IWU School of Theatre ranked top five in U.S.

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Emily Considine, Staff Writer

 

Illinois Wesleyan University’s School of Theatre Arts was ranked number two among the top five BFA Theatre Design & Technology programs in the country. According to onstageblog.com, a blog that recently became an open national website, Illinois has become a breeding ground for some of theatre’s most successful artists and Illinois Wesleyan University stands out among the rest.

“People say any sort of recognition or good press, even bad press, is great. However, we at the School of Theatre Arts take it kind of lightly because we are making a high level of artistic product regardless of what an independent blogger thinks of us,” said Director of the School of Theatre Arts and Professor of Theatre Arts Curtis Trout.

What makes IWU’s School of Theatre Arts different from other private institutions is that it is a School while other institutions only have a department. Anyone can be in a play at other private institutions while this is also true at IWU you must audition to be in the School of Theatre Arts.

Getting into the School of Theatre Arts is a unique process. “For a potential student to get into the School of Theatre Arts at IWU, they have two hurdles to jump over. First they must be admitted by the university, and then they must audition in order to get into the School of Theatre,” said Trout.  “Sometimes if they are admissible by the university, we still require them to complete an online screening process before allowing them to come to IWU to audition.”

A significant amount of students are drawn into this definitive program from out of state and country. There are 91 majors this year in the School of Theatre, making up five percent of IWU’s campus population. 41 of these students are from out of the state or country.

International students make up 3.29 percent of the majors. Trout has already gone on five out-of-state recruiting trips this year to recruit and/or see students audition.

IWU’s School of Theatre Art design program is at an advantage among other private institutions and even some bigger state schools. “We have three faculty members who are also a part of a professional designers union and entry involving a peer-review process voting them in,” said Trout.

“Also, at state schools, theatre students get lost in the crowd while IWU’s smaller student population allows for theatre students to stand out and create a large presence for themselves,” he said.

Adding to the uniqueness of IWU’s program is the set up of the degrees. There are four different degrees, including three Bachelors of the Fine Arts (BFA) degrees, Music Theatre, Acting and Design Tech, and one Bachelor of the Arts degree.

“I think our Theatre Arts program is awesome in the sense that it is very individualized. You get to explore being an artist in all areas of the theatre and the faculties are great,” said junior BFA Acting Major Shen Choong. “Because of the size of our department, we really get individualized attention so that’s really wonderful and helpful!”

 

The courses involved also contribute to the definitiveness of the design program. Students are required to complete two independent studies as part of the curriculum.

Every design student is guaranteed that they will design on the main stage, collaborating with a faculty director and mentored by a faculty designer.

“In other BFA programs, student designers never get a chance to design. They are given craft positions, such as working on and painting sets. Here at IWU we put students in the forefront,” said Trout.

The other top four schools listed on the blog are number five Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, number four, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, number three, Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, and number one, Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

“I am very proud to be a faculty member at IWU. The entire student body is fantastic,” said Trout. “The students in the School of Theatre Arts are out of this world and I am thrilled to be a faculty member here.”