Frequently Asked Question from Prospective Theatre Majors

What Programs in the School of Theatre and Dance are offered at James Madison University?
The School of Theatre and Dance (STAD) offers concentrations in three areas: Theatre, Musical Theatre, and Dance. 

How many students does the BA Theatre Concentration accept each year?
In order for each student to receive maximum personal attention, we aim for a freshman class of Theatre Concentrators (not Theatre and Dance majors) of approximately 35 students. We accept a higher number in order to yield that many students.

What’s the difference between JMU’s program and conservatory or BFA programs or a BA program elsewhere? 
Our accrediting agency has called our program “an intensive BA.” We offer what is best from a BA—conceptual understandings, critical thinking development, exposure to different disciplines and perspectives on the world—as well as many of the most effective elements of a BFA program—extensive production opportunities, depth and range in “practical” studio course offerings, and hands-on experience.  We feel strongly that the undergraduate years are best balanced between skill development in the major and obtaining a broad base of knowledge about the world in which we live. We think that this broad base of knowledge makes for strong actors, artists, technicians, and citizens. Our BA program requires 45 credits in the major, 44 credits in general education & philosophy, 0 - 14 credits of foreign language (depending on placement), and up to 34 credits of electives (which can be taken within or outside of the major concentration). Generally speaking, most BFA programs do not require as much general education as we do in the BA at JMU. However, some do and it is important to research the specifics of what each program requires and has to offer in order to find the right program for you.

The Theatre program at JMU offers a depth of course levels within areas and a degree of practical experience that provide students with much that a BFA offers while still maintaining the well-rounded educational aspects and philosophy of the BA.  JMU's general education program enhances the perspectives of developing artists whose future occupation centers on reflecting and illuminating the range of human experience. 

BFA programs often channel the student strongly into one area of theatre and provide little opportunity to develop significant knowledge and skills in other areas.  The Theatre Program at JMU encourages students to take classes and gain production experience in all areas of theatre.  Student-produced, faculty-advised Studio Theatre shows afford students up to ten productions, in addition to four faculty-directed Mainstage shows, in which to gain experience each year. Most students in our BA Theatre concentration take well beyond the required credits and coursework in the major, and balance their academic course work with their skills-based classes and production work. Most go on to pursue successful careers in the performing arts industry.


Is an audition or portfolio review necessary for admission to the Theatre Concentration?
Yes. Applicants most interested in performance present an audition, those directed toward design and theatre technology present a portfolio for review, those interested in theatre studies (including theatre scholarship, dramaturgy, theatre criticism, playwriting, directing, and management) and students interested in theatre education (which culminates in PreK-12 teacher licensure) present a portfolio of examples and records of their work.  All applicants also interview with theatre faculty.  Details on the "gateway process" for admission to the concentration can be found at

When will I know if I have been accepted into the Theatre Concentration?
In order to be accepted into the Theatre Concentration you must also be accepted academically to JMU.  We notify all prospective Theatre students who are accepted academically into JMU about their acceptance to the Theatre Concentration immediately after JMU sends out academic acceptances. (by April 1st for Regular Decision applicants to the university, approximately March 1st for Early Action applicants).

Can I apply to the Theatre Concentration before applying for admission the University?
No.  Although you may schedule your audition/portfolio review/interview before completing the application for academic admission to the University, you must complete the application for academic admission BEFORE your audition/portfolio review/interview. Admission to JMU itself involves online application directly to the undergraduate Office of Admissions (

If I am not accepted into the BA Theatre Concentration at JMU but am accepted to JMU academically and decide to attend, may I still audition for theatre and musical theatre productions?
Yes, all JMU students (regardless of major or concentration) may audition for all theatrical productions at JMU.

If I audition for the Theatre Concentration can I also be considered for admission to the Musical Theatre Concentration?
Students who wish to be considered for both programs must audition for the Musical Theatre program, fulfill its audition requirements, and indicate when registering to audition that they would ALSO like to be considered for the Theatre Program.  Only those students who indicate they would like to be considered for BOTH programs will be considered for the Theatre Concentration if they are not admitted to the Musical Theatre Program.  Admission to both programs is competitive.

Do you accept transfer students or students from other majors into the BA Theatre Concentration?
Yes, on a space available basis.  Interested applicants from other schools are given the opportunity to audition or have their portfolio reviewed for the Theatre Concentration each fall and spring semester. Current JMU students in other concentrations and majors also have opportunities during selected dates in the fall and spring semesters. Visit for appointment dates and admission information to the concentration.

Do you offer scholarships for incoming students?
The College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Theatre & Dance have partial tuition scholarships available for incoming freshmen.  The gateway process for admission to the Theatre Concentration also serves as the interview/application process for scholarship consideration.  The School of Theatre and Dance also offers partial tuition scholarships for established students in the Theatre, Dance, and Musical Theatre Concentrations. Go to for more information

James Madison University offers scholarships for incoming students. Go to and for information.


If I'm interested in more than one area of theatre, is it possible to take courses in all of them?
Yes.  Not only can you take courses in whatever areas interest you, involvement in student produced productions in the Studio Theatre and in faculty and guest-directed Mainstage productions can provide experience in practicing those areas.  Many, if not most, of our students have developed competency in two or more areas by the time they graduate, which allows them to work consistently in theatre and performance even when they are unable to find work in one of their study areas.

Can I take more acting, tech/design, music, or dance classes than those required? 
Absolutely! Students in the BA Theatre Concentration are encouraged to enroll in as many skill-development courses as possible during their time at JMU.

Is it possible to specialize further within the Theatre concentration?
Yes.  Theatre offers four Tracks, which are divided into Performance, Technical Theatre and Design, Theatre Studies, and Theatre Education.  Each track designates required and recommended courses for the track and gives students in the track priority access to selected courses. Students may be admitted to more than one track. Track auditions take place in the sophomore year.

If I join a particular track, is it possible to take courses that are part of another track?
Yes.  There are no restrictions to which classes can be taken as long as prerequisite courses, where they apply, have been completed.  In fact, some students choose to pursue more than one track.

Does the gateway to the Theatre Concentration also function also for admission to the track I'm interested in?
No.  The gateway process for admission to tracks occurs in the sophomore year track admission but may be influenced by the quality of an applicant's audition/portfolio review/interview for admission to the concentration.

If I am a Theatre Concentrator, can I take musical theatre courses?
Yes, on a space-available, auditioned basis.  The exception to this is private voice lessons in the School of Music, which is a course option only for Musical Theatre concentrators in the School of Theatre and Dance.

Is it possible to double major?
Yes. The Theatre Concentration credit requirements enable double majoring.  Careful planning of when to take courses in each program, with special attention to courses that are offered only once per year, is required to complete two majors in four years. Students who come to JMU with AP, IB, and Dual Enrollment credit and choose to pursue a double major (Media Arts and Design, English, and Communication Studies are popular ones) complete both majors most easily within four years.  The number of hours required by each major varies significantly, which can influence the length of time completing a double-major can take.  The School of Theatre and Dance expects students to demonstrate their commitment to the major by declaring theatre as their first major.  Some students choose to minor in another area (Dance, English, History, and Non-Profit Studies are popular).  Minors require 18-21 credit hours, depending on academic discipline, to complete.


How many productions do you present in a year?\
The School of Theatre and Dance produces a Mainstage season of three plays, one large-scale musical and one studio-sized musical or musical revue.  In the Studio Theatre, a flexible black box space, we offer eight to ten student-produced full-length plays and musicals and a Director's Festival of approximately 15 10-minute plays.  Students are also eligible to audition for paid positions in summer production activities. Some courses (Musical Theatre Workshop, Experimental Theatre) also culminate in Studio Theatre performances. In addition, three Mainstage dance concerts and three student dance concerts in the Earlynn Miller Dance Performance Theatre are produced each year.

What kinds of hands-on experience in productions is available to students?
The School of Theatre and Dance offers production experience in two different and complementary contexts:

Mainstage and Faculty-Directed Productions offer professional supervision by faculty of the building, rehearsing, and running processes done by students.  Although such shows are faculty- or guest-directed, advanced students are often offered opportunities to design or technical direct on the Mainstage.  Students work as assistant designers and directors.  On the Mainstage, all acting roles are played by students and all shows are student stage managed.  Students build and run Mainstage shows under faculty supervision.

The Studio Theatre provides a context in which students can experiment with what they have learned in classes and through faculty and guest directed experiences on their own student-produced and student-directed productions. Each semester the faculty and members of the student theatre organization of Stratford Players vote to determine the best production proposals (which include production budget, concept, design team, publicity, etc.) to produce in the following semester.  A faculty member functions as an advisor to the director and team on the proposal, rehearsals, and production process, but all production responsibilities are fulfilled by students.  The Studio Theatre provides extensive practical experience for those students who choose to participate in it.  Successful work there makes students eligible for Mainstage design and production opportunities as well as some of the School's scholarships. Roles performed on the Studio stage often prepare students for Mainstage performance.

Can I audition and be cast in shows as a freshman, or am I required to wait?
In the School of Theatre of Dance we believe that experience provides one of the greatest learning opportunities.  Freshmen are encouraged to audition for Studio and Mainstage productions and many are cast on both stages.

Would I be in competition with graduate students for performance, design, and technical opportunities?
No.  The JMU Theatre and Musical Theatre programs are entirely undergraduate. Undergraduates have unhindered opportunities, including playing leading roles and designing Mainstage productions in all the skill areas.

If I am a Theatre Concentrator, can I still audition for the musicals?
Yes.  There are no restrictions on who can audition or be cast.

Do you have a Senior Showcase? 
Yes.  We produce a senior showcase in the Washington DC area each spring.  Follow the link to go to the showcase website:!home/mainPage

Do you invite Guest Artists to campus to work with students?
Yes.  We have an active guest artist program.  We bring agents, managers, casting directors, producers, directors, designers, choreographers and other theatre professionals to campus on a regular basis to work with students in a workshop setting, and for extended residencies.  Over the course of the year it is not unusual for students to have the opportunity to work with 20 - 30 guest artists.  Mainstage shows are regularly directed by professional guest artists.


What student theatre organizations operate within the School of Theatre and Dance?

Stratford Players, the student theatre producing organization

This organization produces shows in the Studio Theatre and sponsors a number of other activities such as guest artist appearances, workshops, and 24-hour theatre experiences.

JMU Student Chapter of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT)

One of the relatively few student chapters of the USITT in the USA, this organization coordinates design/tech activities and enjoys financial support from the School for students to attend the annual conference of the USITT, where many have successfully procured summer employment at theatres around the country.

Alpha Psi Omega (APO), JMU's chapter of the national honorary theatre society

This organization creates social, educational, and community service opportunities for theatre students.

Is it possible to study abroad? 
Yes, students in the Theatre Concentration often choose to study abroad either in the summer or during the regular academic year.  The Office of International Programs offers a number of study abroad opportunities.  About one-third of theatre concentrators study abroad, most in London, where JMU has its own student housing and programs that run every semester and summer.

Are there an improvisational theatre opportunities?
Yes.  There are multiple improvisational theatre groups that operate as student organizations through the Office of Student Activities and Involvement.  New and Improv’d and Weird Cousins both hold yearly auditions.  There are also sketch comedy opportunities with Maddy Night Live.  You could also look into starting your own troupe! For more information on student organizations visit

Do you provide summer work for your students?
JMU students may audition for the summer season (opportunities vary each year).  On occasion the School has office or shop assistance work available during the summer as well.  We also highly encourage our students to audition and interview for work at other theatres for the summer.  JMU students attend and are successful at SETC, NETC, StrawHat, UPTA auditions and interviews, and many graduate from JMU with professional credits on their resumes, gaining valuable real-world experience while they are still in school.  Tech/Design students often attend the annual conference of the USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) and from there and other conferences have landed summer work at theatres and performance companies such as the Santa Fe Opera, Cirque du Soleil, Wolf Trap, Glimmerglass Opera, Weston Playhouse, Ringling Brothers, New York City Ballet, Blue Man Group, Long Wharf Theatre, Papermill Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Perry Mansfield, and others. Among the summer theatre venues where JMU students have recently performed are: Adirondack Theatre Festival, NY;  Busch Gardens, VA; Central Piedmont Summer Theatre, NC; Cortland Repertory Theatre, NY; Cumberland County Playhouse, TN; Flat Rock Playhouse, NC; Granbury Opera House, TX; Gretna Theatre, PA; Highlands Playhouse, NC; Horn in the West, NC; The Lost Colony, NC; Mac-Haydn Theatre, NY; Maples Repertory Theatre, MO; Papermill Theatre Company, NH; Peachtree State Summer Theatre, GA; Shawnee Playhouse, PA; Texas Family Musicals, TX; Texas Musical Drama, TX; Theatre Barn, MN; Theatre West Virginia, WV; Theatre by the Sea, RI; Toby’s Dinner Theatre, MD; Trumpet in the Land, OH; Way Off Broadway, IA; Weathervane Playhouse, OH; Western Playhouse, MO.

Are your graduates successful?
Although there are (of course) no guarantees, JMU graduates have appeared and worked on Broadway, national and international tours, regional theatres from coast to coast and around the world.  JMU grads are currently appearing, or have recently appeared on Broadway, and in national and international tours of: Annie, Avenue Q, Book of Mormon, Catch Me if You Can, Dog Fight, Far from Heaven, Jersey Boys, Lion King, Mamma Mia, Million Dollar Quartet, Rock of Ages, War Horse, Beauty and the Beast, A Chorus Line, Drowsy Chaperone, Fame, The Full Monty,  Grease, Jersey Boys, Joseph and the… Dreamcoat, Les Miserables, The Producers, Riverdance, Shrek, Spiderman, and Urinetown, among others, and are successful off-Broadway, in regional theatre (Wooly Mammoth, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, The Actors Studio, The Shakespeare Theatre (DC), The Barter Theatre, Berkley Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Cincinnati Shakespeare, Second City, Charleston Stage Company, Imagination Stage, Forum Theatre, Keegan Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Paper Mill Playhouse, Signature Theatre, Virginia Repertory Theatre, Walnut Street Theatre etc.), and in TV and film (Lincoln, The Candidate, Law and Order: SVU, Law and Order: CI, Mercy, Blue Bloods, Bored to Death, Saturday Night Live, As the World Turns, The Guiding Light, Chuck, Alpha Planet, Last Comic Standing, Mona Lisa Smile, Gods and Generals, A.N.T. Farm, etc.).  Technical, Design, and Stage Management graduates have designed and obtained positions at Longacre Theatre (Broadway), The Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Wolf Trap, The Walnut Street Theatre, Weston Playhouse, The Kennedy Center, The Folger Theatre, Cirque du Soleil, Arena Stage, Glimmerglass Opera, Round House Theatre, La MaMa ETC, Perry-Mansfield, Studio Theatre, The Joyce Theatre, Richmond Ballet, and many others. JMU Theatre and Dance alumni have gone on to graduate degree work at such schools as Yale, NYU, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern, California State University, Pace, Southern Illinois University, Hollins, etc.  JMU students have also won a number of awards at KCACTF and USITT festivals in acting, directing, playwriting, criticism, lighting, sound, costumes, and stage management.

VA Rep 2016 Richard Finkelstein

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