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

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 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


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