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Performing Arts Schools in Chicago, IL with Program Information

There are several schools within ten miles of downtown Chicago that have performing arts programs. Read an overview of three schools' programs, requirements and admissions policies to find out which school is the right one for you.

Chicago, IL, Schools with Performing Arts Programs

The following resource is designed to help performing arts enthusiasts choose a school most compatible with their creative goals and financial resources. In addition to program and school summaries, it includes an easy-to-ready table with important statistical information and a paragraph about one other school option the in the Chicago area. Depending on the school, undergraduates may earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Graduate programs culminate in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA).

  • DePaul University, located 3.7 miles from downtown Chicago, has a prestigious conservatory dedicated solely to the theatre arts. Students here can pursue an undergraduate minor in theatre studies or a major in acting and theatre arts; a master's degree program in acting is also available.
  • At nearly 7.5 miles, Loyola University Chicago is the furthest away from the downtown and offers minors and majors in theatre, dance, music and musical theatre. The university also hosts a vibrant Arts Alive program for all performing arts students.
  • For students looking for courses in contemporary performance, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers an undergraduate and a graduate degree program. At a little over one mile, the institute is the closest to downtown Chicago.

Comparison of Schools

Prospective performing arts students can use this table to learn more about our three featured schools. Note that all three schools have somewhat similar tuition and offer the majority of their first-time students some sort of financial aid package.

DePaul University Loyola University Chicago School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School Type 4-year; private not-for-profit university 4-year; private not-for-profit university 4-year; private not-for-profit university
Total Enrollment (2014) 23,799* 15,902* 3,599*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Tuition & Fees, Undergraduate (2015-2016) $36,361* $40,426* $43,960*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2013-2014) 96%* 95%* 99%*
Acceptance Rate (2014) 70%* 63%* 69%*
Retention Rate (2013-2014) 87%* 86% for full-time students; 80% for part-time students* 82%*
Graduation Rate (2014) 71%* 73%* 57%*

Source: *College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics

DePaul University

The Theatre School at DePaul is a professional conservatory program. Founded in 1925, it is the oldest theatre conservatory in the Midwest. Students applying to the conservatory can choose from a variety of minors, majors and graduate programs. Acting students need to complete an audition as part of the application process; all other students must complete an interview. Every student in the theatre conservatory is automatically considered for a scholarship.

Minor in Theatre Studies

Students who want to major in another discipline can choose this minor. Coursework includes dramatic theory, stage direction and a performance workshop.

BFA in Acting

This program for prospective stage and film actors teaches students about imagination, communication, stage movement and technique. All students need to complete nine production assignments for practical experience. Students have the opportunity to act in a mix of classic and contemporary scripts. All graduating students participate in a showcase production in front of faculty, talent agents, casting directors and producers in various venues.

BFA in Theatre Arts

Students in the BFA program can choose from three concentrations: directing, theatre for young audiences or a standard concentration. Once enrolled, they learn about theatrical production, literature, script analysis, theatre history and critical thinking as it relates to theatre. Courses include workshops in design, performance and dramatic theory. Students complete a showcase portfolio that is presented to entertainment industry professionals.

MFA in Acting

This 3-year program offers classical and modern training for actors. Students produce ensemble work and develop skills in communication, movement, period style acting and dialect. At the end of the third year, graduating students present a showcase of monologues and scenes to casting directors and other professionals in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola offers a variety of programs ranging from dance to theatre studies. Some programs require auditions during the application process. All students can participate in extracurricular activities hosted by the performing arts department.

Minor in Dance

Students take 18 credit hours for this minor program. Classes include modern dance, ballet, jazz dance, pointe work and dance physiology. Students may also complete an internship or an independent study.

Minor in Musical Theatre

This minor allows students to develop skills in dance, performance and music and to concentrate in either music or theatre. At the end of the program, students complete a capstone course and a showcase performance. They also have the opportunity to participate in a full-scale musical at Loyola and in a yearly musical theatre workshop in conjunction with a professional area theatre.

Minor in Theatre

Students minoring in theater need to take 21 credit hours. Courses include dramatic structure, an introduction to design, beginning acting and a theatre practicum.

BA in Dance

Aspiring dancers are required to audition for this program, which provides conservatory-level training in ballet. Coursework includes dance history, ballet and modern dance; studies in rehearsal and performance, dance pedagogy and pointe are also required. This program has been accredited by the National Association for Schools of Dance (NASD),

BA in Music

This program may be of interest to those who want to learn to write and perform music. Students can choose from a variety of applied music courses for guitar, percussion, trumpet, clarinet, violin and other instruments. Courses in composition, musicianship, jazz improvisation, chorus and orchestra are also part of this program.

BA in Theatre

Students learn about the history, literature and theories of theatre in this program. They have the option of taking a class in advanced acting techniques or design for scenery, lighting, costume or sound. The program also offers various electives in theatre.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

This school provides two unique programs that incorporate diverse tools and performance modes, such as interactive digital technologies, performance writing and live action. Students can participate in a variety of performance experiences, such as tactical and site performance and performance installation, and they are invited to create experimental projects.

BFA in Performance

Students in this program develop skills in writing, re-enactment and performance. Students take classes in performance installation and documentation, puppetry, event production and tactical performance.

MFA in Performance

This graduate program provides an education similar to the undergraduate program and includes contemporary topics in performance. Students are required to complete graduate projects and critiques.

Other School Option

Students can also take performing arts courses at Northwestern University, which is about 20 miles north of downtown Chicago in Evanston, IL.

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