The national spotlight is shining bright on the Theatre Department of Emory & Henry College. In the past few months, two websites have ranked the Department among the best theatre education opportunities in Virginia.
The IveyFiles.com, which focuses on higher education issues, has listed Emory & Henry College as one of the top five colleges in the nation where no audition is required for aspiring actors. In addition, Mademen.com, a website devoted to men and men's issues, ranks Emory & Henry second among the top 10 acting schools in Virginia.
The author of a piece published by IveyFiles, Alison Cooper Chisolm, asked the simple question, “Are there any programs out there for [aspiring actors] -- the ones who aren't precocious child stars and who aren't going to make the cut at Juilliard just yet?”
When evaluating Emory & Henry, Chisolm was able to answer that question with a resounding “Yes!” Chisolm writes that she was impressed by the numerous opportunities available to students of all levels and abilities.
“Emory & Henry has developed a very interesting and creative model for a theater program,” Chisolm wrote. “They have a traditional theater major open to students who want to make theater the focus of their undergraduate studies, but who are not necessarily interested in going on to careers in theater. But they also have a pre-professional program that allows students to choose a ‘track’ in their upper-class years.”
The other four schools listed by IveyFiles (the schools are listed only as the “top five;” no numerical ranking is provided) include Columbia College in Chicago; Muhlenberg College in Huntington, Penn.; Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif.; Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
In a second ranking, Cat Mig, writing for MadeMan.com, pointed to Emory & Henry’s relationship with the Barter Theatre, a professional theatre in nearby Abingdon, Va., which provides theatre students with internships, mentoring and workshops.
Topping this ranking was Shenandoah University’s Shenandoah Conservatory. Ranked just behind Emory & Henry, in order of ranking, is Virginia Tech, The University of Virginia, and Radford University.
In addition to its broad-based general theatre major and minor, the E&H Theatre Department offers four areas of specialization: acting, directing, musical theatre, and production and design. Each of these pre-professional tracks is a separate, sequence-based training program with specialized course work in the chosen area. Both the general theatre major and the four specialized tracks combine in-depth academic preparation with extensive production work.
Through the E&H relationship with Barter Theatre, students receive instruction not only from their highly qualified professors but also from Barter’s professional actors, directors, and designers. In addition, theatre majors have the opportunity to attend professional rehearsals, participate in “talk backs” with the actors and crew after Barter performances, and serve as understudies in Barter Theatre productions. The E&H Theatre Department offers students the combined strengths of a small liberal arts college and the type of pre-professional experiences often found only in large conservatories.
Each year, 100 percent of Theatre Department students participate as cast or production crew members in at least one departmental production. The E&H Theatre Department stages four main productions encompassing a range of material, including musicals, contemporary plays, classical pieces, and new or experimental works. All shows are directed by E&H faculty, Barter Theatre staff, or guest directors from New York or other metropolitan areas. In addition, up to five student-directed “showcase” productions are produced each semester, offering further opportunities for students to be actively involved in practical production work as actors, directors, designers or technicians.
In the past five years, E&H theatre students have passed through the Southeastern Theatre Conference’s qualifying auditions at a higher rate than those from any other private college in Virginia. The Ivey Consulting Firm, which sponsors IveyFiles.com, highlighted how the department helps students make the transition from college to a professional company.
“E&H takes the pre-professional orientation of this program seriously and devotes significant time and resources to helping graduates get their ‘big breaks’ -- upper-class students are carefully prepared for participation in the Southeast Theater Conference spring professional auditions -- an annual event where aspiring actors have the opportunity to audition for 90+ professional theater companies at one time,” reports Chisolm.
A third website, eHow.com, lists Emory & Henry as one of four schools in Virginia for students who want to pursue a career in acting, degree programs in drama, theater or musical theater.
In its review of the college’s program eHow.com recognized the balance of “acting training with a liberal arts education.” Ehow.com also acknowledged the small class sizes as a reason why theatre majors at Emory & Henry are able to excel throughout their college and professional career.