The Top 10 BA Theatre Programs in the Country for 2016-17

September 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 and BA 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. We've already done BFA Musical Theatre, Acting. and Theatre Design & Tech and Dance. 

Today we move onto our Top 10 BA Theatre/Musical Theatre programs.

10. Western Washington University - Bellingham, WA

Notable Facts: 

- The major is grounded in fundamentals and a student chooses one or more areas of specialization: Acting, Dramatic Writing, Educational Theatre, Technical Theatre, Theatre Management, Stage Management, Costume Design, Lighting Design and Scenic Design. 

- Facilities include their Performing Arts Center, a fully equipped 1,040 seat proscenium theater with a 40' x 35' performance area and generous wing space; a 40' x 21' arch; full counterweight rigging system; large automated orchestra pit; balcony; loading dock; ample dressing rooms; updated lighting; state-of-the-art sound and projection systems.

- Internship opportunities include: Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Seattle Scenic Studios, Arts West, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Mount Baker Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Company.

- Scholarships include the Sene and Louella Carlile Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding upper-division student majoring in theatre arts. Scholarship amount: $3,500 total to award in several scholarships.

- Employers of Recent Western Graduates:

  • Actors of Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY): Apprentice Program
  • Artists Striving to End Poverty:Workshop Leader
  • Barter Theatre (Abingdon, VA): Props Intern
  • Boys and Girls Club (Portland, OR): Theatre Program
  • Centerstage Theater (Federal Way, WA): Stage Manager
  • Disney: Cast Costumer
  • Mount Baker Theatre (Bellingham, WA): Hair and Makeup Designer
  • Upfront Theatre (Bellingham, WA): Sales and Marketing Director
  • YMCA (Bellingham, WA): Theatre Programs

9. California State University at Long Beach - Long Beach, CA

Notable Facts:

- The Performance Major trains, nurtures and develops lifelong performing artists, actors who possess the power of fearless transformation, who are self-generating and self-sustaining in their work, whose work is deeply truthful, physically and imaginatively engaged, vocally strong and articulate; the aim is to develop durable and competitive creative possibilities in the artist and their human artistic impulses.

- Local internships have taken place at institutions including Disney, LA Opera, South Coast Repertory, International City Theatre, Long Beach Playhouse, The Chance Theatre, LA Fringe Festival, The Elephant Theatre, The Antaeus Theatre Company, Four Clowns, The Garage Theatre, LA’s Center Theatre Group, Pasadena Playhouse, Casting Companies, Artist Agencies and many more.

- During the summer, they host the Steppenwolf West Summer Intensive and Michael Chekhov Association training workshops.

- Performance opportunities include the Affinity Series, a series of performances, presentations, and panel events celebrating engagement on diverse, timely, and important social issues with their local and global communities.

8. University of Vermont - Burlington, VT

Notable Facts:

- The Department of Theatre provides students with a combination of theory and practice in understanding theatre as an art form that reflects the human condition. Students who major or minor in theatre are required to take core courses that provide an historical and critical foundation as well as fundamentals courses in areas of acting and design. A wide offering of additional courses are available that reflect theatre as social practice, personal expression, and creative collaboration.

- Guest artists have included Charles Busch, Tony Kushner and Paula Vogel. A generous endowment created by Sally B. Weinstock (class of 1956) has enabled the Department of Theatre to supplement the program curriculum by bringing in outstanding artists and professionals from various theatre disciplines. Each year the faculty and staff meet to propose artists who will bring added breath and depth to their program.

- The Department of Theatre is housed in the Royall Tyler Theatre. Facilities include a fully equipped 300 seat thrust stage theatre, lighting classroom and lab, scene shop, costume shop, design classroom, acting classroom, general classroom and faculty and staff offices.

- The UVM Department of Theatre collaborates with Vermont Shakespeare Company on a summer production that takes place in several beautiful outdoors venues around Burlington as well as in Royall Tyler Theatre . UVM students audition in the spring semester for the opportunity to work with this professional company. UVM students may also apply for positions as crew and for internships in the areas of marketing/publicity, costumes, sets, props, sound and lighting. This collaboration provides students additional opportunities to apply the learning they gain in courses and department productions throughout the academic year and to expand their experience working with professional actors, directors, and other creative team members.

7. High Point University - High Point, NC

Notable Facts:

- Combining coursework in playwriting, directing and arts administration, the Collaborative Theatre Emphasis is designed for students who are interested in artistic direction, producing or management positions in theatre. This option is especially appealing to those students who wish to be involved in theatre at the community or regional/non-profit theatre areas.

- Performance opportunities include the Tower Players. This student organization is sponsored by the Student Government Association on campus. It is a group of students, who do not have to be theatre majors, who enjoy theatre and engage in fund raisers and other community events to support student attendance at theatre conferences and auditions.

- Recent guest artists include: 

  • John Cariani – Almost, Maine playwright and Tony Nominated Actor (Fiddler On The Roof)
  • David Wells–Hollywood film and TV actor
  • Michael Lilly – Award-winning Los Angeles director/producer
  • Bruce Graham – Award-winning playwright and screenwriter
  • Don Wildman – Host of History Channel’s Cities of The Underworld
  • Brad Battersby – Feature film director/writer
  • Pat Green –Three time Emmy Award-winning writer and producer
  • Brenda Lilly –TV producer/writer and creator of ABC Family Channel’s State of Grace

- Each year the Department of Theatre produces four “Mainstage” productions in the Hayworth Fine Arts Center’s Pauline Theatre and their “black box” theatre, The Empty Space. In addition, student directed one-act plays and original production projects regularly occur on campus.

6. Marymount Manhattan College - New York, NY

O Pioneers! (Photo by Gerry Goodstein)

O Pioneers! (Photo by Gerry Goodstein)

Notable Facts: 

- The BA in Theatre Arts offers the opportunity for study in seven different concentrations within the major. The following concentrations do not require an audition and/or interview for acceptance:

  • Theatre and New Media
  • Theatre History and Performance Texts
  • Writing for the Stage

The following concentrations require an audition and/or interview for acceptance:

  • Theatre Performance
  • Design and Technical Production
  • Directing
  • Producing and Management

- The focus of the Theatre Performance concentration is on contemporary acting styles. It requires two years of acting courses that expose students to contemporary writers such as Neil LaBute, Tony Kushner, Naomi Wallace and August Wilson, and classic American writers like Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Lillian Hellman.

- The Theatre History & Performance Texts concentration affords students the opportunity to explore all aspects of dramatic literature, history, and criticism, while taking advantage of the unique opportunities New York City provides for encountering a wide range of traditional and emerging performance styles. The program develops the student’s dramaturgical abilities through writing and direct involvement with the process of creating theatre.

5. Western Connecticut State University - Danbury, CT

Notable Facts: 

- Program organizes residencies for their students in New York for a week to perform off-Broadway, take workshops, visit network television and theatrical venues and meet theatre professionals.

- They offer opportunities for students to perform off-campus at such venues as the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival in Scotland and at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

-  Their fall 2015 theatre arts production, “Parade,” was nominated for 14 national awards and won five, including “Outstanding Production of a Musical" at the American College Theatre Festival(KCACTF) held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C

- Has arguably the best new facility in the country. Theatre students perform on the facility’s MainStage Theatre and Studio Theatre — both loaded with technology and functionality beyond many Broadway venues. Two theatre rehearsal studios, both equipped with audio/visual technology and sprung dance floors complement the university’s increasingly popular musical theatre program. Dressing rooms, practice rooms and individual Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts studios are all incorporated into the spaces, designed for students so they may experience a professional-quality arts education.

4. Willamette University - Salem, OR

Notable Facts: 

- They Just finished a 5+million dollar renovation and is the home of Willamette Theatre classes, workshops and productions. 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.

- Willamette University Theatre produces three or four main stage plays, one dance concert and various student projects each season. Plus, each season they work to bring their audiences a compelling mix of classical and contemporary offerings.

- Courses include Costume History, which looks at historic costumes from the Ancient Middle East to contemporary Western dress. Issues of society, culture, gender, politics, economy, and technology will be explored as they relate to the history of Western clothing. Aesthetic aspects are discussed through study of extant artwork and artifacts.

3. Brandeis University - Waltham, MA

Notable Facts: 

- Past visiting artists have included Arthur Miller, Martha Graham, Edward Albee, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Barbra Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Spielberg. The acting program has hosted such artists as Olympia Dukakis, Bill Irwin, Clinton Turner Davis, Marvin Hamlisch, Mercedes Ruehl and Woodie King, Jr.

- Facilities include the Spingold Theatre Center. It houses three theaters of diverse size and programming: the 750-seat proscenium mainstage, the 175-seat thrust Laurie Theater, and the 100-seat Merrick Theater. Spingold productions are directed by distinguished professionals, and the plays are chosen to provide meaningful integration between the classroom and the stage.

- The major in theater arts is designed to give students a solid foundation in dramatic literature, theory and history (LTH) as well as the opportunity to explore specific areas of practical theater performance and production. In addition to completing required courses in LTH, students are free to concentrate in an area that suits their talents and interests, including Acting, Dance and Movement, Directing, Design, and Stage Management. 

2. Muhlenberg College - Allentown, PA

Notable Facts: 

- The Baker Artist-in-Residence Program brings distinguished professional guest artists to the Muhlenberg campus each year. Artists remain on campus for periods ranging from one month to an entire semester, and each resident artist teaches in the academic program and contributes to the artistic programs in theatre, dance, and music.

- Faculty include Beth Schachter. Dr. Schachter has directed at New York Theatre Workshop, Second Stage, The Public Theatre, McCarter Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and The Vineyard Theatre, among others. She has directed world premieres of plays by Suzan-Lori Parks, Doug Wright, Theresa Rebeck, and Mac Wellman.

- Facilities include the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre is the jewel in the crown of the Trexler Pavilion, completed in 1999. An elegant but intimate Broadway-style proscenium theatre, the Baker seats 365 on two levels, orchestra and balcony. Fully equipped with state-of-the-art stage sound and lighting systems, orchestra pit, and fly system, the Baker Theatre is used for Department productions of plays, dance concerts, and smaller musicals, as well as Summer Music Theatre productions, concerts, and special events.

- Features a study abroad program in Tuscany, Italy. With its focus on theatre, music, and dance, the Accademia dell'Arte offers a unique opportunity to study in an intense studio setting, with outstanding artists and professionals from Europe and the United States. Those who come to study at the Accademia will experience an intensive Italian language and cultural immersion program, academic studies, and high-level theatre, music and dance performance training.

1. Fordham University - New York, NY

Notable Facts:

Located on 60th and Columbus in Lincoln Center in the heart of New York City, and within walking distance of the Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre districts, the Fordham University Theatre Program is chaired by two-time Obie Award-winner Matthew Maguire.

- The performance track includes training in the Stanislavski approach to scene study, performance studies in Chekhov and Shakespeare, Linklater and Fitzmaurice voice techniques, and Feldenkrais and Butoh movement. 

- During their senior year, performance tracks take a Senior Audition class taught by a professional New York City casting director to provide students with the resources and knowledge necessary to help them start a professional career immediately upon graduation. Seniors also participate in an industry showcase for agents and casting directors that exposes them to key contacts in the industry.

- Every Spring, Design and Production tracks showcase their efforts in the annual Design Show. Seniors have the opportunity to present their work and respond to feedback from professional directors, designers and managers.Many students pursue internships during their time at Fordham. Some have interned at The Atlantic Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, The Vineyard, EST, Disney, Joey Parnes Productions, Alchemation, The Game Place, Laurie Berkner, Jujamcyn Theatres and The Public Theatre. 

- Also features unique study abroad program in Russia. The Fordham theatre program, in conjunction with the Moscow Art Theatre, offers a three-week, winter-break intensive workshop in which students study acting, stage and costume design, directing, movement, and Russian theatre history with the master faculty of the Moscow Art Theatre School. Students attend performances of Russian theatre, dance, and opera, and visit historical landmarks.