If you’re a high school junior or senior who expects to be
studying theatre at college in the near future, you probably
have a good idea of the dimensions of the decision. There are so
many variables, and so many possibilities, with nearly three
thousand colleges, universities, and professional schools in the
United States. Finding one that’s right for you involves sorting
through the information regarding course offerings, faculty,
facilities, location, cost, financial aid, and theatre
opportunities. At the outset, you have a choice to make
regarding the type of higher education you want to pursue. That
choice basically falls in two categories:
The BA and BFA represent two fundamentally different ideas about
how theatre artists should be trained. The liberal arts approach
is designed to provide a BA student with a broad range of knowledge
in the arts, humanities, and science as well as theatre. BA theatre
students should develop basic techniques and production experience
in an environment that leads to a fuller intellectual grasp of the
art and its place in society.
The BFA places primary emphasis on the development of skills,
concepts, and sensitivities essential to the theatre professional.
BFA programs offer areas of concentration including acting, design
and technology, film and video production, theatre for youth, musical
theatre with an emphasis in theatre, and musical theatre with an
emphasis in music. Because of its strong focus on specific skills
in theatre, the BFA does not offer the broader-based education that
the BA offers.
Like all other aspects of choosing a school, the question of
whether to pursue a liberal arts or professional degree as an undergraduate
is a personal one. The issue is not whether one approach is better;
it’s a matter of figuring out which course of study is best for
process of selecting a place to study theatre is a two-way street.
The school wants to know if you’re the kind of student who will
do well in its program, and it seeks to find out by asking you to
fill out an application, supply your grade point average and SAT/ACT
scores, audition, and/or interview. Similarly, you need to
find out everything you can about the education and training you
will receive at a school you’re considering.
Your first questions should be ones that you ask of yourself to
help you understand what you are looking for in a college theatre
program such as:
What training and educational approach do you offer—liberal
arts (with a BA degree) or conservatory (BFA)?
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Department of Theatre Arts
offers an invigorating and fresh approach to liberal arts
undergraduate theatre training. Newly redesigned
curriculum with a BA and BS in Theatre Arts with
concentrations in Performance, Design and Technical Production,
Management, Music Theatre, and General Emphasis, give you the
flexibility to create a program tailored to your interests.
UWL Theatre is unique in that students may both major and
minor in theatre. For example, a student may major in
Theatre Performance and minor in Theatre Management. In
this regard, experience and training can be more specialized,
similar to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree without sacrificing
the strong broad-based education valued at UW-La Crosse.
What is the mission of the department?
The Department of Theatre Arts at UW-La Crosse endeavors to
provide students with the tools necessary to function as
complete artists and self-realized individuals, combining
theatrical training with a strong liberal arts curriculum.
A combination of classroom training and realized production work
allows for a well-rounded college experience with an emphasis on
the collaborative and creative process.
How is the overall program divided among dramatic
literature, acting, theatre history, technical theatre,
directing, playwriting, theatre management, etc. ?
Students who major or minor in theatre take a core of classes
that include all aspects of the study and practice of theatre.
You will read and study plays from today and the past, take a
course with other new students in the basics of creating a
performance, and an entry level class in stagecraft: the
backstage skills needed for any production. Everyone takes
a beginning class in acting, too. Then, much of it is
your choice. You can choose an emphasis area from any of
five areas if you wish to focus on one part of theatre, or you
can choose a general emphasis. All of our students,
however, do participate in productions in all elements of
theatre practice, so you will come out of our program knowing
something about every part of theatre and the production of
What are the professional credits of the faculty and what
are they doing professionally now? What are their areas of
The UWL Department of Theatre Arts currently consists of 6
full-time theatre faculty. The Department also collaborates
with other departments on campus for choreography, music
direction, and special course offerings.
All of the Theatre faculty hold either a Masters of Fine Arts
(MFA) or a Ph.D. with areas of expertise including scenic and
lighting design, costume and make up design, directing, theatre
history and criticism, acting, voice and movement, technical
direction and sound design. In addition to its full-time
faculty, the department frequently brings guest artists to
campus from professional and educational theatre around the
Our faculty have worked professionally with such
organizations as VEE Corp. (creators of Sesame Street), Arrow
Rock Lyceum Theatre, Illinois State Dance Theatre, Steppenwolf
Theatre, Heartland Theatre in Kansas City, and the Illinois
Shakespeare Festival. The Department of Theatre Arts is also
proud to be affiliated and active with the American College
Theatre Festival (ACTF), Association for Theatre in Higher
Education (ATHE), Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Educators
(AWTE), United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT),
and the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE).
Where are your recent graduates now, and what are they
doing? Were they accepted to graduate school?
Our blend of unlimited opportunities and close personal
attention produces excellent results. Over 90% of our graduates
find jobs. Many pursue careers in the professional theatre as
actors, directors, designers, stage managers, and technical
directors. UWL’s graduates work at some of the nation’s most
distinguished theatres and graduate programs including the
Actors Theatre of Louisville, SoHo Rep, Penumbra Theatre
Company, Actors Studio Theatre, Asolo Theatre, Milwaukee
Repertory, The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, The Guthrie Theatre,
and the Santa Fe Opera. We have had students in the graduate
theatre programs in Florida State University, Temple University
in Philadelphia, PA, University of Minnesota, Purdue University,
University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), and the California
Institute for the Arts.
What is the ratio of faculty to students? To majors? To
minors? What is the size of theatre classes?
UWL boasts a student to faculty ratio of 20:1 and an average
class size of 30 students. Within the Department of Theatre
Arts, student to faculty ratio averages 10:1 with an average
class size of 16. At UWL Theatre, one-on-one contact with our
teaching faculty is emphasized, and because of our low
student-to-faculty ration, students are guaranteed a degree of
personal attention rarely available in larger programs. Theatre
courses are kept small to provide more personalized instruction
and allow for more effective training. For example, Acting
courses are limited to less than 25 students so faculty can work
one-on-one with each student.
Each theatre major is also assigned to a faculty advisor to
coordinate course schedules, pursue career information, plan
acting/directing/technical projects, etc. Each semester, the
department also holds two “Major/Minor Meetings” to discuss
upcoming events, audition information, theatre opportunities,
and production assignments.
Where do your students come from? Is the student body
geographically, ethnically, racially, or culturally diverse?
What is the percentage of minority students enrolled in the
program? What is the male-to-female ratio of students enrolled
in the program?
Most students at UW-La Crosse are from Wisconsin and
Minnesota with approximately 16% percent of UWL students from
out-of-state. The University also has a strong international
program with students attending from countries around the world
including Germany, China, Japan, Indonesia, Canada, Korea,
India, etc. The student body consists of approximately 40%
males and 60% females. The Department of Theatre Arts is a
reflection of the campus as a whole with most of our students
haling from Wisconsin and Minnesota. The overall program has a
10% minority population, higher than the campus average, and is
fairly evenly split regarding male-to-female ratio.
Can I double major in another area? Minor?
Students enrolled in Theatre Arts can double major or minor
in any other area offered at UWL. There are currently students
majoring in Theatre and Psychology, Business, and Communications
Studies. Our students also have the unique opportunity to both
major and minor in theatre with different emphases including
general studies, performance, management, design/technical, and
Can I design an independent study if there isn’t a program
in something I’d like to study? Are there opportunities for
studying abroad? The UWL Department of Theatre Arts will work with students
to design independent study projects that best suit the needs
and interests of that student. The program also offers rotating
courses in Special Topics in Theatre Arts for workshops,
directed individual readings, or projects involving significant
content or activities not available through regular offerings
with the department. UW-La Crosse has a strong study abroad
program and has travel opportunities in 20 countries including
Argentina (Buenos Aires), Australia (Melbourne), China (Bejing,
Hong Kong, Guilin), Costa Rica (San Jose), Czech Republic
(Prague), Denmark (Copenhagen), France (Caen), New Zealand,
Germany (Oldenburg and Hessen), Israel (Tel Aviv), Italy (Rome),
Japan (Nagasaki), Mexico (Xalapa and Puebla), United Kingdom
(London and Scotland), and Spain (Valladolid and Seville).
Students enrolled in the theatre arts program have a unique
opportunity to study abroad in a variety of ways. In the past,
we have had two theatre students direct and perform a two-woman
show for which they then received undergraduate research funding
to perform in London during spring break. Another former
student spent a year in Cairo, Egypt working as a stage manager
under the guidance of a former UWL theatre faculty member.
Also, the Department of Theatre Arts, in collaboration with the
General Honors Program and Art Department, has designed a London
Study Tour during the spring break. In this program, students
enroll in a specific theatre class or create an independent
study, and then visit London for 7 days experiencing guided
tours, theatre performances, art exhibits, etc. as part of this
What do I get to do? On what level are undergraduates
involved with department productions? Do they perform, direct,
or design these productions? Do freshmen get to perform?
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Department of Theatre
Arts is an undergraduate program; therefore younger students are
not competing with graduate students for performance or design
opportunities. The theatre degree program offers a wide range
of opportunities while creating a focused and individual area of
study for each student. Undergraduates, regardless of year in
school, are involved in every aspect of the department
productions including costumes, makeup, performance, directing,
etc. Theatre Arts students have had extensive production
opportunities such as directing Oedipus
Rex, designing scenery for Little
Shop of Horrors, designing sets for
Metamorphoses, creating special
effects and pyrotechnics for A
Christmas Carol, and designing costumes for
Spinning Into Butter. All
performances, including SummerStage and children’s show, are
stage managed and performed by students with opportunities to
work on scenic and costume construction, lighting, sound,
promotion and publicity.
Would there be opportunities for me in various areas of
theatre production, or will I be limited to a specialized area?
Does the department encourage study of various aspects of
The Department of Theatre Arts encourages students to obtain
a wide range of experiences in order to make themselves as
well-rounded and marketable as possible. Therefore, all
students are required to take a THA 260/360 course each
semester which is a specialized, intensive study and
participation in theatre productions. These courses may involve
assembling and designing costumes, constructing scenery or
props, managing front-of-house activities, performing,
directing, etc. Because students take these courses each
semester, these courses allow the broadest range of opportunity
for each student.
Are there mainstage and black box opportunities to stretch
my craft? Does your school have a theatre space for
We are very proud of our two stages. And yes! We encourage
students to develop independent productions. Our larger
theatre, the Toland Theatre, is a proscenium space in the Center
for the Arts. It seats 426. Our smaller space, the
Frederick Theatre, is completely renovated as of Fall 2007 into
an intimate thrust, or ¾ round space. It has all new
equipment, and seats 103. Many of the students’
independent productions are staged in the Frederick Theatre.
What types of plays do you do? Do you produce/provide
training in musical theatre? Who directs your shows? How are
The Department of Theatre Arts seeks to create performance
seasons of high educational and artistic value representing a
broad range of forms and styles which will maximize the artistic
and critical development of our students. Beyond this
overriding goal, the department strives to present plays which
will contribute to the social and cultural life of the
University and the La Crosse community.
Suggestions for the
coming season of plays are solicited from faculty and students
and are then evaluated by the Season Selection Committee (which
consists of faculty and students). Play choices are based on
student performance/production opportunities,
artistic/educational quality, male/female casting ratios,
production requirements, and potential interest from the
university and community. The Department of Theatre Arts is
committed to developing seasons that reflect the multicultural
world around us by presenting works from authors of different
historical periods, styles, nations, ethnicities, and genders.
are largely directed by theatre faculty with the exception of
guest directors and student senior directing projects.
Students have the opportunity to direct the annual children’s
show and to submit proposals for other student directed
performances held in the Frederick Theatre.
The Department of Theatre Arts offers an emphasis in Musical
Theatre in collaboration with the university’s Music
Department. Therefore, the theatre season consists of a minimum
of one musical per academic year and the SummerStage musical in
order to enable theatre students to perform in a musical
setting. Students have the choice of majoring in Theatre-Music
Theatre (minoring in Music) or Music-Music Theatre (minoring in
Theatre) with specific courses such as The Singer/Actor, Music
Theory, Applied Voice, Movement for the Stage, Voice and
Diction, American Music Theatre, and Dance including ballet,
jazz, tap, or modern.
Are there off-campus internship possibilities available
through the department that will allow me to obtain hands-on
professional experience? Can I do an internship for credit? Do
I have to pay tuition to do that?
The UWL Department of Theatre Arts offers various
internships available for credits. Number of credits depends on
the demands, complexity and duration of the work the student
performs. Internships must offer an academically relevant work
experience focusing on career development through professional
contexts. Students pursue practical applications of course work
in community or professional theatre or related areas. A
written project relating the internship experience with the
academic preparation is required as well as a joint evaluation
with the cooperating firm and department supervisor. Students
have performed internships at the La Crosse Symphony box office,
American University in Cairo, Egypt, etc.
Is there a community theatre near campus?
La Crosse boasts a successful local community theatre which
produces 5-7 productions each year. Much of the performing and
construction is done on a volunteer basis by community members
and offers an opportunity for UWL theatre students to garner
Does your school have any contacts with professional
Through past work experience and alumni contacts, the
Department of Theatre Arts maintains a connection with a variety
of professional theatres including Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre,
Stepping Stone Children’s Theatre, VEE Corporation, Summer
Shakespeare Festival in Colorado, FirstStage Children’s Theatre,
Heartland Theatre in Kansas City, St. Louis Music Theatre,
Steppenwolf Theatre, Great Rivers Shakespeare Festival,
Commonweal Theatre, and Illinois State Dance Theatre.
Does your school have a summer theatre program where I could
The University’s SummerStage program began in 1979 as a means
of bringing semi-professional theatre each summer to the La
Crosse area. It is our mission to present high quality
theatrical productions for the University and surrounding
communities. We enlist students, theatrical professionals and
local performers in the creation of our summer endeavors in an
effort to expand our academic theatre base. Past performances
have included Hair,
Jesus Christ Superstar, and
In conjunction with the UWL SummerStage, the Department of
Theatre Arts often offers a high school improv workshop for area
students. This workshop enlists the aid of current UWL theatre
students to role-play with workshop attendees, provide tours,
and become a mentor/resource for these prospective students.
How do you aid students in making the transition into
professional work for internships, summer work, and after
Besides providing great hands-on experience for our students,
the UWL Department of Theatre Arts provides additional training
through resume workshops, yearly audition/portfolio reviews,
stage combat workshops, guest directors and presenters, visiting
playwrights, etc. The department also assists students with
obtaining summer employment in professional theatres such as
Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre and the Summer Shakespeare Festival in
Colorado as a means of learning new skills, making personal and
professional contacts, and building their resumes.
What financial help does the department offer?
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse annually awards over $2
million in scholarships to its students with over 150 different
scholarships. The College of Liberal Studies—School of Arts and
Communications has approximately 32 scholarships with several of
these specifically for Theatre Arts students. Annually, the
Department of Theatre Arts awards approximately $6,000 in
scholarships to eligible Theatre students based on
participation, scholastic achievement, and financial need.
In addition, there are numerous part-time employment and
work-study opportunities within the department. Qualified
students work in the areas of scenic and costume construction,
lighting, sound, promotion and publicity.
What kinds of experiences will I have in the sequence of
The acting sequence is designed to expose students to variety
of experiences and pedagogical influences. Students start with a
firm foundation in the fundamentals of acting technique and
character analysis. Over the course of four semesters, they
move from process to product exploring realism, improvisation,
character development, and non-realistic styles of acting such
as Greek, Shakespeare, Restoration, and Absurdism. The
focus of the fourth semester is the audition process where
students are prepared for what they may encounter after
graduation through a variety of in-class audition experiences.
Is there a voice production component to the training? Will
I be taught dialects? Is there a movement component to the
training? Will I have a chance to learn stage combat?
Voice and Movement components are integral to the Performance
and Music Theatre Emphases. Movement for the Stage is required
for the Music Theatre Emphasis and is a strongly encouraged
elective within the Performance Emphasis. Voice and Diction for
the Stage is required for both emphases and is designed to open
and expand the voice while energizing articulation, reducing
regionalisms and preparing students for the demands of
heightened text and dialect work they will encounter in
performance opportunities. A wide variety of texts including
the classics make up our seasons and recent productions have
utilized Irish, British Standard, and various dialects from the
American South. Students who wish to pursue specialized combat
training have arranged independent studies and research
opportunities with our movement instructor who has trained with
the Society of American Fight Directors and has professional
stage combat experience.
Does the department enter student playwriting, acting,
design or directing work in competitions such as the American
College Theatre Festival or any similar programs?
The UWL Department of Theatre Arts enters productions and
nominates students for the Kennedy Center/American College
Theatre Festival. Performance students may be nominated for the
ACTF Irene Ryan Acting award and others are nominated for stage
management, lighting, sound design, and directing. Those
nominated will then attend the ACTF competition with a faculty
advisor and are encouraged to attend performances and workshops
and meet with graduate school programs that are available.
Will I be able to work on shows on a regular basis as a
technician or designer in my area of interest?
As an active theatre department, there are always
opportunities for technicians and designers to be involved in
productions. As the student designer/technician grows in
training and experience, so does their level of responsibility
on any given production. We encourage our students to balance
their classroom training with their production work.
Are there advanced classes beyond an introductory course in
The Department of Theatre Arts offers a wide variety of
design/tech courses including Foundations of Theatrical
Production, Stagecraft, Costume Crafts, Renderings for Theatre
Design, Stage Makeup, Scene Painting, Theatre Technology,
Scenery Design, Lighting Design, Sound Design and Engineering,
and Costume Design/History. For students who wish to study
beyond the classroom offerings, internships, independent
studies, and practicums are all available to further enhance
their design/tech skills.
Are the performance and fabrication facilities and the
equipment in them similar to those used in the professional
regional theatres and theme parks in the surrounding area?
The Center for the Arts houses modern classrooms and the
Marie Park Toland Theatre, a 420-seat proscenium theatre with
mechanical thrust supported by fully equipped scene, properties
and costume studios, computerized lighting control, makeup and
dressing rooms, and the publicity studio. In addition, the
Robert Lee Frederick Theatre in Morris Hall provides a more
intimate thrust stage setting. With a minimum of faculty
control, students can experiment, explore and mature