Nov 27, 2021  
2006-2007 University Catalogue 
2006-2007 University Catalogue [Archived Catalogue]

School of Theater Arts

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Gene Terruso

Anne Edmunds
Assistant to the Director

Francesca Pase
Administrative Assistant

The School of Theater Arts (S.O.T.A.) of The University of the Arts is committed to developing the skills and professionalism of its students to prepare them for careers in the theater and related fields or for advanced study in graduate or conservatory programs.

The goal of the theater school is to cultivate practitioners for the live theater entertainment media, communications, and production. This is achieved by developing a practical knowledge and competence that include sensitivity to technique, artistry, and style, as well as an insight into the role of the theater arts.

All of the School’s degree programs employ a professional approach to training and highly rigorous standards for evaluation and retention. As with any theater program, production work may serve as an important means of gauging a student’s growth in his/her respective program. It is in the studio, however, where the primary efforts of both student and faculty are concentrated. The highly focused and demanding training is enhanced by appropriate courses in the liberal arts. These are of particular importance to the theater artist, who is charged with commenting on the human condition. The effectiveness of that commentary is dependent upon a sincere commitment to excellence in liberal arts.

All programs within the School of Theater Arts require 123 credits for graduation.


Most facilities for the School of Theater Arts are located in UArts’ new Terra Building at 211 South Broad Street. These include seminar and classroom spaces and studios for individual voice, speech, dance, movement and acting instruction. The studios are well-lit and individually equipped with prop storage and audiovisual capabilities. Lockers and lounges are located adjacent to the studios. Performances are held at a number of sites: the ArtsBank, a technically up-to-date, 240-seat theater at 601 South Broad Street that also houses additional instructional spaces and a cabaret theater; the University’s historic Merriam Theater at 250 South Broad Street, a 250-seat dance theater; and a new flexible studio theater space in Gershman Hall at 401 South Broad Street, where stage combat classes are also held. Design and technical support are provided by a production shop, a costume shop, a lighting lab, areas for both property and costume stock, and a video editing studio inside the ArtsBank. The Albert M. Greenfield Library contains books, journals and videotapes devoted to the theater arts, which are available to students for research and coursework.

Programs of Study

The curriculum is conservatory-based, acknowledging that the focal point of training in both Acting and Musical Theater programs is the acting instruction, and that vocal and physical training are the principal support areas for this instruction. The first responsibility of the faculty is to invest students with a foundation technique– a rehearsal/performance process–which they will continue to refine and personalize as their creative development evolves. In the theater Design-Technology and Applied Theater Arts programs, the focus upon technique holds true, supported by extended collaborative learning opportunities in production.

Opportunities for master classes, guest speakers, internships, and apprenticeships with many professional companies in the city and region are among the experiences open to students in all School of Theater Arts programs.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Acting Program

The four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts Acting program prepares students for careers in the professional theater or for continued study at the graduate level. In the first year, students concentrate on finding the “core of the actor” through the study of improvisation, monologue, emotional discovery, speech, and movement. In addition to fostering these acting skills, the first year of training is also designed to encourage an in-depth self-analysis of the student’s commitment, discipline, and professionalism. The second year is devoted to technique training, in which actors develop a sense of conversational reality and strengthen their imagination, responsiveness, and spontaneity. This level of training also addresses an actor’s skill for evoking a full and accessible inner life.

The third year is dedicated to giving shape and specificity to the actor’s behavior and aims to refine technique and deepen characterization. Advanced scene study and an introduction to style work are also integral to this level of training. The focus of the fourth year is on classical performance and preparing the student to enter the profession. Students are given instruction in audition and camera techniques, resume preparation, how to work with agents, etc. The fourth year culminates with an audition clinic given by a selected panel of agents, directors, and casting representatives.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Applied Theater Arts

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Applied Theater Arts allows students with a range of theatrical interests to shape their own individualized course of study. It is designed to give students the practical, artistic, and intellectual foundation necessary for a successful professional life in live theater and allied disciplines. Students focus on theatrical disciplines such as stage management, playwriting, directing, mask work, stage combat, dramaturgy, production, and arts administration.

Practical studio and production training, received in the student’s first two years, is enriched by an understanding of the theater as an art, an industry, and an institution with a history and a vital role in society.

This foundation training prepares the students to emphasize one or more of the above-mentioned disciplines at the upper-division levels and to shape their own curriculum. Much of the Senior year in the ATA program is comprised of production projects, independent study, and internships arranged through the School’s close association with professional companies in the area.

This program is a good choice for students who are drawn to the collaborative nature of theater. It is an ideal program of study for the student who has a profound passion for theater and/or the entertainment field, but whose long-term interest may lie outside performing. At the same time, it is a curriculum that places that student at the heart of the production process. The program is also well-suited to students who may have an interest in advanced or graduate study in theater.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Musical Theater Program

The four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts Musical Theater Program prepares students for professional careers as performers in the musical theater or for continued study in graduate school. The program defines the term “musical theater” in a way that embraces the richness and diversity of this challenging interdisciplinary art form, which includes musical comedy, the musical play (in the Hammerstein-Sondheim tradition), new and alternative music theater, “Broadway opera,” cabaret and revue. Students receive the same technique training as do acting majors through their first five semesters. This training is complemented by training in vocal technique, musicianship, dance, and the study of the repertoire of the musical theater in print and recordings, as well as in rehearsal and performance.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theater Design and Technology

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theater Design and Technology is dedicated to providing foundation training in the entire range of theatrical design principles and in technical production as a prelude to the student’s declaring an area of emphasis upon which they focus during their final two years at UArts. This range of disciplines includes scenic, lighting, costume, and sound design, as well as training in the field of technical direction. Studies in this program are supported by ample production opportunities and internships in which the student can both work alongside guest artists and assume primary responsibility for design assignments.

Stage Combat Program

The School of Theater Arts is home to one of the nation’s most renowned stage combat programs, serving as host to the annual Philadelphia Stage Combat Workshop. It is one of only a handful of institutions that offers the option of an eight-semester sequence of combat training. One semester of combat is required for all BFA Acting majors. Although not a degree program in itself, students completing the requisite course of study are tested on campus each year and, if found proficient, certified by the Society of American Fight Directors. In 2003, the program was ranked third in the country, based on the number of certified stage combatants that emerged from its ranks.

The Curriculum

BFA Programs in Acting and Musical Theater

Actor training in the School of Theater Arts lies at the heart of the two performance curricula. The training is designed to cultivate the actor’s ability to “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” Students develop an understanding that such truth begins with a shared interconnectedness between actors onstage.

Early technique studies, for majors in both acting and musical theater, emphasize the “reality of doing” as it is rooted in a full emotional life, driven by action and expressed with meaning, clarity, and theatricality. To this end, students are challenged to cultivate a fuller understanding of themselves and to continually exercise their skills as analysts of text and as observers of human behavior.

The program introduces students to a range of training methods (Linklater, Meisner, IPA, LeCoq, Williamson, Fitzmaurice, Laban) as a part of their training. The successful student should emerge from the program with a practicable performance technique in place, which enables her/him to develop and sustain a role from first rehearsal to closing night.

Students completing these programs are also expected to be knowledgeable about a variety of styles and types of drama, and the challenges presented by each; to work in a vocally and physically free and efficient manner; to be able to identify their character type and its potential range within the casting conventions of the industry; to have a sense of how to begin to establish a career as a performer; and to possess a work ethic that will support the collaborative nature of theatrical production.

Additionally, the Musical Theater Program seeks to train students who:

  • use the singing voice in a vibrant, healthy, and dramatically effective manner;
  • understand music as the singing actor’s second text and clearly present its expressive intentions;
  • have a solid dance technique and a command of the language of dance and movement; and
  • integrate all component skills of musical theater performance to create consistently honest and expressive behavior.

Additionally, the Acting Program seeks to train students who have developed:

  • fundamental skills in stage combat and the use of selected weaponry;
  • an awareness of mask techniques as a platform from which characterization and behavior can evolve;
  • basic skills in performing for the camera, a familiarity with their image in two-dimensional media, and some experience in fundamental issues such as slating, continuity, hitting marks, working within frame, etc.; and
  • scene study skills that will serve them in the interpretation of classical material that requires a command of both style and language.

BFA Program in Applied Theater Arts

Theater artists must be well-versed in a variety of disciplines, each vital in itself and intimately related to all that occurs in a production effort. Students majoring in Applied Theater Arts are called upon to develop competencies across a spectrum of these disciplines. As such, they study stage management, directing, playwriting, combat, mask, administration, theater history and dramatic literature–all in a context that supports theatrical production. This program is designed to provide practical training for the student who possesses a collaborative perspective. The BFA in Applied Theater Arts (ATA) allows the students, in their Junior year, to move toward a concentration in a particular area of emphasis, such as many of those mentioned here.

Upon declaring a concentration in one of these fields, students complete their course of study via a series of production practica and independent study projects. Internships, arranged through the School’s outstanding relationship with area professional theaters, further strengthen the students’ skills and enhance their professional viability. Students completing this program are prepared to enter the industry on either the production or the administrative end and may pursue a range of career options or choose to pursue further study in the above fields.

BFA Program in Theater Design and Technology (Design/Tech)

The newest major in the SOTA, Design/Tech focuses on the creation of costumes, scenery, lighting and sound design for theatrical production, as well as on developing the skills for the prospective technical director. In the classic approach to such training, students are instructed in all of these areas and as they move into their Junior area, are encouraged to select a discipline in which they will concentrate their energies over the final two years. Built into the curriculum are design and technical responsibilities within the SOTA production season, as well as the expectation of internship experiences with professional companies as part of one’s Senior year experience. As a prelude to assuming primary design or technical responsibility for a given production, students will also be afforded the opportunity to work closely and to network with guest designers, who are regularly brought in to work on UArts productions. As with the Applied Theater Arts program, students’ course of study will be capped through a series of production practica and independent study projects. Students completing this program are prepared to enter the industry on either the production or the administrative end and may pursue a range of career options or choose to pursue further study in the above fields.

Production Audition and Attendance Requirements

The School of Theater Arts presents at least 12 major productions a year–six in our subscription series and six more in our studio series. These include comedies, dramas, and musicals. Plays are selected based on the educational and competitive needs of the current casting pool and on a four-year cycle representing styles and genres to which the faculty feels students should be exposed.

All students in performance majors are required to audition for all School-sponsored shows and to accept roles as cast, unless excused as provided for in the School of Theater Arts Student Handbook. Students are also required to attend each subscription production. These audition and attendance requirements will be part of all acting studio syllabi. Failure to comply with these requirements will have a direct impact upon one’s grade in acting studio.


Students in the School of Theater Arts are expected to attend all classes, studios, workshops, rehearsals, and crews for which they are registered or otherwise committed.

Generally, the School of Theater Arts does not make a distinction between an excused and unexcused absence. Rather it recognizes that in the course of a student’s studies, circumstances may arise that, in the student’s judgment, may require absence or lateness. The general policy of the School of Theater Arts is that any number of absences that result in the student missing more than the equivalent of two weeks’ work will result in failure or require withdrawal from the course in question. This standard may be somewhat more restrictive for acting studios.

Students should consult the syllabi for any given course to see how this policy applies to the course’s number of weekly meetings and contact hours. Please refer to the “Absences” section of Academic Regulations in this Catalog for more information and to the Theater Arts Student Handbook.


Students are assigned advisors when they enter the School of Theater Arts. Advisory lists are posted in the theater lounge during the first week of the academic year. The advisor conveys information from the faculty to the student and counsels the student in artistic and academic matters. The student, however, is wholly responsible for fulfilling his or her artistic and academic obligations and for meeting the requirements for graduation.

Call Boards

All Theater students must check the call boards daily and will be responsible for all official notices posted there within 24 hours.

The call boards are used for the posting of all rehearsal and crew notices, as well as School and professional audition notices.

Crew Assignments

All students are required to serve on production crews in their second through fifth semesters. Crew assignments and calls are scheduled and monitored by the Production Office, located in the main School of Theater Arts office.

All crew members are expected to be prompt for crew calls. Lateness will not be tolerated. Attendance at all crew calls is mandatory. There are no unexcused absences permitted. A student who misses a crew call ithout prior permission from the Production Office will receive an ‘F’ for the semester.

Extracurricular Activities

Students in the School of Theater Arts may not participate in any theater projects outside the University prior to completion of six semesters in the School of Theater Arts. Even students who have achieved Senior status must formally apply in writing to the Director of the School of Theater Arts for such permission in advance of auditioning or interviewing for such work. Students involved with such projects without the director’s authorization will receive a grade of ‘F’ in their major studio and be restricted from moving forward in their core classes (see “Academic Progress”). A second occurrence may result in dismissal from the School. Instructors are specifically directed not to allow the absences nor scheduling arrangements that may provide such opportunities.

Physical Demands of the Program

The Theater Arts program is physically demanding. Good health and its maintenance are of paramount importance to an actor.

Occasional illness or injuries are, of course, justification for short-term absences. Specific chronic physical or emotional disorders that impair attendance or ability to function within the program over a longer period of time should be covered by a formal leave of absence.

In either case, the student should confer with his or her advisor as soon as a potential health problem arises.

Professional Standards and Behavior

Students are expected to maintain high standards of professionalism in studio, classroom, rehearsal, and performance commitments. Professionalism in rehearsal and production is a factor in the grading for Acting studio. Failure to follow directions and absence from or lateness to rehearsals, performances, and related activities may result in Academic Censure including lowering of grade or course failure.

Minimum Grade Requirements

A professional training environment and an academic environment have goals that are at once mutual and distinct. Within a traditional university, a student receiving a grade of ‘C’ may feel that he/she has done “adequate” work and is entitled to continue in his/her course of training. As a university, UArts recognizes this right. By the standards required of professional training, however, an “adequate” grade does not suggest a student’s viability within the entertainment industry. Further, the world of play production is a meritocracy – i.e., being in a play is not a right; it is earned by a consistently demonstrated work ethic, command of material, and strength of skills. As such, the School of Theater Arts has developed the following standards by which the purposes of both the academic experience and the requirements of professional training and production will be served.

To remain in good standing for casting consideration or production assignments in the School of Theater Arts, a student must receive a grade of ‘B’ or better in the core courses listed below. In the view of the SOTA faculty, a student whose work fails to meet this level of achievement will be considered non-competitive by professional standards. The following grades may result in the actions indicated:

Grades of ‘B-,’ ‘C+,’ or ‘C’ in core courses:

  • student is placed on Casting Restriction or Production Restriction.

Grade of ‘C-’ in core courses:

  • student is placed on Probation (refer to “Academic Censure” in this Catalog for more information), and
  • student is placed on Casting Restriction or Production Restriction.

Grades of ‘D,’ ‘D+,’ or ‘F’ in core courses:

  • student is placed on Probation (refer to ‘Academic Censure’ in this Catalog for more information);
  • student is placed on Casting Restriction or Production Restriction;
  • student receives no course credit for an F grade, elective credit only for the grade of ‘D’ or ‘D+;’
  • student may not advance to the next semester of any core training class until the course has been repeated with a grade of ‘C-’ or better; and
  • both the original grade and repeated grade will remain on the transcript and will be applied to a student’s cumulative GPA.

The following are considered core courses:

Acting Major

  • THST 101 Acting Studio I
  • THST 102 Acting Studio II
  • THVC 111 Voice and Speech for Actors I
  • THVC 112 Voice and Speech for Actors II
  • THMD 161 Movement for Actors I
  • THST 201 Acting Studio : Technique I
  • THST 202 Acting Studio : Technique II
  • THVC 211 Speech for Actors III
  • THVC 212 Speech for Actors IV
  • THMD 261 Movement for Actors III
  • THMD 262 Movement for Actors IV
  • THVC 311 Speech for Actors V
  • THVC 312 Speech for Actors VI
  • THMD 361 Movement for Actors V
  • THMD 362 Movement for Actors VI
  • THST 301 Acting Studio: Technique III
  • THST 302 Acting Studio: Poetic Realism
  • THMD 461 Movement for Actors VII
  • THST 401 Acting Studio: Verse Drama I
  • THST 402 Acting Studio: Verse Drama II

Applied Theater Arts

  • THST 101 Acting Studio I
  • THST 181 Acting for the Non-Major
  • THEA 161 Collaboration in Theater
  • THPD 120 Crew
  • THPD 123 Scene and Lighting Technology
  • THPD 125 Scene & Lighting Tech Lab
  • THPD 124 Costume & Property Technology
  • THPD 126 Costume & Property Tech Lab
  • THPD 261 Fundamentals of Stage Management I
  • THPD 262 Theater Management
  • THST 361 Fundamentals of Directing
  • LALL 873 Scriptwriting
  • THDP 361 Advanced Stage Management
  • THPD 320 Production Practicum
  • THST 440 New Play Workshop
  • THST 461 Directing Studio
  • THEA 460 Business of Theater
  • THPD 461 Senior Project
  • THPD 462 Senior Project
  • THPD 460 ATA Seminar
  • CMMC 102 Video Production Workshop

Musical Theater Major

  • THST 101 Acting Studio I
  • THST 102 Acting Studio II
  • THVC 121 Voice for Musical Theater I
  • THVC 122 Voice For Musical Theater II
  • THVC 131 Voice Lesson – Musical Theater
  • THVC 132 Voice Lesson
  • THST 201 Acting Studio: Technique I
  • THST 202 Acting Studio: Technique II
  • THST 222 Foundations of Singing/Acting
  • THVC 231 Voice Lesson – Musical Theater
  • THVC 232 Voice Lesson
  • THST 321 Musical Theater Repertory
  • THST 322 Musical Theater Repertory
  • THST 301 Acting Studio: Technique III
  • THST 302 Acting Studio: Poetic Realism
  • THVC 321 Voice for Musical Theater V
  • THVC 322 Voice for Musical Theater VI
  • THVC 331 Voice Lesson – Musical Theater
  • THVC 332 Voice Lesson
  • THST 401 Acting Studio: Verse Drama I
  • THST 402 Acting Studio: Verse Drama II
  • THVC 421 Voice for Musical Theater: Cabaret/Audition
  • THVC 422 Voice for Musical Theater: Cabaret/Audition
  • THVC 431 Voice Lesson – Musical Theater
  • THVC 432 Voice Lesson

Theater Design and Technology

  • FNDP 101 Sketching and Drawing
  • FNDP 102 Sketching the Human Figure
  • FNDP 103 Color Basics
  • THPD 120 Crew
  • FNDP 104 Materials, Tools and Form
  • THPD 123 Scene and Lighting Technology
  • THPD 125 Scene & Lighting Tech Lab
  • THPD 124 Costume & Property Technology
  • THPD 125 Costume & Property Tech Lab
  • THST 231 Theater Design I: Introduction to Design
  • THPD 264 Fundamentals of Technical Direction
  • THST 232 Theater Design II: Scene Design
  • THST 331 Theater Design III: Lighting Design
  • THPD 320 Production Practicum
  • THST 330 Design Technology Seminar
  • THST 332 Theater Design IV: Costume Design
  • THPD 461 Senior Project


The School keeps students abreast of their progress by personal contact and review. A student will be warned if his/her performance in class is below par as defined by the instructor’s expectations expressed in the class syllabus, rules, etc. Such warning will be issued as a part of ongoing studio critiques, in a formal verbal fashion at the student’s in-person evaluation (or jury) and in writing as a follow-up to that evaluation. A student may also receive such warning if he/she lacks seriousness of purpose, demonstrates attitudinal behavior that proves disruptive to the ensemble or educational process, is excessively tardy, is not prepared to work in class or is not seriously committed to professional training.


In the School of Theater Arts, progress from one semester to the next is based not only on successful completion of coursework, but also on the faculty’s positive assessment of the student’s potential for a career in the professional theater.

This assessment is recorded through a process of in-person and written evaluation. Students whose grades in core classes (see “Academic Progress”) are less than ‘C-’ may not be permitted to move on to the next level of training in that area. Because the curriculum is frequently integrated (i.e., what is being taught in speech or dance may directly parallel what is being taught in acting studio) the student may be prevented from moving forward in those disciplines as well.

In all degree programs, both the student and the Director’s Office will be provided with copies of the written summation of the student’s evaluation. A student who has not shown satisfactory improvement may be asked to leave the program.

In the BFA Acting program, in-depth evaluations will be conducted in semesters two through five. These in-person evaluations will be held with the student’s acting, movement, and speech teacher present and will focus specifically on the student’s work and progress through the program. Ideally, these sessions should recap the ongoing input the student has received throughout the term in studio.

As a follow-up to these sessions, the student will receive a written evaluation reviewing the points covered in person and including a statement on the student’s status in the program (i.e., reinvitation assured, contingent upon further improvement, or in jeopardy).

The BFA in Musical Theater employs a jury system by which students are evaluated. Musical Theater jury exams are held at the end of semesters one to seven to evaluate students’ progress. Each student is required to prepare a minimum of five songs (three for first-year students) to be presented before a panel of Musical Theater faculty. It is expected that these songs be fully developed musically and dramatically. After completion of the jury, the student receives a written evaluation from each member of the panel.

Junior musical theater majors must be approved at midyear to proceed to advanced acting technique. Not being approved for such study, however, will not impede the student’s progress toward graduation.

Initial evaluations in the BFA for Applied Theater Arts are conducted at the conclusion of the first year and throughout the second year. The student will convene with her/his advisor and head of program. During these first evaluations, the primary issues dealt with will be the student’s satisfactory performance in production lab assignments and aptitude in the areas of stage management and dramaturgy. The first evaluation in a student’s third year will focus on the student’s progress and a statement submitted by the student discussing the areas of emphasis that have drawn his/her primary interest. Evaluators will consider how effectively the student has demonstrated skills in those areas. By the end of the third year, evaluations will focus on the student’s declared area of emphasis.

Evaluations for Design and Technology Program students begin at the conclusion of the Freshman year, in the period following final exams and are meetings between each student, his or her advisor, and the head of the program. Additional review evaluations occur at the same point of each subsequent semester.

The purpose of the evaluations in the first and second years is to measure and discuss 1) that student’s potential and aptitude as a designer or theater technician; and 2) the student’s progress in the overall program as demonstrated in classwork and production work. At the first evaluation in a student’s third year, the student declares an area of focus within the program (set, costume, lighting, sound, technical production, or some combination) and submits this declaration in writing. In this and all subsequent reviews, the student is evaluated according to this declared area of focus and given feedback as to his or her demonstrated competitiveness for professional employment in this area.

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