The Top Ten Most Underrated College Theatre Programs for 2017 - Mid- 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 getting a ton of credit already.

Because the list is so massive, we're going to break it down region by region using this map. 

We've already done the West, South-West, and North-West, so let's continue today with the Mid-West! 

10. Beloit College - Beloit, WI


Beloit students can explore seven different concentrations in the theatre arts major, participate in theatre programs as a co-curricular activity, or choose their own path. They also feature fantastic facilities within the Neese Performing Arts Center. The complex includes a 300-seat thrust-stage theatre, the Kresge Experimental Theatre, the Bunge television studio, scenery and lighting design studios, and a professional-quality costume shop that has rented pieces out to several companies (including the renowned American Players Theatre).

9. Hastings College - Hastings, NE


In addition to four to five full campus productions each year, opportunities abound to collaborate with groups in the Hastings area, such as a Shakespeare with Noodles youth troupe and the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center. January Term experiences include work with professional artists to provide students with exposure to choreographers and other artists currently in the field.

8. Illinois State University - Normal, IL


Incoming freshmen are eligible for the Sutter Family Shakespeare Scholarship. This newly endowed scholarship provides the recipient with monetary support ($1,000 a year for four years) as well as a one-time summer internship with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

7. Concordia College - Moorhead, MN


Their co-curricular program is where students put what they've learned in the classroom to practice on and behind the stage. More than 250 students are involved in our productions each year. Students involved in Concordia’s theatre program take responsibility and ownership of all productions. Theatre TAs are work-study positions and are in charge of supplementing the professional staff in areas such as program creation, light design, ticket sales, promotions, marketing, set creation and costume creation.

6. Kansas State University - Manhattan, KS

The K-State theatre program has been recognized as outstanding on a regional and national level. Students and faculty have received numerous awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, or KCACTF, Region V competitions. In recent years, K-State acting students have been selected over hundreds of competitors as finalists in KCACTF’s prestigious Irene Ryan Competition. K-State Theatre students have received KCACTF regional and national awards for their outstanding work in playwriting, acting, set design, critical writing, stage management and directing.

5. Lindenwood University - St Charles, MO


Students who choose Lindenwood University’s School Arts, Media, and Communications have the extraordinary opportunity to work and study at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts. With state-of-the-art equipment unmatched by any other Midwestern university, the center features two professionally equipped theaters, an art gallery for exhibiting traditional and multimedia artwork, dance studios, music studios, traditional classrooms, scene and costume shops, and multiple computer labs. 

4. Central Michigan University - Mt. Pleasant, MI

CMU features an interesting Interpretation Program. Students develop individual and group performances of literature that was not originally written for the stage: poetry, short stories, novels, journals, personal narratives and essays. Presentations are then made at various times throughout the year and at festivals throughout the country.

3. University of Louisville - Louisville, KY

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Features the Studio Theatre Company which is an RSO that strives to give students the opportunity to create and perform plays in an encouraging and supporting environment and to create an open, diverse environment where any student at the university interested in any of the many aspects of theatre can come together and organize events entirely on their own.Studio Theater Company operates through the University of Louisville and focuses on providing theatre experience to actors, directors, producers, and technicians in our community.

2. Ohio University - Athens, OH

The Theater Division has two main stage theaters solely for its use: the Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater in Kantner Hall and the Forum Theater in the Radio-Television Building next door to Kantner Hall. The Baker Theater is a fully equipped, standard proscenium theater, seating 265. It has a stage house with 33 line sets, a dimmer-per-circuit lighting system and separate sound and communications systems. The Forum Theater is a deep thrust space with seating for 275. While its primary use is as a 3/4 thrust stage, it is also capable of conversion to an arena stage. Its lighting and sound systems are comparable to those in the Baker Theater.

The primary black box theater, The Hahne, seats approximately 50. It is a flexible space with its own lighting and sound system. It is used for laboratory shows and as a technical teaching space as well as the home for Playwrights' weekly Midnight Madness.

1. University of Notre Dame - South Bend, IN

Notre Dame's Theatre concentration is designed to integrate theory and practice, with 4 core courses intended to support study in all three areas of the concentration – performance, production & design, and literary/critical studies.  With careful planning, students can focus at least half of their coursework in the major in their primary area of interest. Theatre Season shows are produced in the Philbin Studio Theatre and Patricia George Decio Theatre, both in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.