If Rachel Berry didn’t get accepted into the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts, (fictional school by the way), she definitely would have found her spotlight at one of these universities. Truth is, you don’t have to go to some ridiculously expensive and exclusive performing arts school to get your name in lights. There are several universities that are known to foster young talent through their curriculum and the opportunities they give their students (thanks, famous alum). So grab your popcorn and enjoy the following ranking of the top universities for theater majors brought to you by College Magazine. Five, six, five, six, seven, eight…
1. New York University- Tisch School of the Arts
New York City is the hub for theatre, therefore making NYU the top university for theatre majors. The professors are working professionals from on and off Broadway, who truly give their students a taste of the real world of theatre. “We work with guest directors who bring their point of view into the building, giving us unprecedented experiences and opportunities post-graduation,” Frank Oliva, senior design for theatre and film major, said. In addition to five Tisch-produced productions, the school is partnered with conservatory programs such as Atlantic Acting School and Stella Adler Conservatory. Some very notable alumni include Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeremy Pivon.
2. University of California, Los Angeles- School of Theater, Film and Television
This university gets more than 1000 applicants a year. Only a lucky 100 incoming freshmen are selected and the only thing harder than getting in is staying in. Acting majors aren’t guaranteed a place in acting classes each quarter—your professors’ approval means everything here. Located in Los Angeles, Hollywood stars are made here. Nicolas Cage and Jack Black both have UCLA TFT degrees and Golden Globe nominees.
3. Carnie Mellon University- School of Drama
This university isn’t for the faint of heart. Juniors and seniors in the school of drama have 13-hour days—this includes both classes and rehearsals. But these people know what they’re doing. According to their website, CMU School of Drama “is the oldest degree-granting drama school in the United States.” Zachary Quinto, Cherry Jones and Patrick Wilson are famous alum, just to name a few. One of the most exciting weeks at CMU is Playground week. Basically professors cancel class for a week so students can produce plays. Over 50 plays are put on that week and there’s no limit as to how many productions a student can be in. “Playground showcases how multitalented the students are. It’s really cool to see an actor go direct a play and a musical theatre student write a play. It’s exhausting but the most fun week ever,” Casey Cott, junior acting major, said.
4. Rutgers University- Mason Gross School of the Arts
With a 9 percent acceptance rate, Mason Gross School of the Arts isn’t letting just anybody try to find their place on Broadway. One of their most exciting and beneficial programs is the year juniors spend training at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. What better place to practice Shakespeare than in his house? These kids aren’t just reading some lines off a script, however. “I think the Movement Projects are an unsung gem of the program. Each semester 1st and 2nd year students are asked to create different pieces of physical theater and dance based on where they are in their training. It is an incredible expression of the physical training given to Rutgers actors,” Carter Bellaimey, senior acting major, said.
5. Northwestern University- School of Communication
With a campus so close to Chicago, it’s no wonder these students have so many job opportunities after graduation. The annual Chicago showcase gives graduating seniors the chance to network within the theatre community by auditioning in front of casting directors and agents—no time for stage fright. These students also work closely with their professors outside of the classroom to create connections within the business. Faculty members just so happen to be active members in the Chicago Company—not even the kids from Glee had these types of connections. Zach Braff, Zooey Deschannel, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers got their start in this university…guess you got to have a good sense of humor to graduate from here.
6. Syracuse University- College of Visual and Performing Arts
These students don’t have to wait for graduation to work with professional actors. The Syracuse Stage works with SU drama students each season to co-produce a show…can’t get anymore ‘hands-on learning’ than that. Only 50 of the 900 applicants SU receives get these opportunities. Vanessa Williams and Vera Farmiga had their humble beginnings at this university.
7. University of North Carolina- School of the Arts
This program isn’t just for college students. The college Arts Diploma is an intensive actor training for high-school seniors. UNCSA is ranked the No. 6 drama school in the world and has some notable alumni like Mary-Louise Parker. This school truly prepares you for a career in theatre; 17 of the 25 graduates land a manager or agent after graduation. “In our fourth year we have classes and mock auditions with visiting agents and casting directors that help prepare us for the competitive professional world,” Emma Coutler, senior and drama major, said. The proof is the in the pudding, folks.
8. University of Washington- School of Drama
The alumni from this university haven’t forgotten about the little people. Not only did Joel McHale graduate from UW’s School of Drama, but he’s gone back to share his experiences. He’s one of the many alumni who do this—now that’s what we call paying it forward. The curriculum is all the rave here too. “Not only do we have our specific directing, acting and design classes, but the curriculum also integrates courses on theater criticism, theater history, play analysis and special topics within the industry,” Elizabeth Wu, senior drama and English major, said. Not ready to own the stage just yet? You can stay in UW and get a Ph.D. in history and theory of theatre instead.
9. Emerson College- Department of Performing Arts
This Boston school doesn’t let showbiz get to their students’ heads. “All theatre majors in general take all the same courses freshman year to have the same base level. Like if anyone is coming in with an ego or with anything it brings everyone down a notch and, it’s like listen we’re all here to work as a community,” Amanda Gluck, sophomore and theatre studies major said. Emerson Stage—the producing organization for Emerson College productions—participates in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. This is a national festival where 18,000 college students showcase their talent in theatre. In 2012, all six of the Emerson College participant’s took awards back to Boston—Henry Winkler (class of ’64) is probably proud.
10. Florida State University- School of Theatre
Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) got his start at this large Florida university. And, just because it’s a large university doesn’t mean they aren’t selective—about 24 freshmen get accepted each year. Students are given an option to take an acting or a musical theatre route, but both come with big benefits. Acting majors have the opportunity to train in their London Theatre Experience the summer before their junior year and participate in a Los Angeles showcase their senior year. Graduating musical theatre seniors have the option to participate in the New York Showcase, where the audience consist of big-shot directors, casting directors and talent agents.
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*Updated on January 15, 2015 with a new images and links.