The Top 10 Most Underrated College Theatre Programs for 2017 - North West Region

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, we're moving on you the North-West Region which consists of WA, OR, ID, MT and WY.

10. Rocky Mountain College - Billings, MT

Located in the picturesque town of Billings, Montana, Rocky Mountain College has a theatre program which is rising the ranks as one of the best in the area. Rocky Mountain is the only private school in this region of the country that offers degrees in either performance or technical production instead of a general emphasis degree. Recent productions include South Pacific, Almost Maine and California Suite. 

9. Lewis & Clark College - Portland, OR


The theatre program at Lewis & Clark College is one that we've been hearing about more and more. The Theatre major at Lewis & Clark offers three concentrations:  in dramatic literature/theatre history, in performance, and in design/technical theatre. The Department maintains close connections with a number of area theatres.  We have been able to provide internship opportunities during the academic year at CoHo Theatre, Miracle Theatre, Hand-to-Mouth Theatre, Artists Repertory Theatre, and Portland Center Stage – all located in Portland.

8. Boise State University - Boise, ID


The theatre program at Boise St. is one we find ourselves recommending more and more. Not only because the curriculum is excellent but they also have an impressive faculty roster and performance facilities such as the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts. Their current season includes Romeo & Juliet and Urinetown: The Musical. 

7. University of Portland - Portland, OR

The University of Portland has an incredibly strong theatre program right now. It is designed to provide its students with a basic generalist foundation in the areas of performance, technical skills, history and literature. The theater program produces four main stage productions and three or four second stage productions a year in the Mago Hunt Theater which a 300 seat thrust/proscenium combination theater space. Alumni include Jacob Wilhelmi, Holly Ellis and The Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyar. 

6. Carroll College - Helena, MT

If you're looking for an all-inclusive theatre program, we couldn't recommend the program at Carroll College more. The degree consists of 46 credits of THT (and a few other selected) courses. All students will complete 4 practicum credits, take 3 courses in theory, 3 courses in design, and 3 courses in performance. The balance of the credits can be chosen from any THT courses. Graduates will be well versed in several areas of theatre, making them more flexible and employable.

5. Casper College - Casper, WY

What intrigues us the most about the program at Casper, isn't just the quality of productions they perform each year, but the facilities they perform in. The Department of Theatre and Dance is centered in the Gertrude Krampert Theatre Complex, a modern, well-equipped facility that was built in 1985 and was expanded in 2003. There are four spaces for students to learn their craft:

  • The McMurry Main Stage: a thrust stage, surrounded by an audience of 400, all within 30 feet of the stage, which makes it one of the most "actor-friendly" stages you’ll ever experience.
  • The Black Box: an experimental theatre providing a second theatre performance space for smaller productions of many types, from the avant-garde to classics, with a greater range of plays, performance events and subject matter than is possible on the McMurry stage as part of the main season.
  • The Scifers Dance Performance Space: for dance productions prepared by the dance classes and the Flight Dance Company. The dance performance space is also a fully equipped studio space and is supported with a second studio space. Both studios have state-of-the-art dance floors.
  • The Ken Ury Little Theatre: for student scenes and productions. This is a 50-seat space for a variety of types of small productions.

4. Portland State University - Portland, OR

While Portland State University eliminated their Master's Program, they still have an impressive BA/BS Theatre Program which should be on your radar. Undergraduates in theater arts are expected to acquire basic skills in performance, design and production, practice, and dramatic literature and theater history. These basic skills are developed in the core requirements. The remaining credits are met through a selected option, performance, design/production, or theatre studies, which provides for flexibility and allows a student to specialize in an area of interest. Students choose from electives in Theater & Film, and World Languages & Literatures (Kabuki, Peninsular Drama, and Sophocles/Euripides).

3. Whitworth University - Spokane, WA

What's really impressive about the program at Whitworth are the performance opportunities for students. In addition to the full regular theatre season, students can join groups like CoolWhip. These players perform at various campus events (i.e. coffeehouses and Great Escape). They also tour schools and other venues throughout Spokane and the Northwest. Another highlight is Broadway Unbound. Broadway Unbound is a Whitworth Theatre and Dance Department showcase of student performers in classes from their dance minor and from other classes like Performance Theory, Acting I and II, and Mime. Lighting for each performance is designed by technical theatre students in collaboration with the choreographers and performers.

2. Idaho State University - Pocatello, ID

Quickly becoming a leader in the region for theatre arts, the program at Idaho State will surely prepare students for the rigor of the theatre industry. Theatre has a long and rich history at ISU, with productions dating back to the beginning of the university. Since the completion of Frazier Hall on September 1st, 1924. ISU offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, Film and Video, a Bachelor of Arts in Dance, and a Master of Arts degree in Theatre.  A minor in Theatre and a minor in Dance is also offered.

1. Central Washington University - Ellensburg, WA

The program at Central Washington University is so good, that we wouldn't be surprised if next year, its ranked as one of the best programs in the country. They offer highly intensive and hand-on BFA/BA programs in everything from Performance, Design and Musical Theatre. In addition to education student, they also have a fabulous Summer Intensive program for drama teachers. The Drama Teacher's Summer Institute was specifically designed for teachers. Since then, more than 500 teachers, representing more than 20 states and eight nations, have attended the Institute, learning new skills to take back to the classroom, making life-long friends and networking with other theatre artists and educators from across the nation and the world.

Students have recently completed internships with Seattle Musical Theatre, The 5th Ave Theatre (Seattle), Disneyland and Disney World. They have been invited to participate in international tours (Italy and Bulgaria) in addition to securing employment with a number of theatre opportunities such as: Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre (ID), Midtown Arts (Fort Collins, CO), Centerstage Theatre (Seattle), Virginia City Players (MT), Artists Repertory Theatre (Portland, OR), Northwest Classical Theatre (Portland, OR), Portland Center Stage (OR), Idaho Shakespeare Repertory (Boise),  ArtsWest Theatre (Seatle,WA), The Old Globe (San Diego,CA) and Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago, IL)