The Top 10 BFA Acting Programs in the Country for 2016-17

The end of August is usually a time where college seems to be on everyone's mind. Whether it's incoming freshmen getting ready to move into their residence halls or high school seniors preparing their applications, college is a constant discussion. 

For theatre students, where you attend can certainly have an impact on your career with the type of training you receive. It's also important to note that while each school listed here is excellent, a college degree doesn't guarantee success nor is one required to become successful in this industry. 

Here at OnStage, we take months to research the best BFA programs to come up with our own lists. We base it off tuition, curriculum, faculty, career support, basically everything you yourself would consider before making a college choice. We even have gone as far to call admission offices to ask them questions. 

We're going to do separate lists for each type of degree field. So today, let's begin with our picks for the Top 10 BFA in Acting College Programs in the country. 

10. Ball State University - Muncie, IN

Ball States' productionof The Crucible.

Ball States' productionof The Crucible.

Notable Facts: 

- Undergraduate-only program, which means low class sizes and increased performance opportunities in main stage season. 

- Facilities include Ball State's 410-seat mainstage theatre has state-of-the-art technical equipment, including a completely computerized lighting system and acoustically sophisticated recording and reproduction sound systems.

- Ball State Department of Theatre and Dance arranges for a workshop to be conducted for students who are participating in the NYC, Chicago and L.A. senior showcases (and underclassmen who are helping produce the showcase) by a leading professional artist from that city.  Past workshop leaders have included Christine Baranski, Sutton Foster, Walter Bobbie, John Cariani, Lindsey Crouse, Danny Burstein, among others.

- The Department awards 7-10 Presidential Scholarships in the Arts. These awards are half tuition waivers for either in-state or out-of-state students. Presidential Scholarships in the Arts are offered to those students with strong academic credentials and superior talent in their given area.

- Acting Alumni include Joe Lino, Katie Mazzini, Pearl Rhein and Nathan Stark. 

9. Ithaca College - Ithaca, NY

Ithaca College's production of Much Ado About Nothing Photo: Rachel Hogancamp

Ithaca College's production of Much Ado About Nothing Photo: Rachel Hogancamp

Notable Facts:

- The core acting curriculum is two years of foundation work in voice, movement, and scene study. Accompanying these required courses are classes and production assignments that encourage collaboration with other theatre majors in the department in theatre studies, management, design and technology.

- Faculty include Austin Jones,  has worked in New York at Classic Stage Company, The Roundabout Theatre, The Public Theatre, Next in Line Productions, Prospect Theatre Company, Clubbed Thumb, Target Margin, and the New York City Fringe Festival.

- In the junior and senior years, BFA Actors take advanced courses in acting for the camera, speech, dialects, styles of acting, audition techniques, and basic business practice. Many students take advantage of Ithaca College’s London Center and spend the fall semester of their junior year studying British drama and culture.

- Home to a thriving theatre scene with The Hangar Theatre, Ithaca's flagship professional theatre. Which offers world-class productions of plays and musicals in addition to excellent children's theatre and educational programs.

- Acting Alumni include Brian Huynh, Ben Feldman and Amanda Naughton

8. DePaul University - Chicago, IL

Notable Facts: 

- The first year introduces the actor to a broad range of techniques and experiences, defines a way of working and provides a set of skills. The next three years focus on developing and refining this way of working - adding skills and technique - while helping each actor discover and apply those which work best for him or her.

- Curricula incorporate ideas from Stanislavski, Spolin, Johnstone, Shurtleff, Meisner, Bogart, Lessac, Linklater, Yoga, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais®, Laban, mask work, and more.

- Incredible new facility(2013) houses two theatre spaces: a 250-seat theatre and a 100-seat flexible theatre. The building also includes our costume, makeup, prop and scene shops, rehearsal studios, lighting laboratories, movement studios, and much more. 

- Every applicant to The Theatre School, provided he or she has completed all admissions application requirements, is automatically considered for a Theatre School Scholarship. These scholarships are based on a combination of both the applicant's academic record and audition or interview (depending on major). Theatre School Scholarships generally range from $8,000 to $25,000 annually and are automatically renewable for up to four years, provided the student remains in good standing. Theatre School Scholarships are awarded in the admissions decision letter.

- Acting Alumni include Gillian Anderson, W. Earl Brown, Judy Greer and John C. Reilly

7. University of Connecticut - Storrs, CT

Notable Facts: 

-  Class size is the smallest of any BFA Actor Training Program in the Northeast (typically 12 individuals), which allows significant individual attention.

-  Juniors will spend their Fall semester abroad studying in London. This will be a unique opportunity to study:  Acting Shakespeare, Speaking Shakespeare, Period Dance, Physical Theatre (taught by members of Theatre Complicite), Stage Combat with potential certification as actor/combatant by the British Society of Fight Directors.  The students will be in direct contact with directors, actors and designers of current productions of the London Theatre. This will also include 8 to 10 performances as well as tours of The Globe and the National Theatre.

- BFA Acting majors also put their studio training into practice through the many performance opportunities available at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre.

- Facilities include the Studio Theatre, a 100 seat proscenium theatre is located in the Drama/Music building and shares its support facilities with the Mobius Theatre, an environmental black box space. The Studio/Mobius complex annually houses our StudioWorks Series and several student directed dramatic, musical, and dance events. The Studio/Mobius Theatres share a common lighting system: an ETC ION console with 72-2.4 Kw. CD-80 Strand Dimmers.

- Guest Artists have included Leslie Uggams, Terrence Mann, Ariana DeBose and Barrett Foa. 

6. Syracuse University - Syracuse, NY

Notable Facts:

- The Department of Drama has a unique affiliation with Syracuse Stage, Central New York’s premier professional theater. Founded in 1974, Stage has produced more than 300 plays in 40 seasons, including a number of world, American, and East Coast premieres. Upperclassman will be able to earn Equity points through work with Syracuse Stage.

- Undergraduates put classroom theory into practice through productions and various special opportunities, including Wednesday Lab, study abroad, and numerous community engagement initiatives. These productions and programs are open to the community at large.

- Department chaired by Ralph Zito, who has worked on and off Broadway and on national tours for such productions as The Orphans’ Home Cycle at Signature Theatre Company, Awake and Sing! and The Light in the Piazza at Lincoln Center Theater, and The Tongue of a Bird and The Merchant of Venice at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Regional theater credits include numerous shows at the Shakespeare Theatre and Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey; Hartford Stage in Hartford, Connecticut; the Alley Theatre in Houston; and Center Stage in Baltimore.

- Each Wednesday at 4 p.m. during the academic year, the drama department comes together in a forum that presents a variety of events and guest lectures. Through “Wed Lab,” drama students informally learn about creating theater. Lab programs may include presentations from directors and designers for both Syracuse Stage and Department of Drama that explore the approach to current productions and provide the opportunity for students to understand and contextualize the productions they see in the complex. Guests often include successful alumni as well as theater artists who are performing or working at Syracuse cultural venues, including Syracuse Stage.

- All Star C.A.S.T. (Community Actors & Students’ Theater) is a program for Department of Drama students and people from the community who have special needs, all of whom have a love of acting and the wish to come together to create theater. The group—originally called the Young Actors Workshop—was formed in 1991. Today, All Star C.A.S.T. includes four groups: a young group with actors aged 8-12 years, a middle group with actors aged 18-30 years, and two senior groups. The groups meet for workshops once a week to explore theater games that go toward creating a script, rehearsals, and a production at the end of the semester. The drama students, or facilitators, design the program for the term, guiding the exercises and producing and acting in the show with the community actors.

5. Florida State University - Tallahassee, FL

Notable Facts: 

- Facilities include The Richard G. Fallon Theatre,  the School of Theatre’s largest performance space with seating for over 490. 

- Recent guest artists at the School of Theatre have included Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Sir Ian McKellen; Emmy Award winner Anthony Zerbe; Tony Award winners Bernadette Peters, Norbert Leo Butz, and Aldo Scrofani; The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards; The Actor’s Gang; Chicago’s critically acclaimed comedy troupe The Second City; and Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright James Still.

- Each year, the School of Theatre presents a Theatre for Young Audiences show. In past years we have raised money for local elementary schools through ticket sales of this program. To date, $15,000 has been raised for Leon County Schools.

- Upcoming season includes Seminar and The Servant of Two Masters

4. Otterbein University - Westerville, OH

Notable Facts: 

- The first two years of your Otterbein experience focuses on self-exploration, script analysis, movement, voice production, diction, singing, characterization and discovery of personal working methods. Acting majors are required to take a year of dance, and may take more.

- The senior year is highlighted by a ten-week internship with a professional casting director in New York City. Students function as readers for professional auditions, meet agents, directors and producers, and begin the process of networking with people in the profession. Acting majors are also eligible to participate in the Senior Showcase, produced in New York City for agents and casting directors in March.

- Facilities include the Campus Center Theatre which houses a 245-seat three-quarter thrust stage. A mainstage studio production is staged in the space during the academic year, as well as the three day student-produced Festival, student-directed workshops, classroom presentations, and campus events.

- Alumni include Jeremy Bobb and Corey Michael Smith. 

3. Emerson College - Boston, MA

Photo: Perspective Photo

Photo: Perspective Photo

Notable Facts: 

- Students being as BFA Theatre Performance students for first two years and then audition for BFA Acting program.  If accepted, students would spend their Junior and Senior years in 14 hours a week of structured training, expanding on the foundational work of the Actor Training Core. The BFA in Acting is intensive, designed to help students develop a clear process that will sustain professional work. The program, therefore, is intended for students who find themselves craving more trust, connection, and exploration through ensemble work and a strong individual focus on the craft itself.

- Emerson offers the Miami Dade College Scholarship. This scholarship, for students transferring from Miami Dade College to Emerson, is a full-tuition award that goes toward the cost of full-time attendance. 

- Internship opportunities include Stage Management Intern, Steppenwolf, Chicago Intern, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Education Intern, Paper Mill Playhouse, Casting Intern, Boston Casting, Lighting Intern, High Output, Inc., Company Management Intern, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Stage Management Intern, Manhattan Theatre Club, NYC.

2. The Juilliard School - New York, NY

Notable Facts: 

- The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama is a four-year conservatory program in actor training. Daily intensive class work in acting, movement, voice, and additional aspects of the craft, is integrated into learning and interpreting a wide range of dramatic repertoire. In certain skill set areas, as well as performance, BFA students and MFA students work together.

- In addition to drama related studies, the four year degree program requires 24 credits from Juilliard’s Interdivisional Liberal Arts curriculum. (Click here for more information on Liberal Arts.)

- Each year the Drama Division accepts 8 to 10 BFA candidates into the program.

- Courses include Dramatic Interpretation. The course introduces students to some of their artistic ancestors, with special emphasis on exponents of physical theater. During the semester, students are given introductory information on Commedia Dell’Arte and its stock characters as a scaffold-format for discussing comic tradition, scenarios, and improvisation. Sessions consist of screenings followed by discussion.

1. NYU Tisch School of the Arts - New York, NY

Notable Facts: 

- Program features an expansive and innovative academic curriculum. That includes theatre studies and general education programs, as well as elective courses in the humanities and sciences.

- There are two levels of professional training: primary and advanced. Primary training studios provide an intensive conservatory program that lays a strong foundation in a particular technique. At the advanced level, a variety of additional training options are available.

- Facilities include the Burrows Theatre, the exclusive venue for the StageWorks season.  The 99-seat black box space features flexible seating configurations, advanced lighting and audio control systems, scenery dock, dressing rooms and wardrobe facilities. 

- Features distinct studio system which exposes students to different approaches to acting, musical performance, production, design, theatrical management, and directing.