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Drama and Musical Theatre in the USA

Guides / USA

For those who aspire to a career on the stage or in front of a camera, the US can be an attractive option. A dream of making it big on Hollywood or Broadway can be a significant motivating factor. What’s the reality behind pursuing drama, acting or musical theatre at university in the USA?

The first thing, as for many other specialised options of US study, is to understand the very different ways available for students wishing to study in these areas. A student could choose simply to major in drama as part of a liberal arts curriculum; she could attend a bigger university which has a drama school attached to it, or perhaps a school of media and communications; or, she could follow the conservatory approach and go for a specialised institution.

In the first group, are examples such as Brown, Columbia, Williams or Vassar, where a student will be planning a drama curriculum alongside the standard distribution requirements and core curriculum, with the ability to switch paths along the way.

In the second, where a student is admitted to a particular school or programme – such as the Tisch School at NYU, the College of Fine Arts at Boston University, or the TFT at UCLA – will have particular requirements for the audition and pre-screen on top of the standard admissions practices, with students becoming part of a specialist college with the resources of a larger university.

The third, specialist option, would see students look at places such as AADA, Julliard, or Boston Conservatory, will give the most specialised experience for a student, with some of these universities among the most prestigious across the performing arts.

Secondly, as ever, students should not assume that the way an application would work in their own country will be replicated in the USA. Not only may the audition materials be quite different, but so will the timelines, the need to provide pre-screen material and – in many cases – the fact that students will have to travel to the US for final auditions. Starting early and planning ahead is even more important here than for other US applications.

Finally, for students applying for something even more specialised within these specialised programmes – such as Musical Theatre or Set Design – it’s essential to be aware that there can be very, very few places per institution. A BFA programme may be admitting fifty students, or which perhaps only four can be the Musical Theatre specialists, so casting a wide net of applications is likely to be a good idea.

At The University Guys, we have deep experience in supporting students with successful applications to a range of creative disciplines, in the USA and beyond. Get in touch to find out more!