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BFA verses BA in theatre

vjayvjay Posts: 21Registered User New Member
edited September 2009 in Musical Theater Major
Would like some input on difference (understand one requires an audition and focuses on performance specifically) in terms of usability after graduation and well roundedness of each. We were told at one of NY schools that actors with BA were more well rounded because of their exposure to courses form different disciplines than those who go for BFA and that the BA is more tranferable into a job outside of acting.

Also, if you have a kid who want to be in musical theatere - acting/singing/ but also wants to have courses that includes film, directing, and screen writing, what would be your recommendation in Northeast-New York area or Phila.

For example, would majoring in musical theatre allow enough time to take other courses in film, directing, etc. And, if one took BA in theatre, wouldn't they be competing with the BFA's when they attempted to get a role in any production going on? It seems like you can't have both - involvement and a possible role if you're only doing a BA in theatre if you haven't made the cut to be considered worthy to enter the BFA program.

In looking at Wagner College at $40K, Staten Island, they have an excellent program (rated 3rd in country) for musical theatre but don't have a lot of course offering in film, directing, etc. CW Post actually has a film major, etc.

Since I have your attention, please comment on the following schools which don't show up, per se in tiers like NYU Julliard, Wagner, Purchase, in New York area. I heard one sad story of young lady that got into Tish BFA and never got cast in a role in the entire 4 years and had nothing on her resume after $55K per year and had to go into publishing. Does this speak to going to smaller pond (school) and getting some exposure.

1.Brooklyn College - which didn't show up on my radar screen but I was told they have a BFA program worth looking at when considering an affordability factor.
2. City College of NY
3. Pace

Mother of rising senior and potential BFA major with interest in directing/screen writing/film.
Post edited by vjay on
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Replies to: BFA verses BA in theatre

  • Bird7887Bird7887 Posts: 205Registered User Junior Member
    If you son/daughter wants to be in the city (from what I gathered from your post) and wants to study multiple disciplines, I would recommend Marymount Manhattan. On their website it explains all the different disciplines of their BA in Theatre Arts. I am not sure if you can major in multiple disciplines, but you are still required to take other theatre courses that include topics in directing and arts management, etc. And you can also take a film course as an elective through the Communications Department. The Theatre Arts program has disciplines in Theatre Performance and Directing, so if they allow a dual concentration, that seems like something your son/daughter would like to look into. Being in NYC for school can give you other performance opportunities outside of educational theatre. IMHO, any shows you are in are educational ;) I have friends that graduated from many of the programs in NYC and were not cast in department productions, but did perform, in Broadway, Off and Off-Off Broadway shows as well as some film/tv work while in college, which boosted their resume a bit more than being the lead in their school production, even though it is great to be involved in your school's productions, but not every one of the many talented students in the program, can be cast at some schools due to size, number of performance opportunities, etc. If you want to chat more feel free to PM me :)
  • vjayvjay Posts: 21Registered User New Member
    Yes, I'll PM you.
  • PATheaterMomPATheaterMom Posts: 293Registered User Junior Member
    My D is getting wonderful training at Marymount. She is getting a really well-rounded theater education with dance every day, private voice and wonderful classes. she has pretty extensive liberal arts requirements and has been very happy with her experience so far
  • onstageonstage Posts: 1,248Registered User Senior Member
    vjay -- regarding the BFA vs. the BA: This is a very personal issue, and opinions vary. However, I would suggest that if you are interested in a BA degree, look at schools which do not also offer the BFA. This way your child will not run the risk of being considered "second class" when competing with BFA students.

    For BFA schools in the NYC area, you might also consider looking at Montclair, in NJ just a short train ride from Manhattan.
  • ilovebkilovebk Posts: 3Registered User New Member
    that's kinda true that people with a B.A. degree get a more well rounded education. Plus when you compare the different CUNY Schools Brooklyn has a much better theatre space. I went to city and their theater is nice, but it's a fairly small space. Brooklyn has both small and large performance spaces and i heard they're planning on totally rennovating the two buildings and making them top notch.
  • anothermom-w-qanothermom-w-q Posts: 1,125Registered User Senior Member
    Take a look at Muhlenberg College also, they have recently added a film major, and you can double major there quite easily. One of my D's friends is a film major there and is happy with the department, and the theatre and dance departments offer excellent training. You can get private voice lessons as a freshman too. If you declare a music major the vocal training does not cost anything extra, if not you pay a studio fee for them.
  • showmom858showmom858 Posts: 1,923Registered User Senior Member
    One of the things I have learned over the past couple of years visiting this site is that it is not always an easy decision between a BA and a BFA. As my DD gets ready to audition for Fall 2010 admission she has a mix of both types of programs on her list.

    There are some BFA's that let you take some classes of your choosing and there are some BA's structured more like BFA's. It pays to do your homework and look at the websites and ask questions.

    And in the end some kids change their minds. There is a girl from our town that made it into two of the "top" BFA programs talked about a lot on this website for the fall of 2008. After spending the year in one of the programs she decided to leave the school and is now starting a BA program at another university not in MT.
  • chrissybluchrissyblu Posts: 709Registered User Member
    I'll copy this post from this same discussion on the theatre major's page....

    This is a good place to link an excellent article someone posted for me and my D when she was making the decision between the BA program at UCLA and several BFA programs she was also accepted to. It really outlines the difference between the two. But because this keeps coming up and I worry the link may disappear, here is also the text from the link:

    Acting in Plays, Singing: b.a ?bfa?, mfa programs, bachelors of arts

    In the article, they wrote:

    "Actually, there are some very specific differences between a BA and a BFA, and I think you have it a bit backwards.

    A BA is a general undergraduate degree with a particular focus based on what your major is. So if you major in Theatre and get a BA, you will have a concentration in theatre arts classes which may include such classes as Acting (beginning, intermediate, advanced), voice, dance, technical theatre, directing, and more, but you will also have studied a broad range of subjects outside your major. This will give you a very good general education (and believe me, an actor needs one), as well as the opportunity to study in areas (such as business, English, psychology, sciences, etc.) which can give you the skills to find a good day job while pursuing an acting career (something that EVERY actor needs).

    However, a BA is not a "terminal" degree. That is, it is not considered a "professional" degree. While you can certainly get acting jobs with a Theatre major in a good BA actor training program, it does not give you the "professional" training that will catch directors/producers' eyes and show them that you have the skills and commitment to your career to . Ideally, if you intend to pursue a professional acting career, you will follow up your BA with graduate school and get an MFA in Acting (or directing or film or music, or stage management, or playwriting, or whatever your area of interest is). An MFA is the "terminal" or "professional" degree for the theatre/film. It is a full professional program with intensive studies in acting and its related areas. Most good MFA programs are affiliated with a professional theatre, and students have the opportunity to work at a professional level as well as make many professional contacts that will benefit them in their careers. This is the degree that is also the requirement for most high school or college teaching, so if you have any intention in the future to teach acting, this is the degree you will need.

    A BFA is a degree that sort of falls in the middle of these. It is also sometimes known as a Conservatory program (although some conservatory programs do not give BFA's and some BFA's are not technically "Conservatories" but rather part of a university acting program. A BFA, unlike a BA, is an intensive performance program, much like an MFA program, focusing almost exclusively on performing arts, but taking the same amount of time as a BA alone. This may sound great to someone who is in a hurry to get their training done and get out to work, and who doesn't care about getting a well-rounded education, but it does have its disadvantages.

    A BFA program is not considered to be a terminal degree. Most programs, while intensive, do not give the same degree of professional training that a BA and MFA together give, and are not given the same degree of respect in the marketplace, and will not enable you to teach without further training should you want to. Additionally, because it is so intensive, an BFA does not give you the general education that a BA does. And, believe it or not, that can be really important to an actor. As an actor, you need to be able to connect to plays and people from every walk of life, from different countries, different historical periods. The more you know about just about everything, the better you will be able to portray the characters you will be asked to. And a knowledge of history, psychology, sociology and more, will enable you to understand the minds of those characters and the cultures they inhabit. A broad based liberal arts education can give you a really strong foundation in all of these.

    That said, it is impossible to say exactly where each of these degrees will take you, career-wise. Acting is an art, a craft and a business. It is one of the most difficult professions there is and, while good training is vital, actually making an acting career also depends on talent, passion, perserverence, persistance, determination, networking, and a tremendous amount of luck. A good choice of acting program will give you skills that will allow you to be the best actor you can be, but it's what you do after that training that will determine whether you will be able to make a career as an actor.

    I hope that helps clarify things a little, Valerie. Acting is such a unpredictable profession. Fewer than 2% of all professional (union) actors actually make a living by acting alone, and median annual salaries range between $5000-7000 - well below the poverty level. With all of that against you, getting the best training you can get is one way you can help ensure that you have the best chance to make the most of your talent."

    That was the end of the article. I think they did a fine job of explaining the differences.

    That being said, every program is different and some BA auditions are just as complex as the BFA auditions. (UCLA's BFA audition requires two monologues and an interview, and you must complete a supplemental application package, had a headshot and a resume.... just like the BFA programs.)
  • KatMTKatMT Posts: 3,325College Rep Senior Member
    "UCLA's BFA requires two monologues and an interview, and you must complete a supplemental application package had a headshot and a resume... just like the BFA programs"

    Do you mean UCLA's BA program?

    :) Thanks!
  • Jersey BabeJersey Babe Posts: 20Registered User New Member
    Definitely take a look at Muhlenberg. It is a beautiful, warm and safe campus that has an excellent reputation in theater, dance and music. Your child will graduate with a conservatory education coupled with excellent analytical abilities and writing skills. Muhlenberg teaches the student a holisitic liberal arts approach to the performing arts. Their voice teachers are very strong and if you declare a music and theater major, you do not have to pay extra for voice lessons.
  • chrissybluchrissyblu Posts: 709Registered User Member
    Yeah...typo...meant UCLA's BA's program is just like many BFA's programs
  • KatMTKatMT Posts: 3,325College Rep Senior Member
    Thanks for the clarification! :)
  • tinamaytinamay Posts: 78Registered User Junior Member
    My daughter is in a BFA program and I was told by the department that it is considered a terminal degree. It is a BFA in professional acting. He said that it is unnecessary to go for an MFA if you want to perform.
  • soozievtsoozievt Posts: 28,788Registered User, ! Senior Member
    tinamay, my understanding is the same as yours. A BFA degree is a professional degree and a terminal degree.

    One can do a BA plus MFA or just do a BFA. Not to say that someone with a BFA could not also get an MFA! But the BFA and MFA are both professional terminal degrees. That is my understanding of it. A BFA graduate doesn't NEED an MFA to obtain professional training.

    It's funny but this same sort of discussion happens on the Architecture Majors forum (I have a kid in that field too). You can do a five year BArch to become an architect or a BA plus at least 3 year MArch to become an architect (those are the two routes). MArch is not necessarily better than a BArch. Both are professional terminal degrees. My D chose the BA plus MArch route. My other kid, who is in MT/Acting, chose the BFA route. Both are earning professional terminal degrees in their respective fields.
  • doctorjohndoctorjohn Posts: 583Registered User Member
    This is just a sidebar to the conversation about BA vs. BFA degrees, but I need to clarify how the phrase "terminal degree" is used in academic circles.

    For us, the "terminal degree" is generally the highest academic degree in a particular field, and is almost always the required prerequisite to being hired for a tenure-track professorship. In most disciplines (including Music), a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degree is required. Most Master's degrees, including Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Music, and so on, are not considered sufficient training.

    The one major exception to this rule is in the Fine Arts. The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree is usually considered a "terminal" degree in Visual Arts, Dance and Theatre. Many theatre professors do have Ph.D. degrees, but it is more commonly possessed by those who specialize in theatre history, literature, and criticism, as opposed to acting, movement, speech or design/technology, where the MFA is more common. The MFA degree is considered sufficient training for a tenure-track appointment in those practical areas. All students pursue the MFA degree to get more training. But older students tend to be thinking about stable jobs in academia, for which an MFA will qualify them.

    Now in the way in which the term was used by someone in your daughter's department, tinamay, a BFA is a "terminal degree" in the very loose sense that the intent of BFA programs is to provide sufficient training and education so that graduates can work in the professional theatre. Theoretically, no additional training is required.

    But it's important for people to know the difference between the two meanings.

    Hope this helps.
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