Here at OnStage, we spend months compiling, researching and comparing college theatre programs to come up with what we feel are the very best colleges in the country. While names like Tisch, Juilliard, Emerson and Baldwin Wallace get plenty of attention, there are a ton of schools out there with incredible programs that deserve more.
So we wanted to highlight some of these underrated programs. Whether they are programs that have amazing facilities and curriculum or have a ton of value when it comes to their cost, these are schools that are doing tremendous things in theatre that might not be known on a national level.
Remember, we're talking about schools we feel are underrated. If you don't see certain programs here, it's more than likely that they're already getting a ton of credit already.
Because the list of massive, we're going to break it down region by region using this map.
So today, let's start with the West, which consists of California and Nevada.
10. University of Nevada, Reno - Reno, NV
While Las Vegas get a majority of attention when looking at Nevada, the theatre program at U of N, Reno should not be ignored. They offer a B.A in Theatre along with a minor in both Theatre and Dance. They have some fantastic facilities as well, including the Redfield Proscenium Theatre which seats over 200. They feature a nice diverse season of shows through their performance wing, the Nevada Repertory Company. In the past couple of years they've performed shows such as Eurydice, The Music Man, Superior Donuts and A Christmas Carol: The Musical.
9. San Francisco State University - San Francisco, CA
We all know the San Francisco area is rich in theatre and the program at San Francisco State is a huge contributor to that. Offering both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in theatre, this program provides not only a top-notch education but also a ton of student support. For instance they feature the Player’s Club, which is a student-run organization representing SF State theatre students that promotes and supports the department’s events. While their in-state tuition (Just over $24,000) is a bit high, their out-of-state tuition is attractive at just over $35,000. They also offer a wide selection of theatre based scholarships as well.
8. Santa Clara University - Santa Clara, CA
The program at Santa Clara University is steeped in history. Shows have been performed on campus since 1855. Beginning as the Department of Speech and Drama in the late 1950s, the first majors in Theatre Arts graduated in 1967. The school now offers a BA in Theatre Arts with focuses in various areas such as Acting, Design and Teaching. This season, productions include Measure for Measure and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Alumni include actress Nikki Long, producer Adam Zotovich and the late James Houghton, founder and former Artistic Director of Signature theatre and head of the Drama School at Juilliard.
7. Whittier College - Whittier, CA
Tucked away in the eastern corner of the Los Angeles area is a gem of a program at Whittier College. Not only does the program feature a strong and diverse curriculum but also arguably the finest theatre spaces in the state. The $8 million complex houses a 500-seat theater, acoustically convertible to accommodate either concert recitals or dramatic performances. The facility also contains a 100-seat experimental theater, rehearsal rooms, instructional spaces, lounge and lobby, and extensive backstage facilities. Alumni include Andrea Barber, Geoff Stults and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, current President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
6. University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Las Vegas, NV
While UNLV is certainly the best option in Nevada for theatre students, it doesn't nearly the credit on a national level. They feature some pretty interesting and innovative programs such as their Stage & Screen Acting program. This new undergraduate program of study is designed for students interested in pursuing a professional career on the stage and screen. It offers conservatory-style training for the serious acting student in all aspects of performance including professional actor training, camera training for film and television as well as voice, movement and speech training with a special emphasis on all styles of acting.
5. Stanford University - Stanford, CA
While one could say that Stanford University isn't underrated in much, considering they are one of the finest institutions in the country, their not exactly known for theatre. However Stanford offers an exceptionally strong program. In recent years, Stanford has made strides in prioritizing their theatre programs. It starts with the degree itself. Stanford offers a BA in Theatre with concentrations in both Acting and design/directing which they call "Theatre Making". Their newest facility, the Roble Studio Theater, is a massive upgrade from their Robie Gym. They are also one of the few schools in the country to offer a Ph.d. in theatre.
4. Chapman University - Orange, CA
If you are looking at CA for theatre programs, Chapman University must be one of your first stops. This incredibly strong program is on the verge of becoming a national powerhouse. Offering multiple programs in theatre, Chapman offers plenty of opportunities for students including real-world experience from working onstage and backstage with professional organizations such as Shakespeare Orange County. Their Musco Center for the Arts might also be one of the best performance facilities in the country.
3. California State University, Northridge - Northridge, CA
Another school to definitely have on your radar in CA is the program at California State University, Northridge. The school offers both an B.A and M.A in theatre. TheatreCSUN functions as the department’s formal producing organization. Eight or more full-length productions of dramas, musicals, and operas are cast, rehearsed and mounted annually by faculty, staff, students and guest artists.
2. California State University, Fullerton - Fullerton, CA
California State University, Fullerton is another school we feel is making tremendous strides with their theatre programs. The school already features a B.A in Theatre Arts and a BFA in Musical Theatre and Acting. Productions this year include Italian American Reconciliation and The Drowsy Chaperone
1. University of California, Irvine - Irvine, CA
There are plenty of reasons why Irvine, CA is a fantastic destination for any college students. But theatre students would be pleasantly surprised at how great the program at UC-Irvine is. Drama at UCI is one of the four departments comprising the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, which provides students with extensive opportunities to work in collaboration with students and faculty in the School’s closely-related programs - Dance, Music and Studio Art. The school features fantastic performance spaces such as the Irvine Barclay Theatre, a 760-seat proscenium stage and the newly renovated Claire Trevor Theatre, a 290-seat proscenium stage.They also boast an exceptional group of faculty including Andrew Palermo, choreographer of Allegiance. Alumni also include Jenn Colella(Come From Away), Alan Mingo, Jr. (Kinky Boots) and Beth Malone (Fun Home)