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For the parents of prospective students

Your daughter or son is about to enter yet another phase of their life (as you are as well).  I am very pleased that your student is interested in Western Illinois University and the Department of Theatre and Dance.  I'd like to share some thoughts as you and your students make decisions regarding careers and colleges.

Remarks are often made about theatre being a poor career choice.  Most of that is based only on acting in the professional theatre - for Broadway, Off-Broadway, or in touring shows.  Acting in the theatre is a highly competitive career.  But we do theatre because we love theatre and the creative and personal satisfaction each theatre person experiences.  The emotional highs and lows that creative people go through to do what they love is intensely personal.  Acting takes talent, drive, and determination.  

We encourage our students to pursue what they love.  We advise and mentor each student personally.  Most faculty in the department are academic advisors whereas in other departments, the advising system is more centralized and less personal.  Our students are urged to stop by any of our faculty or staff offices and get as much feedback from a variety of viewpoints about their work as they can.  We also encourage students to pick up another skill in theatre.  Our technical and design graduates find it easier to work in theatre.  There are more job opportunities in tech/design.   It can't hurt for an actor to know their way around backstage, how to build scenery or costumes, hang lights, or work with props.  Working in a technical capacity at a theatre could be the gateway to eventually pursue acting.

With a theatre degree, many other career paths that you might not consider "theatre" can be chosen.  Theatre teaches students how to be poised in front of large audiences - public speaking and communication skills.  If a mistake occurs onstage during a performance, students learn how to adapt and make quick, logical decisions.  Collaboration and reliability are virtues that are constantly learned through the structure of theatre activity.  Alums have worked in a variety of careers that are generally not thought about as being theatre related: real estate, marketing, publishing, arts management, writing, illustration, animation, architecture, psychology, even in medicine.  One alum spent years in "standardized patient education", travelling the world.  This involves using actors to portray patients for the training and testing of medical students in their history, physical and communication skills. 

Students and faculty are in near-constant contact with each other through classes, rehearsals, and performances.  This is all part of the mentoring aspect of our department.  Your student can participate the first day they step foot on campus.  They can audition, act, rehearse, build, just be involved in theatre.  There is no waiting until the student is a sophomore, or even a junior, like there are at other universities.

We take great pride in and celebrate the accomplishments of our current students and alumni.  I urge you to take a very close look at this website - it is jazzed up with lots of pretty pictures, but it also shows current students in classes and workshops.  You can view all of the academic requirements in each degree program we offer.  Even our daily operating handbooks are posted here.  I've included some links below that contain information parents usually like to know about a prospective university.  Check us out and I invite you to ask more questions through email or calls.  Or come visit and AUDITION US.  We're glad to help in any way!   

What can one do with a major or minor in theatre and dance? Check out what our alumni are doing.

Watch senior BFA Musical Theatre major Michelle Ogden talk about the department and her experiences here.

The department is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.  We are also a member of the National Association for Musical Theatre and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology.

Cordially,
David E. Patrick
 
Chairperson and Professor of Theatre
Office Location: 101 Browne Hall
Office Phone: (309) 298-1668
Email: DE-Patrick@wiu.edu