As a new facet of the College Musical Theatre Guide Blog, I'm adding some interviews highlighting BFA programs from around the country. I've had the pleasure of chatting with Valerie Accetta, Head of Musical Theatre at University of Alabama at Birmingham, and know some excellent student performers who have found a place in her program. She has graciously agreed to be my first featured program, so enjoy learning a bit more about the BFA program at UAB!
How long has your BFA program been around?
The BFA Program at UAB is five years old. We just had our second class graduate!
How many students, in general, does your program accept every year?
We won’t have more than 16 in a class. Our incoming freshman class is right at 16 and next year’s senior class has 8.
How many students, total, are in the program?
We will have 43 BFA students this fall. We have about 120 majors in the entire Theatre Program (which includes the BFA program and the BA program which has concentrations in Performance and Design/Technology).
What's unique about University of Alabama at Birmingham's BFA in Musical Theatre program?
I believe UAB’s Theatre Department has a really special culture. Because we legitimately respect and support one another, we can really challenge one another to do more than we thought possible. We all (faculty and students) know we are in a safe environment where we can take big risks and it allows for remarkable artistic growth. Additionally, since we are a young program, we say “yes”! We want our students to work in the theatre and so we facilitate every creative interest they have, whether that’s directing, choreographing, stage management, musical direction, composing or stand-up comedy in addition to their traditional musical theatre training.
Tell us a little bit about the theatre faculty at UAB.
We have fifteen incredible full-time faculty members and five full-time staff that continue to work around the country! Our faculty are members of Actors’ Equity Association, Stage Directors and Choreographers Union and IATSE, and they direct, perform and design shows at theatres such as Phoenix Theatre, Zach Theatre, Riverside Theatre, Transcendence Theatre Company, Music Theatre of Wichita, Weathervane Playhouse and more. They also do work in commercials and tv/film (including Sharon Morgan who is a tailor and pattern-maker on season two of CBS’ MacGyver) and work in producing (Carolyn Violi is the co-producer for CHASING RAINBOWS, and was on producing teams of Broadway’s HELLO DOLLY and TOOTSIE).
Are there any recent UAB productions you're particularly proud of?
Absolutely. This past spring, we produced the world-premiere of Tommy Newman and Jaime Lozano’s new musical, SAVAGE, which tells the true story of Ota Benga, a Mbuti man who was taken from the Congo and put on display in the Monkey House of the Bronx Zoo in 1906. It was conceived by one of our professors, Karla Koskinen, and it was a four-year development process. We got grants from the National Alliance of Musical Theatre and the Alabama State Council on the Arts to support the project and we are pursuing the next steps for a life beyond UAB. For our students to see the creation of a work from inception to a fully-realized production and to originate roles was an incredible experience. We plan to continue developing new work.
How about alumni?
We only have 12 students who have graduated from UAB, so it’s not a ton yet! That said, our students have had contracts all over the country (and internationally), including: Flat Rock Playhouse, Transcendence Theatre Company, Celebrity Cruise Lines, Mill Mountain Theatre, Disney World, Riverside Theatre, Missoula Children’s Theatre, Dollywood, Peach State Theatre and Red Mountain Theatre, among others.
What is your program's "best kept secret"?
I’m not sure it’s a secret, but UAB is affordable! We offer intensive, contemporary musical theatre training and fully prepare our students to enter the business of theatre for a fraction of what it costs to attend some of the most popular BFA Programs.
Come visit us! Honestly, when students come to Birmingham, see our beautiful campus and incredible facilities, see a show or a rehearsal, and meet our faculty and students, they really are impressed. UAB is young, but the energy here is exciting! It’s a great time to be in the BFA Musical Theatre Program at UAB!