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School’s in Session: Top 5 Theatre Programs Designed For Black Students

Nicole

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Whether you are planning on majoring in Drama, Theatre Arts Administration or Theatre with a Technical emphasis, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) cater to the specific needs of Black theatre professionals and can provide you with the education and support that you will need to start or enhance your theatre career. HBCUs have long been known as the cornerstone of educational opportunity for Blacks. In no particular order, Broadway Black has identified what we believe to be the top 5  HBCU theatre programs.

Howard University

Taraji Henson, Anthony Anderson, Marlon Wayans and Phylicia Rashad are just a few of the distinguished alumni from Howard University. The Department of Theatre Arts offers several major areas of concentrated study which lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Arts. Areas of concentration in Theatre Arts include the Performing Arts; Acting, Musical Theatre, and Dance; Theatre Arts Administration and Theatre Technology. Minors in Theatre Arts, Dance Arts, Theatre Arts Administration, Technical Theatre, and Playwriting are also available to non-Theatre Arts students. According to the website,

“Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts is an internationally acclaimed leader and producer of artistic merit. Each season the Department of Theatre Arts presents classical and contemporary plays in its two-theatre complex. These plays offer not only entertainment, but also a forum for ideas and discussion.”

Spelman and Morehouse College

Spelman and Morehouse Colleges share a spot on this list because Morehouse students can obtain their BA in Drama, with an optional concentration in Dance, by attending classes at Spelman. Additionally, one of the highlights for Drama students this year includes Spelman hosting a 90-minute distance learning opportunity with the Broadway Theatre League. According to the department website,

“The drama and dance curriculum is designed to offer a challenging theater arts program that encourages discovery, creativity and scholarship for those students whose special interests and talents lead them to the department of drama and dance; to impart to all majors the formal preparation necessary for advanced academic or professional study; to offer the Spelman student experiences in theater arts, giving her broad-based exposure to the various aspects of drama and dance; and to contribute to the cultural enrichment of Spelman College, the AU Center, and the community at large.”

Hampton University

In Hampton University’s School of Liberal Arts, theatre students may choose from a Bachelor of Arts degree in either Performance or Technical Theatre. According to the department’s website,

“The area of Theatre Arts exists to provide the best available preparation for those students who wish to pursue the craft of theatre. Enrollment in the Theatre Arts area is designed to give students experience and training in theatre management, production, and organization. Those students with interests and abilities in acting, directing, designing, construction, management and playwriting will find opportunities for expression and growth…In the department’s production organization, the Hampton Players and Company, students gain experience in every aspect of theatre, from box office operations to set construction. The faculty and students in the theatre program hold memberships in, and attend meetings at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, the National Association for Dramatics and Speech Arts, the Virginia Theatre Association, the American Theatre in Higher Education, and the United States Institute for Technical Theatre.”

North Carolina A&T State University

In 2015, North Carolina A&T State University ranked as the best HBCU in North Carolina for Theatre Arts according to http://hbcu-colleges.com/. Located in Greensboro, North Carolina NCAT offers prospective theatre students

“an outstanding Bachelor of Fine Arts program that is dedicated to professionally training a student in his or her chosen area of either acting or technology. Our students have won numerous regional and national awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. We have been invited to Region IV KCACTF competitions sixteen times and twice to the national festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. of Theatre.”

NCAT’s program is one of only two HBCUs in the United States that offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Theatre. Students may choose a concentration in the area of either Acting or Theatre Technology.

Florida A&M University

Since the 1930’s, theatre at Florida A&M University or FAMU has had a rich and storied legacy. A succession of passionate and committed educators has built a theatre program that currently offers two degree options, the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science for those students who concentrate in Technical Theatre or Theatre Management. Additionally, students may elect concentrations in either Performance, Design/Technical Production, or Management. According to the website, the department ascribes to

“The belief that theatre students profit most by a basic understanding of the totality of theatre before pursuing specializations … The program in theatre offers pre-professional undergraduate preparation by combining acting, directing, designing and production with literary, historical, managerial and creative study of drama.”

While this list is far from comprehensive, the HBCUs listed have a wealth of history, educational resources and dedicated support designed to ensure the success of Black students attempting to obtain degrees in Theatre.

Honorable Mentions

Fayetteville State University

Morgan State University

North Carolina Central University

 

Nicole "Blackberri" Johnson is a freelance writer, stage/ film actress, activist and entrepreneur. Mom of three. Blackberri is also a notorious cape thief and unapologetic bacon lover. Follow on twitter @Blackberri

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Broadway Black Kids

Okieriete Onaodowan to Host 3rd Annual Shubert Foundation High School Theatre Festival

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Before picking up the accordion for his upcoming run in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, from the original cast of Hamilton, will host the third annual Shubert Foundation High School Theatre Festival for New York City Public Schools.

On Monday, March 13th at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street) at 7 p.m, more than 100 students from five New York City high schools across the city make their Broadway debuts performing from their selected winter musicals or plays.

Additional guest artist presenters include Shoba Narayan, Nicholas Belton, and Paul Pinto of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, with cast members from Dear Evan Hansen.

A panel of professional theatre artists and theatre educators selected a total of five productions from a pool of 25 schools. Students from the chosen schools will present excerpted scenes and musical numbers from:

The Music Man: Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (Queens)
Almost, Maine: Brooklyn High School of the Arts (Brooklyn)
Company: Susan E. Wagner High School (Staten Island)
Angels In America: Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts (Manhattan)
Into The Woods: Edward R. Murrow High School (Brooklyn)

School principals and teachers, along with student family members, will attend to support their young performers representing four of the five boroughs, along with Philip J. Smith, Chairman of The Shubert Organization and Robert E. Wankel, President of The Shubert Organization.

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña states:

“Theatre instruction teaches students the importance of rehearsing while building self-confidence and strengthening public speaking skills. These are critical skills that prepare students for college, careers and beyond. That’s why I’m so pleased that we continue to expand access to theatre programs and arts education across the City. In particular, we are committed to leveraging the incredible connections we have to New York City’s rich cultural resources and developing meaningful arts partnerships with organisations like Shubert.”

According to the press release:

“The High School Theatre Festival showcases the ongoing and excellent theatre work currently taking place in NYC public high schools, as well as highlighting the positive effects of theatre study on skills for the stage and in life: collaboration, artistry, discipline, focus, literacy, student voice, self-awareness, presence, active listening and empathy.”

Peter Avery, the Festival’s producer and the Director of Theater for the NYC Department of Education, further expressed the importance of the festival, and the impact it might have:

“How inspiring for our student performers to have such unique support for their Broadway debut of their show excerpts, from a professional tech crew and pit musicians to the broader embrace of the theatre community. Given today’s discourse, it is all the more crucial to celebrate the next generation of diverse, talented artists in our NYC public schools. These young men and women, representing a myriad of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, expand the definition of casting and collaborate to produce meaningful theatre for others.”

Sponsored by The Shubert Foundation in partnership with the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), the festival focuses on the impact a full theatre program might have on students and school communities, and further enables them to see theatre and the arts as a potential career path. Since 2005, The Shubert Foundation has provided more than $4.3 million to the New York City Department of Education for Theatre/Arts programs.

For more information, visit Shubert Foundation.

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Broadway Black Kids

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit Visits The Color Purple

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Even though we’re out on summer vacation, the proud teacher in me never takes a break. Case in point, last night The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit paid The Color Purple a visit and didn’t go out quietly. After curtain call the group of extremely talented youngsters SANG for the cast and BABY THOSE HARMONIES!

Thank God for social media, cast member Danielle Brooks reordered the lovely thank you message and tweeted:

 

Cynthia Erivo and Heather Headley also offered their gratitude via social media last night as well;

What the Mosaic Youth Theatre is doing is such fulfilling and necessary work, them bringing all those kids out to Broadway makes me want to melt. Danielle Brooks summed it up perfectly in her Instagram post:

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