Program Spotlight: Wright State University

In the great state of Ohio is the University where one of my first super-talented high school students landed. Because of that student, Joe Deer has been a name I've known since my earliest days teaching high school theater. Grateful he took the time to share about the great things happening at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

CHICAGO, Wright State University. Dir: Joe Deer, Chor: Teressa McWilliams

How long has your BFA program been around?

22 years as a BFA program in Musical Theatre. The actual degree title is “BFA in Acting with an Emphasis in Musical Theatre”. But, it is a fully immersive BFA in MT, with a competitive curriculum.

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

We audition about 350-400 students each year and accept 14-17 in Musical Theatre, and the same in Acting.

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

We have about 55 students in the Musical Theatre program and 45 in the Acting Program

What’s unique about your program?

Our BFA in Musical Theatre stresses very strong Acting skills, with courses in Voice/Speech, Movement for the Actor, Classical Acting, as well as full range of Acting in Musical Theatre classes. Students are expected to act as well as the Acting majors, and this results in very strong work across all styles of plays and musicals. We also focus on the three pillars of career success - “Craft • Creativity • Professional Practice” - by immersing students in a broad and deep range of technical courses in Acting, Dance and Singing (one hour private each week). But, we also encourage and require students to develop their own voices through our student-run Jubilee Theatre (66 student created events last year – from well-known plays to original works). And, we engage students with professional expectations of commitment, discipline and rehearsal/performance practice. The results are evident onstage and in their careers.

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

Wright State’s faculty is made up of both working professionals (actors, directors, choreographers and musical directors) who come from the highest levels of the profession and continue to work there, and of world-recognized experts in teaching their subjects as Acting, movement and voice/singing teachers. The combination of these two approaches is that students learn their skills on a deep level and apply them in a close professional context. Our faculty are veterans of Broadway, National and International Tours, some of America’s best Regional Theatres and corporate/themed entertainment centers.

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

Many of them. Our recent productions of IF/THEN (in our Studio Theatre) and CRAZY FOR YOU (on our MainStage) reflected incredible strength in our students’ talent and technique, and in our department’s ability to present both classic and contemporary work at an incredibly high level. We also presented a student-written and produced original musical, FIRST IN FLIGHT, about the Wright Brothers.

How about alumni?

Recent alumni have appeared on Broadway in WAITRESS, THE BAND’S VISIT, HOLIDAY INN, and National Tours of KINKY BOOTS, WHITE CHRISTMAS and many others. One alumnus is a producer on HADESTOWN, currently playing to rave reviews in New York. Others have gone on to great success as producers, composers (Kleban Award winning lyricist, O’Neill Center developmental workshops) and around the world as actors, singers, dancers. What is your program's "best-kept secret”?

Our community of artists builds a culture of incredible creativity. Students are producing, rehearsing, performing, writing and directing more than 150 performances each year. That’s often more than one event a night! The result is a sense of artistic empowerment on a very high level. Students leave Wright State ready to do other people’s work, or to make their own. Those are life-long habits for success in every career.

Anything else?

Visit us at www.wright.edu/theatre or reach out to Victoria Oleen (937) 775-3072 to set up a campus visit.

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