Theatre, Dance, and Motion Pictures
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Musical Theatre Program Overview
Wright State University prepares tomorrow’s stars of the musical theatre stage. Our Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre is one of the most competitive programs in the nation, and only the most promising students are selected from our annual auditions. As part of the College of Liberal Arts, our students not only learn to perform at the highest level, but also gain a greater understanding of our world to inform their work.
With Wright State’s undergraduate focus, students participate in rigorous conservatory training and exceptional performance opportunities from the very start. Throughout their four years, students are cast in a range of musicals and plays, as understudies, ensemble members, supporting parts, and leading roles. Students also have the opportunity to perform in films produced by our award-winning Motion Pictures program. Seniors travel to New York City to participate in an intensive career workshop and showcase, with elite casting agents and creative talent.
The Musical Theatre faculty members are all performance professionals and teachers, with active careers as directors, actors, choreographers, and teachers in theatres nationwide.
After four years of multidisciplinary training, our graduates are ready to begin work immediately. Recent graduates are appearing in TV and movies, on Broadway and in national and international touring companies, as well as at theme parks and on cruise ships.
Admissions & Auditions
How to apply and audition
The Musical Theatre program at Wright State University is designed for students who are highly motivated to pursue professional careers in musical theatre and acting performance. Students must demonstrate acting and musical proficiency through an audition and meet the university’s educational standards for undergraduate admission. The day before auditions, we hold master classes so that students can get a glimpse of the outstanding level of our faculty and our productions.
Prospective students should:
Apply online for admission to Wright State University.
Schedule an audition by completing and submitting the Musical Theatre admission and scholarship application form.
Provide copies of academic transcripts to Wright State University Admissions and the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures.
Submit recent photographs and a resume of pertinent training and performance experience.
Admission to the Musical Theatre program is competitive and dependent upon the results of the audition. An individual may audition only once for the Musical Theatre Program.
Auditions, which are required for all first-year and transfer students, are held each year in the winter for students who want to be considered for admission in the fall semester. Please see the department calendar for the audition schedule or refer to the application form.
The acting portion of the audition consists of two one-minute monologues that should be selected from Broadway plays from roles that are roughly the student’s age. The monologues should contrast in style, showing two sides of the student’s abilities (classical, contemporary, comic, dramatic) and should not be from musicals or collections.
Students also present two contrasting one-minute song excerpts from musicals (not adult contemporary or church music). The songs should demonstrate two styles, such as classic musical or contemporary, ballad or up tempo. Women should be prepared to sing in both belt (chest) voice and soprano, if able to sing in both registers. The student should provide sheet music in the desired key, marked to the appropriate length on double-sided copies in a binder for easy reading by our accompanists.
Auditioning students also will participate in a jazz dance class for placement purposes and should wear appropriate dance attire.
The audition also serves to determine qualification for scholarships.
Transfer students may be accepted into the program after a successful audition and university admissions process. However, the program is geared to four years of training and transfer students are rarely accepted after the second year. The university generally follows a liberal policy in accepting credits, allowing virtually all credits earned at an accredited institution from courses in which the student earned a “C” or better. The Office of the Registrar is responsible for determining which credits are eligible for transfer.
The Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures offers an array of scholarships based on talent, academic performance, and financial need. For first-year students, the audition will determine qualification for a scholarship.
Department scholarships include:
- The Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Scholarship
- The Augsburger/Estevez Scholarship created by Martin Sheen
- The Theatre Arts Talent Scholarship
- The Rising Star Scholarship
Talent scholarships are awarded for one year to students in acting, dance, motion picture production, and design/technology. Students in all majors are eligible to apply each year for merit scholarships. Although competition for scholarships is keen, the department provides generous support to qualified students throughout their four years of study to enable them to complete their degree.
Musical Theatre (B.F.A.)
The Musical Theatre program at Wright State University is a rigorous but supportive Professional Actor Training Program designed to prepare students for early career success. Our undergraduate focus means that students audition for and perform in our main stage productions from the very first. Our small class sizes of 16 students or fewer allow the faculty to provide individual attention and coaching to help students develop their talents to the fullest.
The four-year B.F.A. curriculum in Musical Theatre includes:
- Four years of acting training – classical and musical
- Four years of dance classes every day – jazz, ballet, tap and theatre dance
- Four years of private singing lessons twice each week
- Three semesters of movement
- Three semesters of voice and speech training
To see the entire four years of curriculum and course schedules for the Musical Theatre major, please visit the Undergraduate Catalog.
Students are required to maintain an active performance schedule in campus productions throughout the school year.
Honors Program for Seniors
The Honors program in Acting provides superior students with further opportunity to demonstrate excellence and receive special recognition in their senior year. Honors students write original monodramas for publication and professional production. The scripts require preproduction approval by the Acting faculty in addition to the project director. To apply for admittance to the Honors program, a student must possess a 3.0 overall grade point average and be in the last year of the B.F.A. program.
Senior Showcase in New York
Musical Theatre students participate in an intensive workshop to prepare them for audition trips to New York or other major entertainment centers. This workshop assists students in the selection and preparation of a wide range of audition materials and in the development of the actor’s p
resentation. The Showcase in New York City is the culmination, which includes a cabaret production and an audition workshop where students audition for and receive feedback from agents and casting directors.
Assessment of Progress
The department leaders feel a strong obligation to graduate only those students whose chances of attaining professional employment remain strong. The faculty believes it is unfair to graduate people who, because of lack of motivation or apparent talent, will not achieve successful, professional careers or who do not seem to be growing adequately within the Professional Actor Training Program. Therefore, students are evaluated regularly for progress, especially through their sophomore year. At the end of the first year of training and at the end of eac
h term of the sophomore year, students participate in faculty juries to assess their singing, acting and dance abilities. When
deemed necessary, the faculty advises some students to select another major. All students are urged to carefully consider their career choice and to fully understand the rigors and demands of the acting profession. There is no specific quota for the number of students in any given year of the curriculum.
Professional Acting Training Program students must maintain a grade of "C" or better in all classes required of their major to be retained. Students who are not making satisfactory progress, even with a grade of "C" or better, may be advised by the faculty to withdraw from the program. An overall G
PA of 2.5 is required for graduation.
Faculty & Staff
Bruce Cromer, Head of Acting
- Joe Deer, Head of Musical Theatre
- Marya Spring Cordes
- Sandra Crews
- Greg Hellems
- Deborah Thomas
- Brian McKnight, Instructor Acting
- Jamie Cordes, Faculty Associate, Head of MAPP Program
- David Hapner, Faculty Associate
- Lee Merrill, Faculty Associate
- Sherri Sutter, Faculty Associate
- Kate Dickey McEwen, Instructor Voice
- Susan Carlock, Accompanist
- Amy Gray, Accompanist
- Scot Woolley, Music Director
- Shelly Goodman, Faculty Associate
- Erin Robbins, Instructor Dance
- Molly Murphy, Instructor Dance
- Jeannette Popp, Instructor Dance
Competition for professional opportunities in acting and musical theatre is extremely high, and our Professional Acting Training Program is designed to develop our students’ talent, skills, and commitment to secure employment upon graduation from Wright State University. We maintain an excellent network of relationships with agents, casting directors, and creative talent nationwide. Because of their intensive professional preparation at Wright State University, fully 80 percent of our graduates find work in the field immediately after graduation.
Wright State students find jobs in a wide variety of performance-related fields. If desired, they may pursue additional graduate training in order to teach at the college or university level. Graduates have attended such programs as the Denver Center, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Emerson College, and New York University.
Our alumni are working on and off Broadway, in national tours, and at many of the country’s finest regional theatres, including The Guthrie, Actors Theater of Louisville, Cincinnati Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, and the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton. They appear on television, films, radio, industrial films and commercials, as well as on cruise ships and themed entertainment venues, comedy clubs, and cabarets.
Graduates of the program have achieved membership in professional theatrical unions, including Actors' Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
The Acting & Musical Theater faculty at Wright State University are connected to some of the brightest stars in the performing arts, who are invited to campus to share their talents with our students.
Recent guest artists include a long list of luminaries:
- Sutton Foster, Tony Award, Best Actress, for Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie
- Victoria Clark, Tony Award, Best Actress for The Light in the Piazza
- Jason Robert Brown, Tony Award, composer, Parade, The Last Five Years
- Tom Jones, award winning lyricist for the longest running musical in New York stage history, The Fantasticks
- Tina Landau, Obie Award winner for Best Director
- Liz Callaway, star of stage and screen, from Sonheim to The Spitfire Grill
- Howard McGillin, Tony-nominated actor, from Drood to Phantom of the Opera
- Ted Sperling, award-winning conductor and arranger
- Audra McDonald, multiple Tony Award winning actress - presently in Porgy and Bess on Broadway
- Ted Neeley, star of stage and screen, including the title role in the film Jesus Christ Superstar
- Brian Yorkey, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner for Next to Normal
- Austin Pendleton, Broadway director, award-winning playwright, and featured actor in over thirty films
- Martin Sheen, Emmy Award winning actor of stage, television and screen
- Stephen Schwartz, (2013) Academy and Grammy Award-winning composer of stage and screen, including Godspell, Pippin and Wicked