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BWW College Guide - 25 Major Universities Share How They Keep Their Theatre Programs Relevant

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Dec. 5, 2019  

BWW College Guide - 25 Major Universities Share How They Keep Their Theatre Programs Relevant

With college theatre program auditions in full swing, we're delving into some of the country's most prestigious theatre programs to learn more about everything from their audition processes to how they're preparing students for post-grad life, and more. Today we're chatting with twenty-five different major universities to find out how they ensure that their programs continue to stay as relevant as possible over the years. Check out answers from University of Cincinnati, Elon University, and many more below!

Abilene Christian University

We are always asking our alumni working in the industry on keeping up to date on what the current audition, rehearsal, and performance trends are in professional productions.

AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts

In addition to an industry-working faculty, who are always bringing their current experiences to AMDA students, as part of each student's program, there are a variety of practical courses designed to prepare students for the most current industry trends and demands. Our Career Preparation and Industry and Networking courses include audition prep and techniques as well as guest visits from outside agents, managers, casting directors, choreographers, etc. who are always communicating the most current and relevant industry practices. AMDA also adds courses and/or adjusts curriculum regularly, as needed to reflect new and important industry trends. Recently we have added special courses with a media focus that help prepare students for generating original content, self-tape auditions, reels, slates, and more

Auburn University

Auburn Theatre welcomes multiple guest artists to campus every semester and creates unique experiences for students to engage with industry professionals from the Atlanta area and the larger nation and world. In collaboration with the Gogue Performing Arts Center, AU Theatre offers students opportunities to engage with the creative and performance leaders and innovators. Our curriculum also incorporates new and cutting-edge techniques and approaches and our faculty and staff continue their own education through conference and workshop participation.

Baldwin Wallace University

We bring in 10 industry professionals (casting directors/agents) every year for master classes with our students. They're getting direct feedback from the people who have their pulse on the business, and how best to market themselves. We're constantly looking at how the art form is developing and adding classes (hip-hop, self tape technique, brand development) to help keep the students as fresh and relevant as possible.

Boston University

We always say we are in a constant time of innovation; our curriculum is never frozen, we are constantly revisiting it and reevaluating it, hoping to have this discussion within the faculty and staff, but also with input from our student body. They have a large voice in our program in terms of how the work applies to our current moment in time. BU is one of the leading innovative universities in the country, and the School of Theatre is a central component of that.

California Institute of the Arts

CalArts is home to an incredible faculty of working artists, actively performing and creating exciting, original work around the world. They bring the most current practices - balancing theater traditions from around the world with daring experimentation. CalArts routinely engages guest artists as instructors, lecturers, and collaborators to develop projects in residence with our students, and developing life-long professional relationships. The School of Theater also features programs exploring the integration of emerging technologies across the live performance spectrum, allowing students the opportunity to work with cutting edge design. CalArts Center for New Performance connects current students with professional opportunities locally, nationally, and around the world.

Circle in the Square Theatre School

Expanding students On Camera experience and Seminars with Social Media professionals to heighten awareness of self-promotion.

Elon University

Our faculty continue to work professionally. New hires constantly bring new perspectives. We are focussing now on preparing electronic submissions and content creation.

James Madison University

We bring in professionals to work with our students. The faculty is also made up of working professionals who continue to workoutside of the university. Recently, we have revised our core to offer more interdisciplinary opportunities for students to collaborate, and create their own work. We have a commitment to new work, and have a number of initiatives that bring writers and composers to campus to create and workshop original work with our students.

Loyola Marymount University

I would say we are always changing and taking into our teaching the what is currently happening in the industry. This is aided by the fact that many of our faculty are working professionals. Our Career Development Course is taught by a working Actors' Manager. This individual brings the students in contacts with many casting directors and agents that discuss with the students what is current in the industry at the time they are entering it. Recently we have added a panel of industry professionals to our audition process for the culminating showcase. Another thing we instill in our students is the fact that they need have some experience in every aspect of what goes into creating a production. It is our goal to have all of our students leave the program with the ability to create their own work and not just wait to be cast in something. We have students creating podcasts and theatre companies among many other creative endeavors.

Marymount Manhattan College

We have two new BFA programs that began Fall 2019. The BFA in Musical Theatre focusses on Musicianship, Music Theatre History, Song Studies, Scene into Song and Song Portfolio/Professional Prep and there are special topics classes including Cabaret, Pop/Rock, and Directing Musicals. Our music theatre faculty bring a wide range of professional and academic experience to our program. We are participating in the new streamlined audition process as piloted by Papermill Playhouse and are using online platforms to see students who cannot travel to NYC for an audition. We will be attending the Thespian Conference to let high schools know about our BFA. The BFA in Theatre Design & Technical Production offers students the opportunity to study with New York Theatre professionals, design main stage productions, establish professional contacts, and obtain internships with New York's major theatre designers and theatres. The program offers concentrations in Design (Sound, Costume, Scenic, Lighting), Technical Direction, and Theatrical Media Design. Since MMC is an undergraduate college, design students do not compete with graduate students for design opportunities. The small class size allows the student to interact closely with the instructor as well as peers. The Department of Theatre Arts is in constant dialogue with the ever-changing climate of the professional theatre world and we utilize this dialogue to continually shape our curriculum in a way that we believe best prepares our students to navigate the myriad ways in which theatre is created. It is our goal as a department to not only stay on top of these changing trends, but to also be at the front lines when it comes to implementing these changes into the way we conceptualize and create imaginative and innovative theatre.

Millikin University

Faculty continue to work professionally and/or attend academic and professional conferences in order to stay informed on emerging trends and shifting industry standards and norms. Curricula are regularly assessed and adjusted to align with the professional market to ensure our graduates have the tools they need to be successful in a competitive field.

Pace University

It all starts with the faculty that are in the room with our students. All of our programs update coursework regularly in order to respond to the needs of the industry. For example, we developed the BFA in Acting for Film, Television, Voiceovers & Commercials program to specifically train, in four years, students who know that they want to work in that industry. We've added acting for film/TV to our BFA in Musical Theater as well. Our BFA in Commercial Dance now spends a semester in Los Angeles. Our International Performance Ensemble (the BA Acting and BA Directing majors) spend a semester in Sitges, Spain. Our design and stage management programs also focus on film and TV work. In every area we've cultivated a industry-ready approach to both the training and the practice.

Point Park University

We are always assessing the program - the training, recruitment, retention and alumni success. We work with industry people all the time and look to their guidance. Faculty stays active and aware of trends. We also continue to find the best ways to train a diverse population of students and continue to try to create a positive environment.

Rider University

Working professionals from New York City and Philadelphia serve on Rider's faculty and as guest directors and designers for over 10 full-scale productions annually. Through collaboration with Rider's filmmaking, TV and radio, and game and interactive media design programs, Rider prepares performing arts leaders who are skilled across stage, screen and new media.

Shenandoah Conservatory

Our Broadway Professors keep close ties with their connections and continue to work on new projects with Broadway professionals as to be up-to-date on current trends. We are the first University to utilize the teaching of healthy pop/rock singing for the MT. Matt Edwards, the head of our MT Vocal Department, wrote the book "So You Want To Sing Rock 'n' Roll" and is asked by several other MT Programs to present Master Classes every year. Additionally, we send our students on theatre trips to DC, NY and London to take classes and view the current trends in the theatre. Our professors continue professional development yearly as well.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Since we're a young program, it has been built to prepare students for the current market. We spend a lot of time discussing digital resources and social media, learning how to self-tape, enhancing theatre skills outside of performance which can sustain a career in theatre, and bringing in current, working guest artists.


Our undergraduates work with outstanding professionals both on the faculty and as guests to the Department. These artists work across the performing arts from Broadway, TV and film, to experimental performance. We are also committed to functioning as an incubator for new work, especially musicals. We regularly bring in writers and composers to develop their projects with our students both in workshops and full premier productions. Students are also able to take advantage of courses offered in the Department of Film, TV and Digital Media housed in our School.

University of Cincinnati

We seek out information and advice from industry professionals including our graduates to find out what changes need to be made to keep on top of the current trends.

University of Michigan

Our faculty continues to work professionally, our alumni, who are working in the profession, participate in the Department as mentors and guests, and we continually update our course content to prepare students for the industry to come while providing solid technique as an artistic foundation.

University of North Carolina School of the Arts

We work with the Film School's Media and Emerging Technology Lab to make sure that are students understand the latest developments in content creation, especially in the areas of Virtual and Augmented Reality, as well as video game development and new animation. This collaboration also gives our students experience working with green screen and motion capture technologies. So they are exposed to the lastest trends in content creation, and what role the performer plays in these emerging technologies. In recent years two primary areas of modernization have been the robust expansion of the on-camera training we offer as described above in conjunction with greatly deepening our collaboration with the UNCSA Film School, and the addition of a robust, multi-year curriculum in Devised Theater led by Andy Paris, one of the founding members of the Tectonic Theater Project, creator of The Laramie Project.

University of Oklahoma

Because our faculty are all theatre professionals with long careers as union actors, directors, choreographers and Musical Directors - who continue to work, were uniquely qualified to keep an eye on our curriculum and refine as needed.

University of Southern California

Through our partnerships across the USC campus, our location in Los Angeles and through the efforts of our forward-thinking faculty, we have been able to create an environment that is adaptable to the changing trends of theatre, film and television while still reinforcing the classical model of theatre training.

University of Texas at Arlington

Our faculty continues to train and work in the commercial arena learning and experiencing current trends, pedagogies, and practices. Our spaces and curriculum reflect those modernizations.

Viterbo University

We have a thriving guest artist's series, professors are union and still work in the industry, and we collaborate and partner with casting and professional personnel to insure that our students are able to understand what the business will be asking of them.

Wright State University

We review course content every year to be sure it reflects the feedback we get from our panels of Casting Directors and Agents. We have developed a strong connection with our Motion Pictures program so students have ample opportunities to work on-camera. All students are prepared with training in online self-promotion, video reels, and self-taping training. Our courses and production seasons always reflect both classic and contemporary plays and musicals.

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From This Author Linnae Medeiros

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