SRU trustees send BFA in Acting program to BOG for approval


David Skeele

David Skeele, Slippery Rock University professor of theatre, discusses the proposed Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting program with the University’s council of trustees. Photo by Joey Anzalone, senior digital media production major from New Castle.

Oct. 6, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's council of trustees voted today to advance a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting program to Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education board of governors for approval.

The program will be presented for action at the BOG's Oct. 18-19 meetings.

The proposed BFA in acting degree will require 120 credits to complete.

All BFA Acting students, regardless of choice of concentration in either theatre performance or musical theatre performance, will be required to complete the 50-credit core which provides a solid foundation in acting skills, as well as vocal and movement styles and practices. Additionally, all BFA students will get an introduction to dance through DANCE 120, Exploring Dance, taught through the nationally-ranked SRU Dance Department.

According to organizers, moving the acting program from a BA to a BFA will provide "a greater opportunity to better prepare acting students to be as competitive as possible and will attract additional students because of the focused career training available at SRU."

The University's Theatre Department, which is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Theatre, currently offers a BA in theatre with three areas of concentration: acting; design and technology; and arts administration.

"Our comprehensive BA curriculum does not necessarily provide the highly specialized depth of training that is becoming increasingly required of a professional performing artist," said Rebecca Morrice, associate professor of theatre. "We are thus proposing to maintain our BA program with the concentrations for arts administration and design/technology, and shift our acting training into a BFA program with the theatre performance and musical theatre performance concentrations."

Morrice said that musical theatre is currently the fastest-growing and most financially lucrative area of the theatre world, and consequently, is in high demand among prospective students.

"The student professionally trained in musical theatre has a wide array of employment options, including not only Broadway, but the hundreds of touring musical productions crisscrossing the country each year, as well as cruise ships, dinner theatres, theme parks and international theatre productions," she said. "Excelling as a performer in musical theatre requires highly specialized training in acting, singing and dancing - the kind of training that can only be credibly offered in a focused conservatory-style BFA program."

A strong demand for theatre performance still, and always will, exist for actor training in non-musical theatre, Morrice said. "Many theatre students enter college with an express desire to work in 'regional theatre' - the umbrella term for the nation's network of over 2,000 non-profit urban theatres and Shakespeare festivals - and these students often have little interest in music and dance training," said Morrice.

The proposed program would be unique in that it would be the only NAST-accredited, BFA in Acting professional training program in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education.

"We would be the only theatre program in the State System, and one of only a few in the country, with a focused goal on training students in and producing contemporary musical theatre," said Morrice. "We would also be a very affordable and accessible alternative to many of the other programs offered across the state, the region and the country."

Based on statewide average annual employment numbers, the top three counties in Pennsylvania providing employment in the 'Theatre Companies and Dinner Theatres' industry are Lancaster, Philadelphia and Allegheny with the former two ranking 16th and 17th nationally. Pennsylvania ranks 6th in the nation in terms of the average number of jobs (4,400) available via performing arts companies and 7th in the nation in terms of the number of annual establishments (353 companies) providing these jobs.

"It is our hope that the appeal of this program will draw not only from students in our 150-mile radius region in western Pennsylvania, but will also appeal to students on a state-wide and national level," Morrice said.

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