American University MT vs. Muhlenberg

<p>My D is trying to decide which college to attend. She is torn between Muhlenberg theater and American University MT.
Does the MT program at AU ‘measure’ up ? Is the program as well developed as the theater major at MU ? Does AU use full time faculty in the MT program ?</p>

<p>My D is also down to American and one other school as her final 2 choices, although she auditioned for Theater performance, not MT. One thing to consider in terms of American is the location. Washington, D.C. is a very vibrant theatre community and, based on our research, they really take advantage of that. I believe Muhlenberg (like my D's other choice) is in a smaller town and may not have the same opportunities for internships, and participation in local theatre that American would have. I spoke to some students on the parent chat at American the other night and it was exciting to hear the access the kids have to lots of exciting opportunities because of the DC connection. If your D is interested in exposure to an amazing theatre community, American might have an advantage on that count.</p>

<p>I don't know if you guys have had the opportunity to see a show at American, but we loved their production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" that we saw a few weeks ago. As you probably know, it is a musical. Based on the talent we saw that night, I would say the MT training is quite good! It was a professional quality production beginning to end. </p>

<p>We are planning to go to the Admitted Students Day at American on Friday and learn more about the school as a whole. We know she loves the other school (we have visited there several times and know it is a fabulous program,) but feel like American is worth exploring a little more based on the D.C. location.</p>

<p>My D's concern about Muhlenberg is the location. She feels Allentown is isolated, the campus too small and the lack of exposure to theater outside the campus. I'm wondering about the program at American. Is it a strong department? Is the faculty committed and available to train students to the next level artistically? We visited the campus in February and attended a performance of "Ubu Rex". The show was downright crude and offensive. We are not prudish by any means and all 3 of my college age children were put off. It made us second guess the entire program. We are also wondering Is the university committed to the program and how many students are involved? How many TA's are at AU vs full time faculy in the MT program ?</p>

<p>American was my daughters top choice until we went to the audition and toured the campus. She didn't really like it at all and decided that it wasn't the school for her. Other kids love the campus...to each their own I guess. She LOVED Muhlenberg and when she came back from that audition she told me that Muhlenberg had everything she was looking for in a college. It is in her top 3....still trying to decide....please let it be May 2nd :)</p>

<p>My D is a sophomore MT major at American. She loves the programs and her professors. All of the classes are taught by professors - no TAs or anything like that. I can't compare the program to anything else, because it is the only one that my D has attended. But she did attend a performing arts HS and she's happy at AU - so for what that's worth. She is very interested in experimental/physical theatre and gets plenty of opportunities to perform (even as a freshman).</p>

<p>One advantage - lots of internship opportunities, both in acting and theatre administration. D and her friends have worked at all of the top DC theatre companies, including Synetic, Folger Shakespeare, National Shakespeare, and others. </p>

<p>D has also had the opportunity to travel and perform in Russia this year (all expenses paid by the university). She has also performed a musical (partially in Czech) at the Czech embassy. There are many opportunities for foreign study/connections. The university sponsors many visiting professors from all over the world.</p>

<p>Another aspect that my D likes is that one can create a "customized" program to a certain extent. The degree only requires one semester of voice and dance (I believe) but my D has taken voice every semester and several dance classes. Most students double major - my D is a double major in history.</p>

<p>himself317, I read a review of Ubu Rex at American after reading your opinion and it does sound like it was pretty out there, but I think it is considered Absurdist theatre so I guess that was the point. As long as that is not the norm for every show, I guess that is part of many college theatre experiences...exposure to lots of different kinds of theatre. Certainly something we will ask more about if she is still interested after Friday's Freshman Day.</p>

<p>megpmom, you are always a great source for information about the program. Thank you for all your info over the past several months!! Those kind of opportunities that you detailed is what gets my D really excited about American...internships, study abroad, etc. </p>

<p>My D also sat in on a class the day we went to see Putnam County Spelling Bee and was super impressed by the quality of the teaching. In fact, the teacher of that class was the director of the theatre program and, in talking to some of the kids afterwards, she got the impression that the kids are very close to their professors and have full access to them for whatever their needs might be. In fact, everyone she met seemed to indicate that it is a very close-knit community. </p>

<p>In answer to your other question, himself, it seems to me that American's theatre program is fairly small in relation to other programs. It sounds like there are 20ish new kids per year, fairly evenly divided between theatre and MT, although some classes are a little larger and some a little smaller. Sounds like 80-90 total theatre majors at any given time, though some kids who are not majors also do shows. Please correct me, if I'm wrong, Megpmom, in my "math" based on a couple of different conversations I have had.</p>

<p>And NYMom94, AMEN to the "please let it be May 2nd!" Good luck to all of your kids! (or should I say Break a leg? :-) )</p>

<p>I'm a senior MT at American, so I thought I'd throw my two cents in!</p>

<p>First of all, MegpMom is correct, no TAs teach classes in the musical theatre program at AU. In fact, I have never had a TA as a teacher for any of my classes at American. I believe it's a policy that TA's at AU can only be just that: teaching assistants. </p>

<p>Instead, the TAs in the program come from the student body. I've TA'd a couple of classes, and it's an amazing learning experience. You get to watch your professors at work and help coach scenes, songs, monologues, etc. Working with others on their pieces has helped me so much to shape my own skills as a performer. </p>

<p>Also, I will echo the sentiment about the advantages of being in DC. This city's theatre scene is truly incredible, and offers many viewing, internship, and performance opportunities for AU students. A lot of us got the chance to perform in the area before graduating, and out of our graduating class, many have already secured jobs and internships with theatres like Imagination Stage, Folger Theatre, the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Source Theatre, the DC Fringe Festival, Theatre J, etc. for the summer and into next year. It's been audition central around here lately, with all of us waking up early to attend EPA's or going to big combined auditions. </p>

<p>The professors at AU are truly phenomenal and more than dedicated to their students-- staying late, doing private monologue coaching, organizing extra events, helping with student theatre, writing recommendations, and doing independent studies on just about any topic you could imagine. They are a wonderful group of performers and educators, and are also just incredible human beings. And they are more than connected to the DC theatre scene. </p>

<p>We did do Ubu Rex this semester, which I was actually in. It is definitely an absurdist work and not everyone's cup of tea, but I have to say I learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We actually worked closely with Synetic, an incredible Helen Hayes winning physical theatre in the area, to get us in shape for the show. Our set was a playground, and we were constantly running, jumping, climbing, diving, and swinging through the air. It's also a very historical piece, and represents a rich part of theatrical history that doesn't often get touched on. It was exhausting and exhilarating and I loved every minute of it. And if you can't do absurdist theatre in college, you may never get the chance. But, again, it's not for everyone. </p>

<p>If nothing else, an education at American is what you make of it. A musical theatre BA is rare, especially one that is audition based, and it comes with many advantages. At AU I've studied everything from the history of women in America, to psychology, to international relations, to creative writing. And I'm not even a double major. And because of my smaller required course load, I've been able to take voice and dance every semester, along with supplemental acting classes and studying abroad at the British American Drama Academy, which was one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences of my life. Our program is unique and I am so happy that I decided to come here. </p>

<p>I hope some of this information is helpful! And there will be a bunch of students at the Theatre/Musical Theatre table on Friday for admitted students day, myself included!</p>

<p>Sophiestar, thanks for all the info. You have been super helpful! I especially appreciate the additional insight on Ubu Rex and the info about students actually getting jobs!</p>

<p>I know my daughter is looking forward to meeting more theatre students tomorrow. Where will the theatre/ musical theatre "table" be tomorrow? During the meal times in Bender Arena or over at the Katzen Center during the school breakout sessions?</p>

<p>My D is also a sophomore at AU. She also loved her audition at Muhlenberg and how welcoming the faculty were to her when she auditioned and sat in on classes. I am actually from a small town, not too far from Allentown so when she said she wished she could place the program in a different city I could understand her sentiments. It is just far enough (in my opinion) from Philly or NYC to make it too difficult to do on a regular basis, especially with the crazy schedules of students pursuing MT degrees. </p>

<p>While only a sophomore, my D has gone abroad with shows twice during March breaks (once to Prague freshman year and this year with Megpmom's D to Russia).<br>
The Prague trip followed a performance of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" which was such a "wrap around" educational experience I cannot begin to explain it. It may have been a thoroughly unique experience, but here is what that entailed. The story is a telling of true stories of children encamped outside Prague during the holocaust. The cast was able to sit in on a survivors panel coordinated with the Holocaust Museum, they had the opportunity to do outreach to some middle school age children in the community regarding the topic. Those children then attended some performances as a field trip. The cast then visited Prague, sat in on some classes in a performing arts university and visited the actual camp (Terezin). It was life changing.<br>
This year she was in the same show as Megpmom's D and also performed at the Czech embassy and travelled to Russia. She was thoroughly impressed with how the Russian university supports such a thorough immersion in the arts and they saw some impressive theater while they were there. </p>

<p>I don't think I would let Ubu Rex deter you. I think college is a time for experimentation, but there are plenty of opportunities for mainstream MT productions, straight theater and the AU Players stages cabaret style student run shows to continue to flex their performing muscles.<br>
Add in the opportunities to explore other minors, majors, intern and explore DC and if a student is not challeged, I don't know what to say!</p>

<p>(And I third that my D has not had TA)</p>

<p>Thank you all for your insights. This has been been very helpful. But let me ask: is there anything about AU that you are unhappy with? Do you have friends outside the performing arts dept.? Is the theater being a few blocks away a problem - particularly at night? Do you have academic advisors and how helpful are they ?
We are finding this to be a very difficult choice, so I do appreciate your thoughts</p>

<p>My D joined a sorority so she has plenty of friends outside of theatre. They are all so supportive and come to see her in shows, etc. Safety is a big concern of mine, so I do tell D not to walk alone from Katzen late at night- but I can't tell you if she follows that. And the walk to Greenberg really isn't that bad. They're college kids, they walk everywhere. I guess D's advisor is Ok, but she is particularly close to a couple professors who advise her as well. Many of the professors are that way - inviting kids to their homes, going on trips with them, eating lunch together. </p>

<p>Negatives? Expensive housing. But it is cheaper to move off campus if you have a roommate. Also, it is "urban" and has all the issues that go with that - safety concerns, homeless panhandlers in Tenleytown, rats, etc. But, IMO, that is more than balanced out by what the city offers in terms of entertainment and opportunities.</p>

<p>I've never felt unsafe walking back from the Greenberg. We tend to travel in a pack, and the only shifty characters I've seen on my walks home are a small family of deer. AU is in a very nice neighborhood, so while parts of DC are certainly not the greatest, our campus always feels very safe to me. </p>

<p>Tomorrow, the musical theatre table will be in Katzen from 10:15 to 2:15. Please stop by! We love talking to prospective students about the program. And I'm sure there will be professors floating around as well. Also, you may be able to sit in on one of the classes that meets during that time tomorrow afternoon! Just ask someone at the table, and they can definitely help you arrange something.</p>

<p>Sophie, I cannot thank you enough for the time you spent with my daughter on Friday at the table in Katzen (and for your responses to all my questions on here!) You answered so many of her questions and were just generally wonderful and encouraging. If you are representative of the theatre students at AU, we are very impressed with the program. Still have some more thinking, processing and praying to do, but I think we are much closer to a decision. Thanks again for all your help and please thank the other students as well.</p>

<p>Thank you so, so much! That means a lot. And please let me know if you or your daughter have any more questions!</p>

<p>Hi Sophiestar, Your insights are greatly appreciated and I hope you don't mind if I keep asking questions. - Of course, I welcome replies from everyone.
I have read that Muhlenberg has the #1 theater program per the Princeton review. I don't read much of anything about the MT program at American. Why? Is Muhlenberg a school for theater and is American a school that happens to have a theater program?
Why American to study MT? ... Thanks</p>

<p>I can't speak to Muhlenberg's program, because I never visited or applied. Although, I do have friends there who like it very much. American's MT program is fairly young, which I think accounts for why it is lesser none. It is also a very small program, with the largest current class consisting of fewer than 30 musical theatre, theatre, and theatre arts majors combined. And we are gaining more recognition every year. This year, one of our students won the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Irene Ryan acting competition for our region. Also, two of our shows this season were awarded KCACTF Ensemble Acting certificates, and others were nominated for lighting design, set design, stage management, and costumes. My junior year, we did a new work by Adam Gwon, who is the recipient of the Kleban, Ebb, and Loewe awards for musical theatre writing and whose most recent show, "Cloudlands" was heralded by the Los Angeles Times as a "extraordinary" and a "triumph". My sophomore year, we did a show by Peter Lerman, who was recently awarded a Jonathan Larson grant. And this year will be the first year the seniors at AU will put on a showcase for DC casting directors and agents. We are getting quit a name for ourselves in the DC community, and next year's season even includes two productions that are being produced in conjunction with the famous Fords Theatre and one that is a collaboration with the incredible Synetic Theatre Company. I feel very lucky to have been a student here during such a pivotal time in its growing process, and I think the program will continue to grow and get more and more recognition. I hope that answers your question!</p>

<p>himself317, you guys may very well have already made your decision, so I don't know if you are still doing research or not. My D has recently made her choice and she will be going to American next year as a theater performance major. Megpmom and bhmomma, thank you for all your insights about your children's experiences...some of what you shared with me here helped my D make her final decision, along with meeting Sophie and talking with her and other students/ faculty while we were at American for Freshman Day. :-) FYI, we are in northern VA, about 25 miles from American, so we are close by....perhaps we will meet some of you, if you are ever in town for an AU performance! </p>

<p>For us, the final decision was made based on the seemingly endless opportunities available in the Washington, D.C. community. Even though the other theatre program she was considering was excellent, the opportunity to be part of a university that insists that their students are engaged in the larger community and even globally...my D just couldn't say no! We also liked the smaller size of the theatre program and the potential to double major. While we certainly support our D's passion for theatre, we know that realistically it is a very tough career choice and we felt like American would offer her the opportunity to explore her other interests and perhaps expand her education to include those additional paths while still allowing her to get a broad- based and exciting theater education and make lots of theatre contacts. When you hear how well connected the American theatre faculty are within the D.C. community and beyond, you know that these folks are there because they LOVE teaching. My husband and I spent quite a bit of time talking to Carl Menninger, the director of the theatre program, and we were very impressed by his philosophy and his obvious devotion to the kids in the program.</p>

<p>Himself, hope that might offer you some additional insight as you guys finalize your decision. Good luck to you and your family and maybe we will see you next year!</p>

<p>Best wishes to your D KellyLJ. It is great to able to visit to see occassional shows. We either drive or train down and it helps that Washington has plenty to see/do that we can make it a family trip. They have a freshman "showcase" in the fall, so pencil that date in!</p>

<p>KellyLJ1, hi there, I have been reading all the posts from everyone and appreciate all the good information. Our D has decided to attend American U for Musical Theatre in the fall. I agree that the program, its location and involvement with DC theatre will be what makes the entire experience that much more rewarding. I understand you are in the NVA area, so are we...would love to connect and have our Ds meet, they may already know of one another for all I know...congratulations on American!</p>

<p>Great idea, khanum! I will send you a private message.</p>