Aspiring actors who wish to gain education and training in a college or university setting have several program options through the associate's, bachelor's and master's-level theatre programs that are offered at many of Michigan's four-year schools. Students can choose programs that place a special emphasis on acting, or they can select programs that include acting as part of a general education in theatre.
Those that are interested in musical theatre acting can find programs that allow them to specialize, as well as dual degree options. Below, read the profiles of ten of the largest schools in Michigan, and see what each one offers. Included is a table that allows for an easy comparison between these schools.
Aquinas College, a Roman Catholic college in Grand Rapids, enrolls over 2,000 students. Those who are interested in acting can enroll in the college's Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theatre program. Students can choose one of four tracks: performance, technical studies, creative dramatics, or a general studies track. All theatre majors take acting as a core class, as well as directing, script analysis, and theatre history. Classes in the performance track include a more advanced acting course, as well as courses in improvisational acting, audition techniques, and voice and diction. An advanced acting class is also part of the curriculum in the general studies track. Other program options include a dual degree in theatre and business administration, a communications degree with a theatre emphasis, and a minor in theatre. All three options include performance coursework.
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant's Central Michigan University is a public college with a student population of more than 28,000. Students looking to learn about acting can earn one of several degrees: a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Music Theatre, a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Interpretation, or a Bachelor of Science in Theatre and Interpretation. Students in the music theatre program receive training and experience to become a professional performer in music, acting, and dance. Theatre and interpretation majors will learn about the history of drama and theatre and dramatic theory and criticism, in addition to acting, stagecraft, and directing. Students can choose an emphasis on acting. Other areas of emphasis include interpretation, design and technology, or a general track. Theatre students also have the opportunity to participate in campus productions.
Eastern Michigan University
Located in Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan University offers undergraduate and graduate programs to over 23,000 students. Undergraduates who pursue the theatre arts major can earn a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science (BS). They take courses covering acting fundamentals, script analysis, technical theatre and theatre production. They can also receive credit for participating in school productions. Electives are available, and students can choose an additional 9-12 hours of coursework credit in advanced acting with the guidance of an adviser. Other opportunities for advanced study include interpretation and performance studies, theatre for the young, directing and technical theatre.
At the graduate level, students can earn a Master of Arts (MA) in Theatre with a concentration in interpretation/performance studies or theatre arts. Those who select the latter option can choose an acting/performance specialization. Other concentration options include arts administration and applied drama/theatre for the young, the last which is also offered as its own MFA program.
Grand Valley State University
A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science can be earned in theatre at Grand Valley State University in Allendale. Students who choose the BA program are required to take three semesters of a foreign language, while the BS program requires courses in communication research, applied statistics and computing. Two acting classes are among the theatre core requirements for both degree programs. Electives available to those looking for an acting education include voice acting, rehearsal, makeup, acting in front of the camera, advanced scene study and Shakespeare performance. Students also take nine credits in communications courses, as well as general education classes.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University in East Lansing boasts a student population of almost 48,000 students. While acting courses are part of the Bachelor of Arts and minor programs in theatre, students can choose acting as a concentration while earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Besides core courses in topics such as acting, play analysis, theatre history and technical theatre, acting students take advanced acting classes, as well as courses in voice, movement, directing and stage makeup.
Of the 60 credits required by the university's MFA theatre program, 34 come from acting core coursework. These include practicum courses in acting, voice and movement. The remaining 20 credits emphasize academics, including classes in acting theory, period research, drama criticism and theatre history.
Oakland Community College
Located in Bloomfield Hills, this two-year college offers a liberal arts associate degree program that features a concentration in theatre. Graduates of this program have the option of enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in theatre, entering an acting school or seeking employment in the field. Besides taking two acting courses, theatre students take classes in film acting, movement and improvisation. They also choose electives from a list of courses that include playwriting, voice, dance, fencing and movement in musical theatre. General education courses are also required. The physical education requirement can be fulfilled with a course in ballet, modern dance, jazz dance, fencing or yoga.
Oakland University, based in Rochester Hills, serves more than 19,000 students. Aspiring actors can earn a BFA in Acting or a BFA in Musical Theatre. Both programs require students to complete an entrance audition in order to be accepted. Acting students develop acting and directing skills, while musical theatre students develop skills in acting, singing, and dancing. Students in both programs have opportunities to perform in campus productions.
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
At the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan, students can pursue a BFA program in performance with concentrations available in acting or directing. Those in the acting specialization pursue a liberal arts education and begin to concentrate their studies in acting, movement, voice and stage combat in the second year. Students also train in contemporary and classical theatre, improvisation and working in an ensemble. Elective course options include instruction in music, musical theatre and dance. Students interested in pursuing a second field of study can earn a dual degree, which can be earned in five years.
Wayne State University
Undergraduates looking for acting training at Wayne State University in Detroit can choose the acting curriculum in the BFA in Theatre program. Students work with an adviser to tailor their courses. All theatre students take a general mix of core courses. Requirements for acting students include ascending levels of classes in acting, stage movement and voice. Electives are also available in costuming, scene painting, lighting, fashion design and other topics. Students who choose the production curriculum focus their studies in design and technical theatre.
The university also offers a Bachelor of Arts program in Theatre. This program offers a general theatre education, including classes in acting, and is promoted by the school as a good choice for those who want to focus on theatre in education.
Graduate students in the theatre MFA program can complete their studies in three years. Acting is one of five available specializations that also include theatre management and stage management. Besides instruction in acting, voice and speech, movement and script analysis, the acting curriculum includes coursework in repertory theatre, dramaturgy, drama criticism and theatre aesthetics.
Students looking for a more rounded theatre education can purse the school's MA program. This program requires two years of study.
Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University's main campus is at Kalamazoo. The school's theatre department offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with two emphases targeting acting in particular. The university's BFA in Theatre Performance program teaches students about using voice and body, analyzing scripts, and understanding acting theory. The goal is to develop stagecraft with theory and practical application. Students have the opportunity to perform in nine different shows put on by the school or through student-produced plays. Talent agents and directors attend performances and conduct auditions and interviews with likely candidates.
Students with a preference for musical theatre can earn a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance. During this four-year program, enrollees receive voice lessons, dance training, and stage time. Seniors have the opportunity to participate in a student cabaret and go to New York City to audition for agents and directors of musicals, operas, and dance theatres. Graduates of these programs have appeared on Broadway and joined various groups, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and Disney.
Students can also earn a BA in Theatre Studies. This program covers a general education in the field, covering acting, directing, design and technology, and history.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Acting Degree Programs Offered||Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)*|
|Aquinas College||Four-year, private, not-for-profit; midsize city|| Minor in Theatre,
Bachelor of Arts in Theatre
|Central Michigan University||Four-year, public; distant town|| Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre,
Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Interpretation,
Bachelor of Science in Theatre and Interpretation
| $12,960 in-state*
|Eastern Michigan University||Four-year, public; large suburb|| BA or BS in Theatre Arts,
Master of Arts in Theatre with concentrations in theatre arts or interpretation/performance studies
|Grand Valley State University||Four-year, public; large suburb||BA or BS in Theatre|| $12,484 in-state*
|Michigan State University||Four-year, public; small city|| Minor in Theatre,
BFA in Theatre with a concentration in acting,
BA in Theatre,
MFA in Theatre
|Oakland Community College||Two-year, public; large suburb||Associate in Liberal Arts with a concentration in theatre|| $2,408 in-district*
|Oakland University||Four-year, public; large suburb|| BFA in Acting,
BFA in Musical Theatre
| $12,606 in-state*
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Four-year, public; midsize city||BFA in Performance with a concentration in acting|| $15,262 in-state*
|Wayne State University||Four-year, public; large city|| BFA in Theatre - performance curriculum,
BA in Theatre,
MFA in Theatre with a specialization in acting,
MA in Theatre
|Western Michigan University||Four-year, public; small city|| BFA in Theatre Performance,
BFA in Musical Theatre Performance,
BA in Theatre Studies
| $12,483 in-state*
Source: *NCES College Navigator.