Acting majors at Illinois State University get the best of two worlds: a liberal arts education plus the rigorous training in Acting that otherwise could only be found in a conservatory program. Graduates from the School of Theatre and Dance receive a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree, and your university diploma will qualify you to pursue a career in Theatre—and many other careers as well.
Our intensive Acting program is taught by faculty dedicated to your growth and development. Every faculty member has one or more areas of professional expertise, and you will have the opportunity to work with each of them during your four years. For more information on faculty members, please visit the faculty and staff page.
The Acting faculty take great pride in identifying potential in young actors. Our curriculum will take you through a carefully designed sequence of study—acting, voice and movement, styles of acting, professional development—that builds upon basic principles and becomes increasingly demanding.
At the end of each semester you will attend an assessment conference—an open dialogue between you and the Acting faculty. The entire faculty will give you feedback about your progress in class and on stage. Furthermore, we are committed to meeting with you during regularly scheduled office hours and by appointment.
Course of Study
In the first year of training you will be introduced to basic acting skills. You will focus on the exploration and development of "self" through improvisation and exercises in sensory awareness, concentration, relaxation, and imagination. Your first year will culminate in scene study with an emphasis on playing objectives and action within specifically defined relationships.
The second year is devoted to training in voice and movement. You will develop techniques and discipline to expand your physical and vocal expression as a performing artist. Even more, these techniques will be integrated into your acting process during the second year.
The third year of training is all about acting styles. The study of Realism will help you develop a sophisticated ability to interpret the works of a wide range of playwrights, from Ibsen and Chekhov to Arthur Miller, August Wilson, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill and Lillian Hellman. You also will devote an entire semester to the master playwright, William Shakespeare.
During your fourth year you will prepare yourself for the business of acting. You will learn audition techniques for stage, television, and film; and acquire new information about headshots, resumes, cover letters, dealing with agents, networking, and more. You also will have an opportunity to audition for the Actor Showcase, in which senior Acting students perform for agents and casting directors at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. Auditions for admission to the Showcase normally are adjudicated by an evaluator from outside the School of Theatre and Dance, Jennifer Rudnicke, of Paskal Rudnicke Casting, located in Chicago.
You may also elect to take advanced classes on a variety of topics. These specialized classes include a number of courses in Stage Combat, as well as Meisner Technique, Comedy of Manners, Masks, Viewpoints and Musical Theatre.
Click here to see the Four-Year Plan of Study in Acting (pdf). For more information about program requirements and course descriptions, please review the Undergraduate Catalog.
With the exception of the first semester of your freshman year, you will be required to audition for the production program each semester. We believe that the stage is the laboratory in which you demonstrate what you have learned in the classroom, and we expect you to perform on stage every semester!
The Production Program in the School of Theatre and Dance offers numerous opportunities in a variety of theatrical venues. Casting opportunities include:
- Main Stage Productions
- Second Stage Productions
- M.F.A. Directing Studio
- The Normal Humor
- Crossroads Theatre
- Illinois State Theatre Outreach Program (ISTOP)
- Black Actors League
- Improv Mafia
- 10-Minute Play Festival
- Dance Concerts
- Directing Scenes
- FreeStage Plays and Festival
For more information see Plays and Student Groups.
Our alumni work professionally in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and throughout the United States. The School's best-known alumni include:
- John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich, Death of a Salesman on Broadway)
- Jane Lynch (Glee, Best in Show)
- Gary Cole (Office Space, Talladega Nights)
- Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne, Balm in Gilead )
- Sean Hayes (Will and Grace, The Bucket List)
- LaRoyce Hawkins (Chicago P.D.)
- Rondi Reed (Wicked, 2008 Tony Award winner for August: Osage County)
- Founding members Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry and numerous other actors from the Steppenwolf Theatre Company
While you may not recognize their names, we also have hundreds of other alumni working in theaters across the country.
The School of Theatre and Dance Advantage
- Small Acting classes, typically with 12-14 students
- Classes taught exclusively by faculty
- A carefully designed program of study that becomes progressively more challenging
- An assessment process designed to maximize your success
- A disciplined and supportive environment
- Faculty with years of professional experience and expertise
- An extensive production program
- The Actor Showcase to introduce you to agents and casting directors
- A network of successful alumni in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
Admission to the Undergraduate Acting Sequence
As a prospective freshman or transfer student, you must:
- Apply to Illinois State University. If you are ready, Apply Today!
- When you fill out your ISU application you will also sign up for an Audition date.
Upcoming audition dates are:
- Saturday, September 26, 2015 (ISU)
- Monday, November 9, 2015 (also an ISU Open House day)
- Saturday, January 23, 2016 (LookingglassTheatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago)
- Saturday, February 13, 2016 (ISU)
- Friday, April 1, 2016 ( ISU: not for scholarship consideration)
For information about how to prepare for your audition, see Admission & Auditions.
All auditioning students will automatically be considered for School of Theatre and Dance scholarships. For information about available scholarships, see Awards, Scholarships & Assistantships.
Within two weeks of your audition, you will be notified about your status. You may be accepted into the Acting sequence, not accepted into the acting sequence, or placed on a waiting list until after the final on-campus auditions.
If you are not accepted into the Acting Sequence, but are admitted to Illinois State University, you may enroll as a Theatre major in the Theatre Studies Sequence. You then will be eligible to re-audition for the Acting Sequence at a later date.
If you have questions about the Acting program, please contact