Program Spotlight: Illinois Wesleyan University


Illinois Wesleyan University's 2019 production of Violet. Photo by Pete Guither.

How long has your BFA program been around?

1978 was our first graduating class, the School of Theatre Arts graduated its first class as a drama department in 1948


How many students, in general, does your program accept every year?

We accept 24 and generally field a class of 8-12. We are one of four departments in the School of Theatre Arts so the total class including the BFAs in Acting, Music Theatre, Design & Technology and the BA in Theatre is approximately 35 students.


How many students, in total, are currently enrolled in your music theatre program? 40


What's unique about your program? The family atmosphere that reaches back multiple generations. We train hard but lift each other up at the same time. All competition is directed inward and focused on self-improvement not comparative growth. We strive to really balance the program between acting, singing and dance training.


Tell us a little bit about the musical theatre faculty at your school.

The Music Theatre faculty is comprised of seven dance/movement teachers, three voice teachers, three pianist/accompanist coaches, a dance coordinator/choreographer, a music coordinator/director and our Head of Music Theatre, Scott Susong who teaches in both the Music Theatre and Acting/Directing departments. All faculty/staff are members of the School of Theatre Arts and not shared faculty/staff with other schools. They are all currently working teaching artists degreed with extensive resumes ranging in age from their late 20s to their early 60s bringing their diversity of experiences into the classroom to inspire the next generation of musical theatre artists within their specialty.


Are there any recent productions you're particularly proud of?

We produce two musicals every season, one book-in-hand concert musical, two musicals in the student theatre, a new musical workshop every other year in rotation with a musical scene study showcase and an annual cabaret.

Some favorites have been Sondheim’s PASSION, LaChiusa’s HELLO AGAIN & LaChiusa’s GIANT, and Tesori’s VIOLET. We will be producing THE LIFE and MY FAVORITE YEAR on the mainstage next year.


How about alumni?

Our alumni are spread throughout the industry. A partial list of notable music theatre alumni includes: William Duell, Frank Vlastnik, 2019 Tony Nominee Bill Damaschke, Penny Ayn Maas, Adam Estes, Heather Olt, Keely Vasquez, Rachel Warren, Amanda Dehnert, Christine Moore, Matt Raftery, Scott Moreau, Tim Salamandyk, Casey Erin Clark, Lisa Karlin, Bryonha Marie Parham, Jonathan Cable, Julia VanderVeen, Kevin Schuering, Katie Banville, Evan Kasprzak, Sarah Bockel, Ian Coulter-Buford, Josh Levinson, Marek Zurowski, Ianne Fields Stewart, and Evan Dolan.


What is your program's "best-kept secret"?

Over the past 40 years the BFA in Music Theatre has consistently turned out theatre, film and television success stories and for the past decade IWU Music Theatre has been included in most major top ten rankings of BFA Musical Theatre programs.


Want to learn more? Visit this link to learn more about Illinois Wesleyan University's School of Theatre Arts.

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