College Cousins: BU, NYU, and USC Theater Programs

They should all take a bow. Three of our country’s most popular universities offer highly regarded theater performance programs. Boston University, New York University, and the University of Southern California, each located in cities that are major entertainment centers in their own right, have all developed strong and competitive programs. To get in, however, you must show that you ‘have the goods’ both academically and theatrically. In other words, these programs require strong all-around transcripts and auditions coupled with personal interviews.

Boston University

Students enrolled in Boston University’s B.F.A. program in Acting or in the performance concentration of Theater Arts begin with a freshman core that encompasses acting, movement, voice and speech, stagecraft, and more. This not only gives the students a solid foundation but also allows BU faculty the opportunity to more carefully assess each student’s particular strengths and talents. The Acting major features a fixed progression of classes that are designed to develop the student’s imagination, intellect, skills, and techniques, and that includes opportunities for evolving levels of public performance. For the acting and performance majors, Boston University requires a live audition in Boston or one of four other locations.

New York University

The Drama curriculum at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts encompasses four components: professional training, theater studies, general education, and electives. Students devote their first two years to a progressive curriculum in one of eight studios. These studios offer students a strong foundation in technique and opportunities to learn the skills they will need as they move into the more advanced training they will receive in the last two years of the program. It’s a balanced approach that ensures that students receive both dramatic training and a liberal arts education. Like BU, NYU requires auditions — or “artistic reviews,” in Tisch’s nomenclature — for most applicants. Live performances are scheduled each year in several cities, and Tisch will also accept digital submissions.

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts takes what it calls a conservatory approach to training. It offers students a four-year integrated program of training that encompasses acting, historical studies, and theatrical production. Performance opportunities are provided but not required until the student’s fourth semester, so that students have time to explore their personal development and develop their capabilities. Students applying to this program must perform in a live audition in one of four cities.

Students in these programs also benefit from access to the top-flight entertainment centers of Boston, New York, or Los Angeles. Of course, none of these programs are only about acting. In each case students must also meet university general education requirements in order to earn their degrees.

These are not programs for the fainthearted. It takes both brains and talent to be accepted to any one of these, but those admitted can know they are learning from the best in the biz.