diverse range of art forms and creative practices from new media to traditional acting skills, with the aim of generating work that blurs boundaries between the visual arts and performance.
Minnesota: University of Minnesota - Minneapolis, MN
Fast Fact: One of the few colleges that offer a degree in Theatre Historiography. This programs explores theatre and performance as practices of social, cultural, and political consequence. Alumni include Tovah Feldshuh, Susan Blackwell, Jay Goede, T. James Belich, Lenny Wolpe, Jessica Lange, Kate Mulgrew and Peter MacNichol.
Mississippi: University of Southern Mississippi - Hattiesburg, MS
Fast Fact: The theatre program offers service awards to students who fill out an application, attends Curtain Up Welcome Day, and completes a successful audition/interview. Applications are accepted in the spring for the following academic year.
Missouri: Missouri State University - Springfield, MO
Fast Fact: Home of the Tent Theatre. It is the only company in the area that houses an Equity Membership Candidate Program. As a student, you will have the opportunity to build equity candidacy points. You will work with performers who have been recruited throughout the nation to participate in this professional experience.
Montana: University of Montana - Missoula, MT
Fast Fact: Professionals Weekend, which occurs a weekend or two prior to the beginning of Spring Term (or sometimes the first weekend of Spring Term), is a chance for actors and designers/technicians to seek summer work and an opportunity for our faculty and staff to network with area professionals. Invitations are extended to most of the state and region’s professional theatre artists representing over two dozen entities; fifteen companies attend on average each year. Typically, offers for summer employment are made to more than 30 student actors, designers, or technicians after each PW.
Nebraska: University of Nebraska - Lincoln, NE
Fast Fact: Theatrix is the student-run theatre company at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, whose purpose is to provide opportunities to create theatre in an environment where students can apply knowledge and techniques in a practical setting. Since the early 1990's, Theatrix has continually provided students in all facets of the arts the opportunity to work hands-on and share experiences with professors and professionals working within the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. Theatrix produces two or three productions each semester with a student director who oversees the organization of the design team, the cast, and all conceptual and creative elements from start to finish.
Nevada: University of Nevada Las Vegas - Las Vegas, NV
Fast Fact: Students are eligible to audition for all Main Season and Second Season productions of the Nevada Conservatory Theatre (NCT), the production arm of the Department of Theatre. The NCT regularly features guest artists from around the country.
New Hampshire: Keene State College - Keene, NH
Fast Fact: Master classes for actors are frequently presented by the professional performers who come to Keene State as part of the Redfern Arts Center subscription series, as well as by alumni of their program who have gone on to either further study (in graduate schools across the U.S., as well as in the School at Steppenwolf in Chicago and the Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York City) or professional employment.
New Jersey: Rutgers University - New Brunswick, NJ
Fast Fact: The Rutgers Conservatory at Shakespeare's Globe in London is the only major theatrical training program in America to provide students with a full year of classical conservatory study, abroad, at a professional theatre of international stature. Students will live in the heart of London and study there with a world-renowned faculty of master teachers.
New Mexico: University of New Mexico - Albuquerque, NM
Fast Fact: The Department supports the Tricklock Company, through its Revolutions International Theatre Festival, involving students in performances and workshops with a unique global perspective. With their partnership with the National Institute of Flamenco they host the Flamenco International Festival, bringing the finest, most exciting traditional and cutting edge choreographers and performers from Spain, offering performances, workshops, and master classes.
New York: Tisch School of the Arts at NYU - New York, NY
Fast Fact: Tisch Drama has two phases of professional training: primary and advanced. Your primary training phase occurs in your first two years and provides an intensive conservatory program that lays a strong foundation in a particular technique. In advanced training you can study a variety of additional professional training options, including study away and internships.
North Carolina: University of North Carolina School of the Arts - Winston Salem, NC
Fast Fact: The School of Drama is a member of The League of Professional Theatre Training Programs. The league's primary mission is to support the preparation of gifted actors for careers in the professional theatre. It is an alliance of professional theatre training institutions that share common goals: to assert standards for training, to encourage public recognition, and to influence policy in support of the development of theatre artists.
North Dakota: University of North Dakota - Grand Forks, ND
Fast Fact: Features student organizations like the Society of Dionysus. SOD is the student group that gathers students together to promote our productions/programs, organize and run auditions, build floats for the Potato Bowl Parade, plan Homecoming events, just to name a few. It's a group OF students, FOR students.
Ohio: University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music - Cincinnati, OH
Fast Fact: CCM is the largest single source of performing arts presentations in the state of Ohio. The annual calendar boasts nearly 1,000 events, ranging from solo recitals to fully-staged opera and musical theater performances. Production facilities include an 8,500 square-foot scene shop; 3,000 square-foot costume shop; wig, make-up and prosthetic studios; design/drafting studio; sound design studio; and a lighting laboratory.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City University - Oklahoma City, OK
Fast Fact: TheatreOCU offers a seven show main stage season, and a collaboration with the other schools in the Margaret E. Petree College of Performing Arts (Music and Dance & Arts Management) in an additional seven productions. The main stage season consists of a mix of fully realized productions of theatre classics and relevant contemporary plays, as well as co-productions with our three professional co-producing partners, and staged readings of plays that deal with important current social issues.
Oregon: Willamette University - Salem, Oregon
Fast Fact: OnStage's choice for 2015's Top B.A in Theatre Program in the country. They also just completed renovations to the Willamette Playhouse. The building includes a dance studio, acting studio, costume shop, prop storage, makeup room, scene shop, light and sound production facilities, dressing rooms, classrooms, and faculty offices. The Putnam is a new intimate studio space designated as a lighting design lab, a directing lab and theatre studio for student work. The New Theatre is a brand new, industry standard, black box space that accommodates up to 200 seats.
Pennsylvania: Carnegie Mellon University - Pittsburgh, PA
Fast Fact: The oldest conservatory training program within a university in the United States, the School of Drama has had the privilege of training the next generation of innovators and leaders in the theatre, film, television and diverse performing arts industries for a hundred years. Carnegie Mellon alumni have received 41 Tony Awards to date.
Rhode Island: Rhode Island College- Providence, RI
Fast Fact: Should you prefer Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter, you will be pleased to know that Rhode Island College offers the only program in musical theatre in Southeastern new England. The musical theatre concentration includes courses in music theory, singing, and dance, to provide training in all the skills needed for success in this ever-popular field.
South Carolina: College of Charleston - Charleston, SC
Fast Fact: Center Stage is the only completely student-run theatre organization at the College of Charleston. This organization produces 2-3 theatrical productions per semester, holds monthly meetings for all members and people who wish to join, and is a great way to meet fellow students with similar interests.
South Dakota: University of South Dakota - Vermillion, SD
Fast Fact: Student Theatre Cooperative (STC) is an independent student theatre organization, which produces original and cutting-edge theatre that typically would not get produced in the Department of Theatre's main stage season. STC provides opportunities for students to develop leadership and management skills while also refining their craft through theatre production. At the weekly meetings students select a season of plays and musicals, assign production teams and plan for those productions and other activities, like Spontaneous Combustion; an event in which student playwrights, directors and actors write and produce original 10-minute plays in a 24-hour period. The organization also engages in service activities with a variety of local entities like the the food pantry, the Senior Citizens Center and Sesdac, a center providing support for persons with disabilities.
Tennessee: University of Memphis - Memphis, TN
Fast Fact: The cost is somewhat cheaper compared to other schools with In-state cost running around $23,000 and out of state around $36,000. U of M also is featuring a particularly strong season this year with Next to Normal, Oklahoma!, A Flea in Her Ear and Lisa Kron's Well.
Texas: University of Texas - Austin, TX
Fast Fact: With over 50 faculty and staff, and more than 150 courses each semester, the Department of Theatre and Dance is one of the largest theatre and dance departments in the United States. They average six to eight productions annually, with an additional 20 to 30 laboratory shows and readings.
Utah: University of Utah - Salt Lake City, UT
Fast Fact: The ATP program enjoys a healthy working relationship with the celebrated Pioneer Theatre Company, a professional repertory Lort-B theatre located on the campus of the University of Utah. In their junior and senior years of study, ATP students are eligible to audition for roles at PTC and may perform small or understudy roles in the theatre’s productions. Seniors may also participate in a Senior Show, directed by a professional director from outside the state, who is brought to campus by the department.
Vermont: Bennington College - Bennington, VT
Fast Fact: A technical lab is required for each term that a student does drama, and other activities include working in the scene shop, costume shop or with the technical crew. At Bennington, every student, every year is required to get work experience--a job, internship, or entrepreneurial experience--that is then integrated into their academic pursuits. Students have spent recent Field Work Terms at theaters including The Groundlings Theatre & School (Los Angeles, CA); Long Wharf Theatre Company (New Haven, CT); Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC); Second City Theater (Chicago, IL); The Public Theatre, Second Stage Theatre, and Signature Theatre Company (New York, NY); and Dorset Theatre Festival (Dorset, VT).
Virginia: George Mason University - Fairfax, VA
Fast Fact: The Performing Artist Residency in Theater (PART) initiative engages theater professionals in our faculty, our productions, and special events. Mason's Theater Program provides professional interaction among our students and the working professionals of the vibrant Washington, D.C. theater community and beyond.
Washington: Seattle University - Seattle, WA
Fast Fact: Outstanding students are encouraged to apply for departmental honors. Honors students pursue an independent project that is presented usually at the end of their senior year. Past honors projects have included solo performances, exhibitions of design work, direction of a play, staging of original works.
West Virginia: Fairmont State University - Fairmont, WV
Fast Fact: Where the International Thespian Society was born. In 1929, Dr. Paul Opp, a professor at Fairmont State College(at the time), founded the organization along with local teachers.
Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point - Stevens Point, WI
Fast Fact: Given the quality of the program, the cost is a steal. In State will run you just over $17,000 and Out of State is around $25,000. Alumni include a laundry list of Broadway performers such as Susan Spencer, Andrew Cao, Ruthie Baker and Laura Osnes.
Wyoming: Casper College - Casper, WY
Fast Fact: The Bakkhai is a student organization dedicated to the support and promotion of theatre, dance, and learning. Members have the opportunity to participate in and even initiate theatre- and dance-based activities in addition to what is already offered by the department of theatre and dance. Theatre and dance can be extremely time-consuming, with little time for relaxation. The Bakkhai is in a position to sponsor relaxing and exciting activities to help break the stress of production, and bring everyone together.