Southeast to require auditions from would-be theater, dance majors

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting into Southeast Missouri State University's theater and dance department just got a little harder.

Starting next fall, students will face tougher admissions standards, including having to audition for the program. The change is a sign of how much of an effect the River Campus has had on programs.

It also shows the significant steps the department is willing to take in its attempt to obtain accreditation. By 2010, department leaders intend to be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre and the National Association of Schools of Dance.

"Now what we're doing is screening admission into the program. Beforehand they could quite literally walk into the program. ... It's a screening process to basically up the standards again," said Dr. Kenneth Stilson, a professor of acting and directing.

Since creation of the bachelor of fine arts program in 2003, the department has increased recruiting efforts, added professors and devoted more money to scholarships. With the River Campus' opening in 2007, after more than a decade of planning, there has been an increased student interest. The art, music and theater/dance departments are housed at the River Campus, which includes a performance hall, museum, convocation center, flexible theater and recital hall.

Stilson said the goal is no longer to grow the theater and dance program; it is to increase quality.

The department currently has 147 students majoring in its programs. Under the new guidelines, the university plans to accept 50 freshmen each year. Because of a historically high rate of attrition in the arts, Stilson expects the department to stay about the same size.

The department recruits heavily at conferences and by sending out thousands of individualized letters. "We operate very much like an athletic team. We have scouts go out looking for players," he said.

Theater or dance majors are already required to complete an "annual jury" process to stay in the program. They must participate in a production or the Spring Showcase, complete an oral review with faculty, submit a resume or portfolio and meet grade requirements.

Freshmen will now be admitted as pre-theater or pre-dance majors. They will audition in the spring for the program.

The music department already requires auditions for admittance. Art students are not required to submit a portfolio for entry into the department.


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