The Best Theatre Colleges in Every State for 2017

The Best Theatre Colleges in Every State for 2017

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, across all degrees both undergraduate and graduate, here are our picks for the best programs in each state of this great nation. 

Alabama: Auburn University - Auburn, AL

Fast Fact: Auburn University Theatre is a NAST (National Association of Schools of Theatre) accredited institution offering a B.A. degree in theatre and B.F.A. Degree tracks in Performance, Music Theatre, Design/Technology and Management. The department is housed in the award winning Telfair Peet Theatre. 

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: University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

Fast Fact: Sophomore, junior, and senior company members are cast each semester in the School of Theatre, Film & Television Arizona Repertory Theatre season which produces two musicals, one Shakespeare play, and three other plays.

Arkansas: University of Arkansas - Fayetteville, AR

Fast Fact:  Master classes and production experience with professional theatre artists enhances the program's intensive curriculum. Previous guest artists include Robert Redford, Mary Louise Parker, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Francis Guinan (Steppenwolf), and  workshops in automated lighting effects, sound design, Commedia, Le Coq, Alexander Technique, make-up, audition preparation with professional actors and directors from New York and Los Angeles, and Shakespeare performance with The Acting Company and the Aquila Theatre Company of London.

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: University of Connecticut - Storrs, CT

Fast Fact: Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) is the production organization of the Department of Dramatic Arts. Through CRT, the Department produces a subscription series of plays and musicals during the academic year, as well as a separate series of plays during the summer. The CRT’s contract with the Actor’s Equity Association permits our acting majors, both graduate and undergraduate, to participate in the Equity Candidacy Program through which many of them are eligible for union membership upon their graduation.

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: Savannah College of Art & Design - Savannah, GA

Fast Fact: The school has the only professional casting office at a university, placing actors in major motion pictures, voiceover for animation, music video projects and commercials. Also features an Audition film studio designated for professional auditions while students attend SCAD. 

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: Millikin University - Decatur, IL

Fast Fact: Performance opportunities are available to students beginning in their first semester. All B.F.A. performance majors are required to audition for our mainstage season and freshmen are eligible for casting. Additional performance opportunities may include: Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre, a student run theatre company, The Annual Children’s Show and The New Musicals Initiative. 

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: Boston Conservatory at Berklee - Boston, MA

Fast Fact: The four-year curriculum of the B.F.A. in Musical Theater is demanding and aimed to arm students with a variety of techniques and styles for acting, dancing, and singing. With a focus on performance, students have opportunities throughout their four years to perform in mainstage productions, student- and faculty-produced black box shows, annual revues, cabarets, showcases, and collaborative student productions.

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: Pace University - New York, NY

Fast Fact: In September 2014, Pace School of Performing Arts introduced three new progressive performing arts majors geared specifically to today’s job market.  The degrees include a new Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting for Film, Television, Voice-overs and Commercials; a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Production and Design for Stage and Film; and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Stage Management.  The BFA in Acting for Film, Television, Voice-overs, and Commercials major is the first undergraduate program in the U.S. focused entirely on training the actor for work in front of the camera and microphone.  Additionally, the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Commercial Dance is the only one of its kind in New York City offering comprehensive dance training that bridges the gap between classical dance technique and the professional world of commercial dance.  

North Carolina: Elon University - Elon, NC

Fast Fact: Program is housed in the Center for the Arts, a 75,000-square-foot facility specifically designed for teaching and performance. The Center for the Arts includes the 575-seat McCrary Theatre, 125-seat Yeager Recital Hall and 100-seat Black Box Theatre, in addition to three dance studios, modular practice rooms and studios, scenery and costume shops, and much more. We are very pleased to announce the opening of our newest facility, the 13,500 square foot Scott Studios-home to the Roberts Studio Theatre (a 200 seat flexible space), a large rehearsal hall/dance studio, several practice rooms and shop facilities.

North Dakota: North Dakota State University - Fargo, ND

Fast Fact: Facilities include the Festival Concert Hall, an acoustically excellent, 1,000-seat hall, opened in 1981. FCH is the concert home for all NDSU music major ensembles, major Theatre NDSU musical productions, the F-M Symphony, the F-M Opera, and for special concert and performance appearances by groups such as the Vienna Boys Choir, The Second City, Arlo Guthrie, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Smuin Ballet, The National Symphony Orchestra, Christopher O'Riley, the Harlem Gospel Choir, and other touring arts organizations

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: Oregon State University - Corvallis, OR

Fast Fact: Facilities include two primary performance spaces and offer five season productions each academic year. Their larger Main Stage Theatre in Withycombe Hall seats 351 patrons and presents faculty-directed productions ranging from familiar classics to world premieres. The Withycombe Hall Lab Theatre is reserved primarily for student-produced work including the Spring One-Act Festival.

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. The department is equipped with costume and scene shops and four performance and dance spaces. 2016-17 Season includes, Little Shop of Horrors, Measure for Measure and Spring Awakening

Texas: Sam Houston State University - Huntsville, TX

Fast Fact: Students are eligible to be cast in the main season shows every semester as well as to be given leadership responsibilities in design, stage management, directing and technical theatre. As student’s progress in their primary area of interest they may be chosen to design, stage manage, or direct a production. This allows each student to develop a strong resume before graduation.

Utah: Brigham Young University - Provo, UT

Fast Fact: The Young Company serves as a training ground for both BYU actors and teaching artists wanting to work in theatre for young audiences. The group performs in front of 16,000 young people each year on topics that deal with everyday struggles encountered by people of all ages. 

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: University of Wyoming - Laramie, WY

Fast Fact: The Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts boasts some of the best-equipped and finest small theatres in the Rocky Mountain region, including a 375-seat proscenium theatre, a 140-seat experimental black box theatre, and a new, thrust-style theatre.

Photo: Boston Conservatory at Berklee

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