Have you performed in high school plays and want to continue to feel that rush when the applause begins? Are you talented in writing, designing, or technical aspects of theatre performance and you think a career in film, television, or teaching could be a good fit? Do you enjoy dramatic literature and criticism and dream about being the drama critic for the New York Times?
If so, theatre arts might be the right major for you. Theatre majors quickly become involved in classes and productions. All University of Iowa students are welcome to audition for the many roles available in plays.
The department invites nonmajors to participate in courses and performance opportunities, too. More than two dozen theatre arts courses are open to nonmajors, and some fulfill General Education Program requirements. See Theatre Courses for Nonmajors in the UI General Catalog.
Why Study at Iowa
In Iowa's Department of Theatre Arts, the focus is on the art of the stage—acting, directing, design, playwriting, and technical theatre. With 25–30 productions staged annually, Iowa’s theatre department produces more work in one year than some do in five.
The department is committed to new plays and is one of the best-known centers for the development of new works. It also is home to the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, one of the finest graduate playwriting programs in America.
About half of theatre arts students complete a second major in another department, such as English or film studies. The department offers two special double majors: one in theatre and music and another in theatre and dance, for students interested in musical theatre. These double majors offer students an opportunity to explore a popular field in a rigorous and enjoyable way.
The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program in theatre arts includes courses in acting, theatre technology, performance analysis, history of theatre and drama, design, dramatic literature, and production. It is based on the philosophy that the best way to develop future artists is to expose them to rigorous professional practice within the framework of a liberal arts and sciences education. Required course work includes completing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences General Education Program.
Students learn how to collaborate by working with graduate students and faculty members in every area of production. Together they grow as artists and share their commitment to artistic excellence.
Review Theatre Arts in the UI General Catalog to learn more about requirements for the major and graduating with honors.
Minor in Theatre Arts
Review Theatre Arts in the UI General Catalog for information about earning a minor.
Music Theatre Track
Students may add a focus to their plan of study by completing a specialized track in music theatre. This optional track provides a gateway for students to develop and enhance the basic performance skills necessary for a music theatre performer to be successful. Course work includes acting, singing, musicianship, and dance. Students interested in entering this program must audition. Each student's program of study will culminate in a final presentation, to be determined in consultation with the track adviser.
See Music Theatre in the UI General Catalog to learn about course requirements and graduating with honors.
Theatre arts majors need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. An audition is not required.
Admission Requirements Tabs
Theatre majors regularly participate in mainstage productions directed, designed, or written by faculty members. The Undergraduate Directors Festival in the fall and the 10-Minute Play Festival in the spring, as well as the "Gallery Series," feature short plays written, directed, designed, and performed by students that play to appreciative audiences.
Theatre arts majors are encouraged to audition for all department productions. General auditions are held three times each year: the first week of class in the fall, early November, and early March.
Students normally present a three-minute audition consisting of two contrasting pieces. From this audition, callback lists are posted for major productions. Notices of auditions are posted on the department's call board in the Theatre Building and in the electronic call board on the Student Auditions section of the department's website.
All students are welcome to audition for the department's productions, as are community members, but theatre arts majors are given first consideration for roles.
Faculty, Facilities, and Resources
The theatre arts faculty is composed of professional artists and scholars who also are excellent teachers. Most have been active in regional theatres, and some have worked in film. They offer high-quality instruction, connections to the theatre world, and dedication to their profession and their students. Learn more by visiting Faculty Profiles on the theatre arts department website.
In addition, Iowa has one of the finest educational theatre complexes in the country. The Theatre Building offers four theatres, as well as up-to-date facilities for the classroom, shop, laboratory, and performance work.
Mabie Theatre, a continental-style, 465-seat proscenium playhouse, was named in honor of E.C. Mabie (1892–1956), founder and first director of what now is University of Iowa Theatres. David Thayer Theatre, a semiflexible performance space designed for experimental and environmental presentations, seats 140–175. Theatre B has 144 seats and is used for workshop productions. The movement room converts to a 50-seat studio theatre for performances with minimal production needs.
There are classrooms for acting and directing, and several spaces are designed for teaching particular aspects of dramatic studies. The Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio is for the study of movement and motion by acting students. The Arnie Gillette Design Studio serves as a classroom and studio workshop for design students.
You may wonder—and your parents may ask—whether you’ll be able to get a job after graduating with a major in theatre arts. The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently listed the top skills employers look for in college graduates. They include communication skills, strong work ethic, teamwork skills, initiative, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, analytical skills, and flexibility/adaptability. There is no better way to learn these skills than by participating in theatre. As a theatre major, you'll learn to think critically, read carefully, write well, and present yourself in front of others—skills vital for many careers.
Theatre graduates find work as actors, directors, designers, critics, stage managers, writers, producers, and agents. Some work in film and television, some decide to teach, and some combine either scholarship and production or performance and teaching. Others go into professions such as business or law.
After graduating, many students move to a metropolitan area to find work. In theatre, there are no guarantees. Success takes talent, patience, hard work, and a bit of luck, yet most graduates who want to work in this exciting profession find a way to do so.
Overall, Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study. Our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.
The theatre arts department awards several scholarships. Incoming students are eligible for the Iowa Center for the Arts Scholarships, which offer full in-state tuition for three students who intend to major in theatre arts and who demonstrate exceptional promise. In addition, the Tanna Frederick Scholarship provides $5,000 for an exceptional incoming student and the Hatch-Billops Scholarship offers aid to promising African American students.
More than a dozen scholarships are available to upper-level students. They include the Alumni, Dorothy Guthrie, Tennessee Williams, and Arnie Gillette scholarships, as well as a second Hatch-Billops Scholarship for an African American theatre student. Scholarships for upper-level students range from $500 to full in-state tuition.
If you're interested in scholarships, contact the Department of Theatre Arts for additional information and an application.
Application Process Tabs
Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.