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BWW Blog: BA Programs are Good and Here's Why

BWW Blog: BA Programs are Good and Here's Why

Dear High School Seniors,

BA programs are good and here's why:

If you were to tell me a year ago that I would end up at a BA school and LOVE it, I would not have believed you. Around this time last year, I was getting ready to fly to New York City for my first college audition. I was one of the theatre kids who was going all out to try to get into college- I applied to 22 schools, used a college coaching company (I love you MTCA fam!), went to Chicago unifieds, sacrificed school shows and my social life to spend hours at home searching for the perfect monologues and 32 bar cuts. I wanted more than anything to be in a rigorous BFA program, and I thought if I didn't get into any I would re-audition.

Flash forward 6 months to the May 1st deadline- I got accepted into several BFA programs and waitlisted at my dream school. The programs for those schools were all so wonderful and exciting, but they just didn't feel right for me. I decided to look at my backup school, mainly just to get my parents to stop talking about it. The night before I toured Muhlenberg college for admitted students day, I sobbed in my hotel room while blasting "I'm Not a Loser" from Spongebob Squarepants The Broadway Musical for an hour about how I felt like I was going to have to settle for my education.

When I came to campus the next day, I was greeted with the warmest welcomes from students and faculty. I learned all about what the program had to offer and what classes I could take and how they would prepare me to follow my dreams and be prepared for NYC after graduation. Flash forward to my makeup running down my red face as I cried yet again that night. My mom asked me what I didn't like about the school. I could think of absolutely nothing. Muhlenberg was perfect in every sense. The program was absolutely everything I wanted in my theatre education. I was crying over the fact that I didn't have to audition to get in and my diploma would be missing one small letter. That felt like a kind of stupid thing to be crying over. At my suggestion, my mom drove me back to Muhlenberg and I ran to the bookstore to pick up a shirt. When I got home, I sent in my commitment form to Muhlenberg with a smile on my face.

If I wasn't completely sure about my decision when I committed, I definitely was convinced when I got here. Within the first week of classes, we were already auditioning for mainstage shows. At many BFA programs, freshman aren't even allowed to audition for shows, so I felt very lucky. The auditions felt like real-world experience because we had the auditions for the mainstage musical, three mainstage plays, and three separate dance shows on Wednesday through Friday of our first week of classes, and callbacks that weekend. It was very stressful to get in the swing of classes while trying to put forward our best work for our first impressions in the theatre department, but after getting through that week, I feel like I can get through anything.

BWW Blog: BA Programs are Good and Here's WhyAnother thing I love about being in a BA program is the opportunities we have to take classes outside of the arts. I am a strong believer that the best artists are the ones that are real people- they are well rounded, have interests outside of theatre, and are well spoken. During the college audition process, I didn't audition for any conservatories because I love learning and have so many other interests. I'm very passionate about global warming and the effects plastic has on our planet (which I can learn more about in a class called Crisis Earth), baking (which I can do in the Kitchen Chemistry class), and creative writing (there are playwriting classes for that!). I am currently in a freshman year writing seminar called "Exploring the Wilderness" where we read a lot of texts about what the word wilderness really means, and we question why humans are so drawn to it yet treat it so harshly. We had an assignment where once a week for 6 weeks in a row we would go somewhere off campus and just sit there for 15 minutes without doing anything and then free write in our journals for another 15 minutes. It was by far my favorite assignment I've ever had. I found that every time I came back to campus from the Rose Garden, my writing location of choice, I felt more human and artistically inspired. Next semester, along with my many arts classes, I get to take Intro to Psychology, Professional Networking and Development, and Crisis Earth. I wouldn't have the opportunity to take as many classes in my outside interests if I were at a BFA program. With this class selecting freedom, there's a lot more time to participate in things like a capella, improv, circus, other clubs, and of course, trips to NYC.

Another huge pro of being in a bigger program is we get to pick our classes and professors. Many BFA programs have 20-30 students per class, whereas Muhlenberg has around 200 just in the freshman class. This large number may sound intimidating, but it means that we have a large variety of classes and professors. Because my program is so large, I have the freedom to design my education to exactly what I'm looking for. Although it is labeled as a BA program, there is enough room in my schedule and enough variety that I can take as many, if not more, theatre classes than if I were to attend a rigorous BFA. Some of the theatre and dance electives I'm most excited to take are Stage Makeup with Joe Dulude (the makeup designer for Wicked and Spongebob Squarepants the Broadway Musical), Knife Fighting Stage Combat, and Aerial Acrobatics. And since we have an 11:1 student-faculty ratio, our class sizes stay small and intimate.

I'm going to have a hard time picking where to study abroad. Muhlenberg is set up so that you can double major, study abroad, and still have time to take classes "for fun". Muhlenberg is paired up with the Royal Conservatory of Scotland for a semester-long devising program for theatre majors. There's also a program in Arezzo, Italy, where students can study commedia dell'arte or dance. One of the best parts is during your semester there, you get to live in villas and have freshly made Italian meals every day. While the Royal Conservatory and having Italian food everyday sounds awesome to me, my favorite study abroad option might just be the semester in New York City at Larry Singer's acting studio. It's a perfect opportunity to learn from the best, get an internship, start networking, and see if the city life is for you (although I'm pretty positive I'm already madly in love with NYC). When I was going through college auditions, studying abroad wasn't even something on my radar, but now that I know the possibilities here, I can't wait to start exploring my many options.

In addition to having all of these incredible theatre and non-theatre opportunities, Muhlenberg also has many of the same perks as BFA programs. There's a NYC showcase offered during senior year that theatre majors can participate in if they are interested. Many of our professors are also professionals in the business who come in from New York City to teach. And the amount of networking opportunities are endless. In addition to guest teachers that come in for weekly dance masterclasses, in the past month alone I've gone to discussions with Muhlenberg alums Nathan Renner-Johnson and Daniel Guy from the Philadelphia theatre scene and Broadway stage manager Jeff Brancato (he stage-managed Spongebob and is certainly not a simple sponge!). I feel like there are so many opportunities to be connected to the theatre community outside both inside and outside of the "muhlenbubble".

I can't tell you that Muhlenberg or BA programs in general are the perfect programs for you because every person is different in what they need socially, academically, and artistically. But I can tell you to keep an open mind as you go through this audition season. Don't let the title or reputation of a school discourage you if it feels like the right fit. Something you're going to hear a lot as you audition is that you will end up where you are meant to be, and I truly believe that. Regardless of where you end up, there is no single path to a successful career, but if you have the work ethic and the passion, you are capable of making your dreams come true with any path you take. Go out there and shine your light on the world. You can do this!


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From This Author Student Blogger: Kiana Holmes

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