OnStage Blog’s annual rankings, which recognize the best colleges in the country for performing
in addition to dance, design and tech, are part of its efforts to provide families
and prospective students with as many resources as possible when determining what
college to attend.
“Coming in seventh was an amazing moment of validation,” said Jean Kerr, Director
of and associate professor in the SOTA who noted the department’s continuing efforts
to achieve quality and distinction.
Deemed as “A truly underrated gem” by Onstage Blog, IWU’s musical theatre program
is a “rigorous” one, that combines on-stage and behind-the-scenes work, with a liberal
“We are asking our students to, in effect, become triple majors: singing, dancing
and acting,” Kerr said. “But we want them to be well-rounded human beings above it
all. That is why the liberal arts setting for this BFA degree is so integral to our
Kerr added that the success of the program would not have been possible without the
“top notch faculty and staff,” who have experience working in professional theatre
and are constantly reviewing the curriculum to ensure that students have the most
“potent and current information.”
“The entire faculty and staff of SOTA work closely with the students to help them
to build theatre skills in all facets of theatre, giving them opportunities to discover
more about how they as individuals can fit into theatre and tell stories,” Kerr said.
SOTA faculty, and staff work together with students to produce two musical productions
each year. Every other year, one of these productions is replaced with a faculty choreographed
dance concert. Recent musicals include: Giant, FAME, Boys from Syracuse, South Pacific and Xanadu.
OnStage’s ratings are determined by the blog’s research staff, which conducts research
as if they were prospective students and parents, in order to obtain the most honest
impression of a school’s theatre program. The research process includes reading a
school's website, calling its theatre and admissions departments, talking with alums,
contacting professors and taking a campus tour.
After looking at each school, team members rate the schools from one to ten in the
following categories: Quality of Facilities, Cost and Scholarship Opportunities, Quality
of Faculty, Admissions, Auditions and Selectivity, Quality of Curriculum, Career and
Alumni Support, and Performance Opportunities.
Particular factors that were heavily weighted this year included performance opportunities,
value of diversity, and quality of facilities, which Kerr said have been especially
important for SOTA’s success.
She said in addition to expanding its classroom, studio and rehearsal space into Shaw
Hall, SOTA has added a new Music Theatre Library that was gifted by a donor who collected
audio and visual recordings of thousands of musicals, operas, dance concerts and cast
“This extensive library sets SOTA and IWU apart from almost every other musical theatre
program in the country,” Kerr said.
Because of its rigorous curriculum, faculty and staff, and improvements in performance
facilities, SOTA’s musical theatre program continues to expand. Assistant Professor
of Theatre Arts Scott Susong, said the program has doubled from 20 to 40 students
over the past 11 years. This year, Susong will select 12 female and 12 male students
from approximately 1,000 student auditions.
Kerr said the ranking is reflective of SOTA’s efforts to continue expanding and improving
this “high quality program.”
“Theatre takes a village -- the whole village -- to do it well,” she said.
Events for the current season, include Diana Son’s seriocomic play Stop Kiss from Oct. 3-7; John Kander’s and Fred Ebb’s musical, Curtains from Nov. 14-18; William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream from Feb. 20-24; and the 2019 Faculty Choreographed Dance Concert from April 10-15.